Podcast: Pax Counseling

Gina Thorne:                      Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series. I’m Gina Thorne. I’m pleased today to be joined with Dominique Condevaux, with PAX Counseling Center out of Denver.

Dominique C.:                    Correct. Actually, it’s Aurora.

Gina Thorne:                      Aurora.

Dominique C.:                    Yes.

Gina Thorne:                      Which is a suburb of Denver?

Dominique C.:                    Correct.

Gina Thorne:                      Great. Well, it is such a pleasure to have you up here at Harmony. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us. Before we get into some of the specifics about the practice, we always like to learn a little bit more about the person behind the practice. Let’s talk first about you and how you got into the field.

Dominique C.:                    I’m a licensed addiction counselor, licensed professional counselor, from the great state of Colorado, like we just said. How did I come into the field of clinical mental health and addiction was years ago I came from a trauma background myself, and I’ve always been curious to figure out how I could go ahead and move forward. This is my kind of third career, and I did the corporate world before, so stocks and bonds and the communication world. One thing that I noticed that I was gravitating towards was kind of an offshoot of counseling. I was always working with my peers in quality control, basically teaching them how to say please and thank you. That helping service in there kind of led to move forward into my practice today.

I’d say about 15 to 20 years ago, I was working with some school kids and some teachers had asked me to come in and say, “Hey, could you work with these children?” And it got to the point where I needed to have a little bit more some tools in my toolbox, so I decided to go back to school. I really had to figure out what I wanted to do with the next portion of my life.

In that reflection, I noticed that since I was really young, I’d always been in that helping. So yes, I was a Candy Striper. I swam competitively, but I taught handicapped children how to go ahead and swim. Children are much easier to teach than adults.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s true.

Dominique C.:                    FYI there. Yeah. That ribbon through my life of working with people. I found that I had a knack for that. Just that ease that I was able to go ahead and move them in a positive direction.

I took that opportunity, and I went back to school and I got my Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree. During that time, going back to school and having that excitement of that, I also did my addiction studies. I’m a master addiction counselor at that time. Then I thought, “Gosh, I need to throw in something else on there,” and I spent four years at St. John Vianney, so the Catholic biblical seminary down in Denver. Again, and you can tell by my name and probably my voice that I am female that I didn’t play with the boys in black. That’s what everybody said. No. This is the lay portion of the school.

With those three, that integration of those three, I said, “I’m going to build my practice, because I want to go ahead and work with people and serve with people.” So that’s the beginning of Pax Counseling and Consulting.

Gina Thorne:                      Well, that’s a great segue into the next question, which is on your website you talk about finding and developing peace within one’s life is an ongoing and proactive journey that often requires the support of others. I know that that’s probably part of the foundation of what you’ve creating with Pax Counseling. Can you explain to us a little bit more about why that work is important?

Dominique C.:                    First of all, Pax means peace. It’s Latin for peace. We as humans are constantly growing. We’re constantly moving. We’re also constantly moving forward. We can go ahead and be overwhelmed with our addictions or overwhelmed with some mental health challenges that are coming into our world. The communication part starts is that I do intra and inter-personal communications. Intra meaning internal, and then inter meaning between people. Sometimes it’s really hard, because people don’t understand what’s going on in their head. Part of that is that it’s my opportunity for them to go ahead and take what’s in their head and put it out on the table. Go ahead and tell me in a safe space that we can go ahead and look at that and really tear it apart. That’s communication. That means that I am supporting you. Again, I recognize that anything that we do we cannot do in a vacuum, because it’s just not functional for us.

I was trying to think of an example, but like looking outside and there’s a road going to the beautiful park that’s next to you. One man did not go ahead and build that. That took many people to go ahead and work with that. That was everything from the construction crew, the laborers actually doing the hard work, the … What do you call that? The tractors coming in. Then it was the people that had to travel on that road that were supplying services to those people, because they had to be fed and there had to be sanitation for them. Again, just using that example of a built road is that there’s so many parts that go in there.

Our lives are like that, too. That’s why it’s so important so we can learn how to talk to ourselves so then we can go ahead and talk to somebody else.

Gina Thorne:                      Because we’re in a community.

Dominique C.:                    Absolutely.

Gina Thorne:                      Yeah, the community.

Dominique C.:                    That’s the most thing is to go ahead and build that community to move forward.

Gina Thorne:                      Great. Great answer. Pax Counseling and Consulting was born from this idea of communication. Why do you feel it’s necessary to focus your practice on this premise?

Dominique C.:                    Kind of reflecting back on my previous answer is that communication, the community, interacting with each other. We need to have that for us to go ahead and move forward. Maslow’s hierarchy. Again, it’s a triangle, and the very bottom level we have food, shelter, clothing, but we also need social interaction. Humans are … We’re kind of like pack … We’re closely related to the dogs. I know it sounds like kind of a weird example. I love dogs. I’ve got three of my own. But we are very social people. We can see that when you withhold that human touch, that human communication, that the person withers and dies.

We see that. Unfortunately we have seen it in the past with Romanian and Russian orphanages. That those were a lot of people, a lot of children that had challenges because they weren’t attended to socially and physically. That’s really important for me to go ahead … That’s the focus. That’s the foundation. If I can go ahead and guide, walk, and work with someone to say, “How can I be more confident in myself,” then these coping, these distorted coping mechanisms, such as the alcohol or the drugs or the process addictions that we are using to keep us balanced that we can go ahead with the help of others to move past that.

Gina Thorne:                      Great. I love it. That’s great. Let’s switch gears for a few minutes and talk a little bit about your philosophies on a few things. I’m going to ask you an interesting question. Just curious about what advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the real world? What advice should they ignore?

Dominique C.:                    Okay. I’m going to start with the advice that they should ignore first. The reason is that because I’m not in conversation with them, each student, each person is individual, so I would have to go ahead and say, “With this person I would advise you. I would work with you not to go down that path.” Every path is different for every different person. Let’s move that aside.

What would I, the advice I would give to everybody and anybody that would ask me that is to remember to build face-to-face communication. This is how we build community. We need that touch. I need to be able to look in your eyes. That’s how we bond. People are saying, “Wow. I can do that over texting.” No, no, because that’s a screen. “I can do that over video chat.” I really can’t. There’s a connection, a bonding connection when I’m looking in your eyes. Right now I’m looking at your very beautiful eyes. That connection that we build that. That is how mothers bond with their children. That’s how fathers bond with their children, with the people around them. It’s how we bond with each other. For conflict resolution, we go ahead. When we are able to look in them, we have more empathy. Not sympathy, but we have more empathy. We are able to go ahead and be proactive, because the person is sitting right in front of us.

I know in this 21st century we have a whole new generation. Whether you want to call them generation Z or iGen, that their mode of communication is by text, is by Snapchat, is by FaceTime or Skype. Even in my field of counseling, that is a tool that we use, but it cannot be the main one. So if I could go ahead and give that one piece of advice is please go ahead and remember that face-to-face communication. Take time for yourself to go ahead and build that. Be that person that reaches out first. A lot of times people are like, “I’m angry and I’m not going to talk to them.” Be that person that reaches out, because you will benefit in the long run.

Gina Thorne:                      And create a ripple effect, hopefully.

Dominique C.:                    Absolutely, because again, when I’m with you, I am modeling to you. You are modeling right back to me. I’m getting this calmness. With the screen, we don’t have that. If it’s all how we communicate, that those the isolation, there’s nothing to bounce off of.

Gina Thorne:                      [inaudible 00:11:14] finite.

Dominique C.:                    Yes, absolutely. And then that’s where a lot of the ruminating, distorted thoughts, the isolation, because behind a screen is a form of isolation. I don’t need to see anybody.

Gina Thorne:                      Thank you for that. That’s a great piece of advice. If I were to ask you to play off the idea of the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

Dominique C.:                    Well, harmony is actually a synonym of peace or peace is a synonym of harmony. Harmony means agreement or concord. This really spoke to me when I was thinking about this question. What it means to live in a life of harmony and peace and agreement is that not only is it agreement with the people that are surrounding, but it’s the agreement that’s inside of you, that homeostasis, that we are okay and that we are not bound to something outside of us. We are set within ourselves. I can walk down this road and I don’t need a pack of cigarettes. I don’t need alcohol or drugs. I don’t need this repetitive action to go ahead and keep me, that I can walk down that road. I can go ahead and meet off with people. It’s that peace and that contentment.

One real quick thing is that a lot of people say, “I want to be happy.” Wow, okay. I don’t want to be … In this world, we deal with such highs and lows. Everything is manic or depressive down here, and we don’t really have that neutral where we really need to be. We really need to have that center line. We need to have some sadness to experience joy. We need to have some conflict to understand resolution, but it doesn’t need to be at the opposite ends.

When I work with people and we are trying to come off these highs and these lows, because again, we know with alcoholism and mental health that there is. There’s extremes there. How can we go ahead and remember that there needs to be some tension in our world? That’s how we function. We need some stress. If everything was so good, we’d get bored and we would go ahead and wither and die.

Gina Thorne:                      Right, right.

Dominique C.:                    Right. What I do is I go ahead and I say, “You’re touching neutral. We’re looking for contentment.” Because content means that I can go ahead and be okay with having those real life sadnesses. My grandmother passed away. I’m going to feel sad for that. I’m not going to go ahead and be totally on the floor depressed for years and years, but I need to recognize that and say, “Yeah, that’s okay emotion.” I can go ahead and be angry, and I don’t want to have it be rageful. Anger is … All these emotions are very constructive. There’s this beautiful spectrum of emotion that we have, and we should be able to feel them all fully but not to go ahead and go off the-

Gina Thorne:                      Extremes.

Dominique C.:                    Yeah. Up and down. Did that make sense to you?

Gina Thorne:                      That’s great. Yeah. The whole idea around harmony is perfect. Find that middle ground.

Dominique C.:                    Absolutely.

Gina Thorne:                      Great.

Dominique C.:                    It’s outside, working harmony within your community of people, your support people, work mates, the world, but also it’s the interior.

Gina Thorne:                      Inside.

Dominique C.:                    It’s the interior harmony.

Gina Thorne:                      Thank you for sharing that.

Dominique C.:                    You’re welcome.

Gina Thorne:                      That’s so true. If someone were wanting to access your services at Pax Counseling and Consulting, how could they get in touch with you?

Dominique C.:                    I have a website. It’s www.paxcounsel.com, and that’s P-A-X-C-O-U-N-S-E-L dot com. You can also reach me by phone. (303) 819-7788. I’m also listed in Psychology Today. My name … It’s by my first name, not Pax Counseling and Consulting. I actually should check that, but my name is spelled Dominique, D-O-M-I-N-I-Q-U-E. My last name is Condevaux, C-O-N-D-E-V, as in Victor, A-U-X, as in x-ray.

Gina Thorne:                      Outstanding. You have a beautiful French name.

Dominique C.:                    Thank you.

Gina Thorne:                      I had a wonderful time visiting with you today. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit us at Harmony. We look forward to working with you.

Dominique C.:                    Well, thank you. I really appreciate the invitation. It is a beautiful location. I look forward to going ahead and working with you and your team.

Gina Thorne:                      Thank you.