You are stronger and smarter than you think!

By Shelley HourstonTapestry with bird

Perhaps you already know that we are all stronger and smarter than we think. I wish that someone had shared this gem with me when I was floundering in my twenties. Now these many years later, I know this to be true and it does give me comfort. I’ve also discovered that it’s easier to access my strengths and knowledge than I’d thought.

Every one of us has a unique blend of strengths and knowledge woven throughout our life experience. Even if you are younger, your life experience is an extraordinary resource. The key is to learn how to separate the strengths and knowledge from the emotions that may be clouding our memories. We tend to minimize our abilities and resilience because we measure ourselves against other people or our own standards, dreams or ambitions. We learn to use a “glass half empty” or deficit perspective and we may believe that acknowledging our personal strengths is conceited or boastful. The truth is, we need to recognize and call on our personal strengths from time to time. Recalling our life experiences to identify our strengths can provide enormous practical and psychological benefits.

I’ve discovered a couple of tools that help turn life experience into resources and strategies. The first is Appreciative Inquiry (AI), a reversal of the standard “problem-solving approach.” Broadly speaking, AI involves a search for successes or “what’s working” and then utilizes the “lessons learned” to generate more success. The second tool is one that complements AI and is called Guided Autobiography (GAB). GAB is a method of life review or reminiscence—recalling and writing about your life experiences in short, focused chapters or stories. AI meshes nicely with GAB by focusing our attention on experiences of success or growth even when the experience may have originated as a difficult or challenging experience.

Learn to use AI and GAB
BCCPD is currently offering GAB and AI experience in both group and individual formats for people living with HIV and/or HCV in BC.

Group format—new groups forming now:
Small groups of people meet weekly for two hours over five weeks. It is possible to meet face-to-face in the Vancouver area. For those outside of Vancouver we’ll meet by teleconference at a time agreed upon by participants. Writing experience and skill is not required. You’ll be “writing like you talk” and the emphasis is on capturing the story rather than producing eloquent prose.

A teleconference group for HIV/HCV co-infected is currently forming. Two spaces are still available. Please contact me as soon as possible if you’re interested.

Individual/interview format:
The individual interview is for people who may not wish to write or feel more comfortable with a one-to-one interview scenario. Meetings take place by phone. We meet for one hour and you’ll receive a copy of your story. You may wish to experience the individual interview before committing to a group class.

To participate or for more information, contact Shelley at or 604-875-0188 (toll-free 1-877-232-7400).

Print a PDF of this blog post: GAB March 2014

Walking, bowling, dancing, swimming and yoga before breakfast?

Dancing bear carvingBCCPD is looking for people with disabilities or chronic health conditions who have experienced the transition from an inactive lifestyle to a regular practice of physical activity (broadly defined).  We’re working with 4th year kinesiology students from UBC. They will interview you about your experience and the ways physical activity impacts your sense of mental and physical wellbeing. Based on your conversation, the students write a short story for publication in future issues of Transition magazine. Your tips and success stories will inspire others.

While the students would appreciate the opportunity to meet people in person (at the BCCPD office) for the interviews, it may be possible to do an interview by phone if you reside elsewhere in the province. Your name will not be used in the Transition articles if you prefer to remain anonymous. Everyone interviewed will have their name entered in a draw for a gift card for a store in your community. Thank you in advance for sharing your experience with our service learning students and our Transition readers!

For more information or to participate, contact Shelley at 604-875-0188 in Vancouver (toll-free 1-877-232-7400) or email

Stand Up for Mental Health

Friday March 15, 7:00 pm
Gallery Gachet, 88 E Cordova Street, Vancouver

Founded by award-winning counsellor, stand-up comic, and author of  The Happy Neurotic: How Fear and Angst Can Lead To Happiness and Success David Granirer, Stand Up For Mental Health teaches stand up comedy to people with mental illness. Come laugh your head off at this show that looks at the lighter side of taking meds, seeing counselors, getting diagnosed and surviving the mental health system.

Admission by donation.