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Finding a Place in the World Through Adlerian Concepts 

Stories | 01.19.21

Vancouver Campus graduate Joe Ramirez, MCP ’12, is a Certified Adlerian Psychotherapist and owner and Principal Counsellor of Clear Counselling, a team of nine mental health professionals in Vancouver, British Columbia (BC). A graduate of the Master of Counselling Psychology program in Vancouver, Ramirez shares his personal experience of how he found belonging through community involvement and Adlerian principles. Today, Ramirez is helping others find their place in the world through those same measures.  

Clear Counselling’s mission statement is to empower the clients, the counselling profession, and the community. This echoes my own personal mission statement in my work with my clients. Throughout my work, social justice has also been important, and Adler University has served to live my dream in achieving this focus in my clients.

My background was particularly isolating. As the son of a sociopath, others stayed their distance. A Mexican-American kid who was left alone a lot, my home was often the sound of silence without much guidance. As a gay man, religion and childhood hopes and dreams became betrayals of the spirit. In every instance, the lack of belonging was my only constant companion.

When my world appeared to have fallen apart, I sought counselling, only to be met once again with someone saying they could not help me because they did not know how to work with men, my culture, or my situation.

Nevertheless, something changed – I changed. This appearance of vulnerability became my insight into others’ hearts. This lack of belonging gave me the sight to see the gaps in the community’s landscape, and this absence of connection taught me the power in the intervention of simply showing up.

Social Justice as Showing Up

In 2001, before attending Adler University, I volunteered with the Vancouver Police Victim Services Unit, where I learned how to show up for people in their most vulnerable moments. I also learned that 1 in 6 men are victims of sexual assault and that no one would show up for them in the hospital.

I joined the BC Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse and learned that it was only 1 of 4 agencies for men in all of Canada. In contrast, there were hundreds of similar organizations for women. I learned that men suffered in social silence and acted out with domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse, homophobia, and suicide.

I showed up with the Justice Institute of BC to train victim services workers across BC to work with male survivors. I then learned of the increase in violence against the LGBTQ+ community. At the time Aaron Webster, a gay man in Vancouver, had been murdered by a group of thugs, the LGBTQ+ community protested regarding the absence of social service supports for any LGBTQ+ survivors who had been victims of crime. I was asked to develop and pilot the first LGBTQ+ Victim Services program to gather statistics for the Victim Services Division of BC.

In 2020, while attending a round table with the BC Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Judy Darcy, and 15 different LGBTQ+ social service agencies, someone commented that there was no point in showing up to these events because “nothing ever changes.” I raised my hand and said that I had back in 2001, and that was one reason all of us were there that day with all these agencies.

Social Justice is Learning

By the start of my graduate program, I already knew I wanted to be in private practice. At Adler University, I learned how to organize my various efforts, experiences, and skills more effectively. I was given the freedom to focus my coursework on my interest in men’s mental well-being and sexual health. I was able to volunteer for six months at Options for Sexual Health and highlight topical needs for men. I learned how to become a confident, competent counsellor during my clinical counselling practicum at the Adler Centre of the Adlerian Psychology Association of BC, with weekly active guidance and support.

At this time, I was asked a most confounding and defining question ever asked of me: Are you Adlerian? While I knew the theory as a holistic counselling approach, it was only then that it occurred to me that I had been living an Adlerian lifestyle throughout my whole life – socially, in depth, connecting and contributing to the well-being of the community and that now I knew how to live this lifestyle more effectively. I responded, “Yes. I am Adlerian.”

Social Justice is Being a Change Maker

By the time I graduated from Adler University in 2012, I was prepared and confident to embark in private practice and positively change the community. My graduate clinical practicum prepared me to become a Certified Adlerian counsellor soon after graduating, which led to being the Chair of the Board for the Adlerian Psychology Association of BC and having a more significant impact in family counselling and Adlerian counselling. In addition, I was also able to be a volunteer for the Health Initiative for Men counselling program as an accredited counsellor to help with a variety of men’s issues. Success does not happen without volunteerism, and my private practice flourished successfully as a result.

  • Yet, despite all this, I still felt a restlessness, a wondering.
  • How can I help more people?
  • How can I help people who have limited financial means?
  • How can I teach counsellors the holistic approach used as an Adlerian therapist, and how to be strong, capable counsellors who are excellent representatives of the profession?

In 2017, Adler University provided an answer once again, and I changed my business model and approach. I added another office space and changed my practice from that of a single counsellor to a business model where I could develop a team of Adlerian counsellors that could help the community while also showing up for people and the profession as capable professional counselling representatives.

I partnered with Adler University to provide a practicum placement at Clear Counselling. The students provide free counselling to clients in need while also receiving a mentorship model type training through weekly supervision. So far, we have had five graduate student interns who have been able to provide more than 1,400 sessions to clients. Not only do these graduate students develop their skills to represent the profession confidently, but they also become equipped with the expertise to become Certified Adlerian counsellors after graduation as I had.

During this change in the business model, I was also an Adler University instructor for the Introduction to Adlerian Psychology course. Currently, I am a member of the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology committee that has developed the Certification in Adlerian Psychotherapy credential.

As an Adlerian and an Adler University graduate, I am a member of a world community – and I have found my place where I belong.

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