Human Connection Will Always Matter: AI From A Counselling Perspective

  “AI is a Child of Humanity” T Panova

This week someone asked me why at my age I am so interested in AI. There are so many reasons, but it is mainly because I care about humanity. I want to learn so that I have a better understanding for my children, your children and my future grandchildren. Besides we are never too old to learn and now is the opportune time to do so.

As a Psychologist and former School Counsellor, I hope that you will explore resources and information that will guide you on a journey to understanding the complex world of AI. More importantly, I hope that you will bring humanity into all your conversations when it comes to AI. I believe that the therapeutic alliance will be more essential than ever before. AI won’t be able to connect the way a counsellor or therapist can. AI won’t be able to help in crisis situations. AI is not human although some may begin to treat it so. The counselling relationship is key and will always matter when it comes to being a helping professional. AI will most likely be used to augment and enhance counselling processes, so understanding how to utilize it will be of the utmost importance.

AI has the potential to impact an individual’s well-being, privacy, and autonomy. As counsellors, it is crucial to address the ethical implications of AI and ensure that its development, implementation, and use align with ethical standards. As counsellors and therapists our ethical standards will need to be revised.

Discussing AI from a counselling perspective will allow for a critical examination of its potential benefits and risks, fostering informed decision-making and responsible use now and in the future. Throughout these months in ETMOOC2 for which I am extremely grateful, I have been doing a lot of reading, discussing and thinking about AI. I hope that you too will begin exploring and learning. We are just at the beginning stages of paying attention and learning how AI will impact all of us. 

AI technology will most likely have psychological effects on individuals. For example, chatbots or virtual assistants designed to provide emotional support may impact the therapeutic relationship between clients and human counsellors. There is no way to predict how and what impact this will have. Time will tell, but we will need to assist clients who develop a trusting relationship with an AI instead of a human and the impacts that could potentially have on their therapeutic outcomes.

Addressing AI from a counselling perspective will allow for the exploration of the potential benefits and drawbacks of incorporating AI into therapeutic settings and school settings . We will need to consider the psychological impact on clients and students in the near future. How will you address these issues?

How will AI gather personal data, analyze emotional expressions, or even provide mental health assessments accurately?  It is important to discuss the potential impact of AI on emotional well-being and mental health, ensuring that AI systems are designed and used in ways that promote individuals’ psychological well-being. There is much to consider when it comes to AI.

How will AI enhance your counselling process?

Will AI help, harm or heal?

What part will you play in making a difference when it comes to AI?

How will you keep up and pay attention to the ethical considerations?

Will AI ever be able to show empathy, compassion, intuition, or cultural nuances?

I really like what Sherry Turkle asks, “Are we really ready to become a machine’s companion even if they are willing to become ours?”

As AI technology becomes more prevalent, individuals will continue to increasingly interact with AI systems in various domains of life. As Counsellors we can play a significant role in helping individuals navigate these interactions, offering support in establishing healthy boundaries, managing expectations, and coping with potential challenges that may arise in human-AI interactions. Knowing what resources are helpful will make a difference in you assisting your clients.

Ensuring that all voices are included in the training of AI systems so that biases will appear less frequently is essential. AI algorithms already perpetuate and amplify these biases. Let’s work together for positive change that is more inclusive for all.

Understanding AI from a counselling perspective will allow for discussions of the potential preferences in AI systems and their implications. We need to ensure that our, and our client’s privacy rights are respected and protected now and in the future.

By addressing AI from a counselling perspective, you as a helping professional can help raise awareness, promote responsible and ethical AI practices, and support individuals in navigating the impact of AI on their well-being and mental health. My suggestion for learning how AI will impact what you do is to start slow and learn as much as you can whenever you can. 

AI does matter when it comes from a counselling perspective. My hope is that you take a look at some of the resources below and share your resources, thoughts and ideas. Some articles could be used as a starting dialogue for professional development sessions, others may pique your personal interest in this topic.My suggestion is to put down or better yet put away your phones whenever you are face-to-face with another person. Have a real conversation making them the most important person in the room whether discussing AI or not. I look forward to staying connected with others who will commit to keeping AI and humanity at the forefront of their growth knowing that human connection will always matter.

AI References and Resources

Hoping and Coping: Volunteering with Students Living in Ukraine

Sometimes you see something and you just know you cannot pass this opportunity by. That’s what happened to me as I read a post by my friend Marian on Facebook on Alberta Teachers volunteering with students in Ukraine. I then contacted David who coordinates volunteers for Smart Osvita and have never looked back.Your legacy in life is created by each life you touch. This is one way to connect with youth who are presently living in Ukraine that is meaningful. I could not pass this opportunity by.I hope you too chose to volunteer.

“This opportunity is going to be life changing for those kids, but it will also be life changing for Teachers, and School Counsellors and others who deeply care about youth”

 D Falconer adapted by @sspellmancann

A Volunteer Opportunity

If you are interested in volunteering on your own please contact David Falconer (see below) , but if you’d like to co-present with me please contact me at @sspellmancann on twitter


David Falconer . Volunteer recruiter Principal in Nunavut. More about David and his volunteer work with NGO Smart Osvita   

David signed on to a program that gives children who are presently living in Ukraine hour-long virtual lessons where they get to learn about a place in the world, or a topic of interest. The goal is to provide the youth with an hour that they can escape from their worries and focus on their well-being. So fortunately for me I got to present with my co-workers and wellness team Sheila Stacey and Deanne Arada two amazing counsellors who are passionate about making a difference for young people.

Ukrainian children log in to Zoom sessions at whatever location they can, then Falconer , teachers, School Counsellors and others tell them about life where they are and / or present a lesson. Our goal is to make it interactive , provide as much Canadian content as possible while being fun and letting youth escape the worries of the world.

Falconer has had up to 250 people taking part,in his sessions  providing Ukrainian children “an hour where they can dream and be totally separated from their current reality.” There are thousands of displaced students needing this support. 

Falconer said the lessons being organized are supposed to be educational, but “ultimately, the goal is to have these kids know that people care and indeed that is what we hoped as well. We have completed three sessions and plan on many more and we sincerely hope you do too. Our ultimate goal is to leave them feeling uplifted and hope filled and from their feedback we believe we accomplished this so far.

It is so important to not retraumatize youth providing them with a sense of safety allowing for activities that help them feel truly connected . When planning sessions presenters need to be mindful of this.

For youth who are affected by trauma, the teacher / school counsellor play an even more vital role. Volunteering in this capacity does makes a difference.

What You May Want to Know:

You can do this!!!! It’s fun and a great way to make a meaningful contribution. Feeling powerless like you can’t do anything …well yes YOU CAN, The students so appreciate what you do. They are absolutely amazing. The interpreter is so helpful and positive.You don’t have to do this alone. Find a co-fascilitator. We planned our sessions together and did a run through before each session which was so, so beneficial. We know you will love this experience too. So jump in and do it, you will be so glad you did!


These are some potential resources for you, some may be applicable , so please use what works for you. Just be yourself, share some of your life and most importantly pass on a little hope.

Send a message to the people of Ukraine. We’ll translate it.

Please remember to practice self-care and share how you do with the youth. You will be in the presence of extraordinary acts of courage as you connect with these young people. Embrace all the moments.

Meichenbaum Matters

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on

There are some therapists who contribute more than others to the helping professions and Donald Meichenbaum is one of them. I have been privileged to attend a couple of his trainings. If you ever get the chance I suggest you sign up for one. I love that he has so generously given us resources that are not only practical, but helpful. If you are a School Counsellor/ Psychologist or Psychotherapist I know you will enjoy his book the Roadmap to Resilience . Bonus it’s free.

Thank you Dr. Meichenbaum for all the work you do with the melissa institute to help othersl

A- Z Tips for Alcohol Inks

  • Anything goes, have fun.
  • Be like a child and create.
  • Create, don’t critique.
  • Don’t give up … Don’t be afraid to try new things … pour and play.
  • Experiment with different papers like Yupo and different inks.
  • Forget about your worries and create art instead.
  • Get your space ready to play.
  • Have a blast. 
  • Imagine all the great things you will create.
  • Just be yourself and create what makes you happy.
  • Kindness matters when you start out. Everyone can do art and we all get better with time.
  • Let go and let it flow.
  • Mistakes make marvelous art pieces.
  • Music brings out the creativity in you . Listen while you create.
  • Practice , Practice, Practice.
  • Quit saying you can’t … you can!
  • Relax and let the paint take you away.
  • Safety matters, ventilation and masks make for a safe work space.
  • Trust the process.
  • Uplift friends who are new to alcohol inks.
  • Visualize what you’d like to create, then do it!
  • Watch lots of artists’ YouTube videos.
  • XO from me to you.
  • You’ve got this!
  • Zazzy that’s you and so will your paintings be.

It’s A New Year … It’s A New Day

2021 was an extremely challenging year for me. Loss, Covid in many of my family members, eye issues (plenty of those), plus many other unpleasant life experiences, so I need a new story for this next chapter. I need to bring passion back into my life. Life will always bring us tough times, some years more than others.

In 2022,

  • I will look forward to each day, creating new ways to find hope for myself.
  • I will do new things.
  • I will change my story to one of true acceptance of all the things I cannot change.
  • I will focus on opportunities instead of obstacles.
  • I will give more love to myself and those around me.
  • I will remember to be grateful that I am alive and acknowledge that I have much to look forward to.
  • I will choose to live fully as much as humanly possible each day.
  • I will be a better version of myself.
  • I will recognize that I am human and will have sad times, but I will not stay in those feelings.

I’m not finished yet and neither are you. It’s a new year … it’s a new day to really live. #walkalongwithme

All It Takes Is A Defining Moment

Photo by Daniel Kux on

For Desmond Tutu meeting Trevor Huddleston determined the path of his life. In my own life there are many defining moments that led me to who I am today. Teachers, coaches , community members and a School Counsellor had an impact.

In grade 12 (1976) my School Counsellor Mrs. Brown gave me $100.00 towards my post secondary education. My family could not afford to pay my way. I was the first in my family to go to University so it was certainly a big deal. I did not realize at the time just how much money that was or even how incredible it was that she did that. What a gift and an impact she had on the trajectory of my life. A lacrosse scholarship and a bursary ( both recommended by community members) paid for all four years of my Bachelor of Child Study degree. How fortunate was I ?

I never underestimate the power of a small (albeit grand) gesture in forming who we are and what we choose to do in our lives. I intentionally make sure each day I work with students I keep that in mind. I intentionally pay it forward on as many occasions as I can.

All it takes is a defining moment and you might be the one that makes that happen and if someone makes that happen for you tell them.

Books to Help High School Students Navigate Life

Photo by Pixabay on

I asked a few of my educator friends about a book they would recommend and here is the list. I’ll start with my favourite by Viktor Frankl. The rest are in no particular order.

1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

2. Tuesdays With Morrie

3. Wherever You Go There You Are

4. The Alchemist

5. Make A Dash

6. The Hate You Give

7. Fountainhead

8. The Upside of Unrequited

9. The Total Money Makeover

10. A Child Called It

11. Make Your Bed

12. Everything I know I learned In Kindergarden

13. City of Joy

14. Don’t Throw Sand in The Sandbox

15. 1984

16. Grapes of Wrath

17. To Kill A Mockingbird

18. Do What You Are

19. Netsmart

20. Financial Peace University

What book would you recommend?


Photo by Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist on

As we enter this thanksgiving weekend , I long for the big dinners I have celebrated with my longtime friends and kids for over thirty years.

However, I am grateful for what I do have my health, my life, the best friends ever and two amazing healthy adult children. My husband who continues to be such a good human being makes this pandemic easier for all those around him. My mom who lives far away, but still has a positive attitude given all her health concerns. A 91 year old mother in law who is healthy and full of vitality and positivity.

I am grateful for two brothers who have sacrificed so much for my mom. I am grateful I can help when I am needed in my community. This pandemic has hurt so many and if I can reach out and help, I am more than happy to do so. I am grateful to have a purpose and so much more.

So from my heart to yours, I wish you the best thanksgiving possible.

A Gift For Teachers

Photo by u0158aj Vaishnaw on

Teachers deserve so much more than this for all they do day in and day out. This is my little treat for them as we enter World Teachers’ Day on Monday. It’s my small way to say thanks for who you are and what you do. Click here for a little gift.

Shedding A Little Tear As I Say Farewell

Processed with MOLDIV

This year I feel very sad to leave this safe haven and return to the big city , but I’m also excited to see my children and friends. Farewell Nova Scotia I look forward to my return next year hoping life looks a little brighter for all of us at that time.