Always Have a Plan

I’m always amazed at how seldom parents prepare their children for times when they might ‘lose’ each other.

When my boys were little (ages 4–6), we often went to the Coquitlam Mall. Sometimes I went there twice a day and would forget where I parked my car. The mall was big back then and even more expansive now. I learned to park my car in the same area every time. My instructions to my boys were that if we got separated from each other (pre-cell phone era—too young to have a cell phone) they should…


  1. Find a clerk in a store with a name tag on their shirt—someone behind a counter.
  2. Tell them your mom is lost (you are not lost—your mom is lost).
  3. Ask them to call me on their intercom system.


Several weeks later we were at the mall, and suddenly I realized my kids were nowhere to be seen. I was just about to search for them when I heard my name over the intercom “Mrs. Mackay, would you please come to the cigar store on the second level?” I hurried to the store.

There were my boys, with huge grins on their faces. They had obviously decided to ‘get lost’ from me. I ignored the ruse because I thought it was an excellent trial run which they followed to a T, even though it was several weeks since I gave them the plan. In front of my boys, I told the clerk how proud I was of them for handling a difficult situation well. I wanted them to hear me tell another adult about how well they carried out my instructions. After we arrived home, I told their father about it, so HE understood the plan too.

I never called them on their ‘little adventure’ because I didn’t think they needed to know that I knew (LOL). We actually never got separated from each other again at the mall or at any other place. I felt good knowing they knew what to do if it ever happened.


For 6 years, I was a Mountain Host at Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler, B.C. The two mountains together have over 200 runs and 1-mile vertical skiing from top to bottom. This was the pre-cell phone era. Even so, cell phones crash or run out of charge. It is easy to lose each other in such a large ski area.

Occasionally, I was asked to help parents find their children. One day I was asked to help a father search for his 10-year-old daughter. As we were riding up the chairlift (knowing the answer and at the same time programming him for what to do next time), I asked “What were your plans with your daughter if you ever got separated from each other? Where did you plan to meet?”

Worried and somewhat distraught he answered, “We didn’t have any.”

I responded, “That’s too bad cuz it is so easy to lose each other on this big mountain.”

Luckily, it didn’t take very long to find her. She was at the bottom of one of the larger chairlifts with some other kids building a snowman. The relief on his face when he saw her was palpable.

I told his daughter I was impressed with her choice to stay at the bottom of a major lift. I didn’t remind him to have a plan next time. I didn’t think he needed reminding.


It’s important to lay out a simple plan when people, families, and friends are unfamiliar with their surroundings. Even when operating around the home, it is good to have concrete plans.


When I visited Australia last January, my cell phone went dead when I was out and about. Without a map and a cell phone, I had to rely on the goodwill of others. Fortunately, in Australia, there are many, many good-hearted people. I was never ‘lost’ for long. I was apprehensive about how dependent I had become on my phone/internet.

Now, even in my own city/country, I carry a fully-charged battery pack, so I can charge my phone whenever I need. Always be prepared for life’s surprises!

Three Ways to Get More Bang for Your Therapy Buck!

Productive therapeutic experiences are an excellent way to invest in yourself. Effective therapy can save you thousands of dollars and hours/days/years of frustration and emotional pain.

Therapy is a safe way to explore and talk through your pain because you can speak freely without worrying about:

  • how your issues impact your listener
  • whether what you are talking about will remain confidential or not
  • holding back emotions/thoughts

Therapy is a safe way to:

  • explore and articulate your thoughts and beliefs more fully
  • express emotions/feelings
  • increase awareness of sensations in your body
  • disclose and process secrets
  • get feedback on your emotional function
  • get heard and understood
  • get ideas and help to make the changes you want to make

Three ways to get more bang for your therapy buck:


  1. Choose the right Psychologist

Make sure that the psychologist you choose is licenced/registered with an accredited association—for example, the College of Psychologists of British Columbia.

I strongly recommend you DO NOT seek help from someone who is not a member of an accredited association.

Word of mouth is an excellent way to find a competent therapist who has integrity.


Personal Story:

My husband and I built two homes, and I learned something from those experiences that has helped me.

Everyone, no matter what their training/expertise, makes mistakes. When we were building our homes, the lawyer made mistakes drawing up the legal papers, the architect made mistakes designing the homes, the blaster made mistakes, the electrician made mistakes, the plumber made mistakes, etc.

My point is, no matter what training and experience someone might have, everyone makes mistakes. It’s how many they make and how they handle the mistakes that counts. Therefore, do not assume everything a psychologist does is perfect. It’s ok to question your therapist.


  1. Make every session count as much as you can.

Before the session:

Prepare the evening/night before you go.  Spend about 30 minutes in thought about what you might want to talk about and/ or explore.  Write down any thoughts, images, dreams, memories that come to you during that time. Recurring dreams and thoughts are especially important to share with the therapist.

  • Note down any sensations you experience as you go through this time of reflection. For example, teary, tight throat, heart palpitations, goosebumps, pangs of pain/dread/fear, etc.
  • Do not analyze what comes to you during this time.
  • Do not judge what comes up as worthy or not worthy of bringing up in therapy.

Upon arrival:

  • Arrive 10 – 15 minutes ahead of your appointment.
  • Turn off your phone

During the session: 

  • Engage fully in the session physically and emotionally.
  • If, during the session, sensations from your bladder start interrupting your focus, do not hesitate to go to the washroom. Do not sit in discomfort for any length of time because your session will likely be less effective if you cannot focus.
  • During a session, it is helpful to the therapist and productive to you to let the therapist know your thoughts, emotions, and sensations.

After the session:

  • Allow 20-30 minutes after the session to process.
  • It is a productive way to consolidate your therapy experience. You can even take a nap, which could help keep you safe if you experience side effects of therapy, such as discombobulation, disorientation, nausea, etc.


Clients often say to me:

“I was in a fog most of the day after our last session.”

“I don’t remember leaving your office last time.”

“I felt like I’d been run over by a semi-trailer truck after our last session.”

“I had a headache that started during the session and lasted the rest of the day.”

“I felt nauseated for quite some time after our last session.”

  1. Assess your therapy experience

Not every session can be productive. Sometimes even frustrating, seemingly unproductive sessions can generate movement. But most sessions should feel they were worth your time, energy, effort, and money you invested in them.


Assessment Checklist:


How productive was the session?

Not at all 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Extremely


How invested in the session was I?

Not at all 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Extremely


How much has my life changed since starting therapy?

Not at all 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Extremely


The only person to be honest with is yourself.

Maybe you need to “pretend” to do therapy until you trust your therapist. That’s okay. (Feeling safe with your therapist is important, especially if you were not safe with the parents/caregivers who raised you.)

Note: Do not start out trusting your therapist.

Tell your therapist some of your problems and see what he/she does with them.

Let the therapist earn your trust.