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Paradigm shift or behaviour change? Making the right choice for long-lasting mental wellness

April 18, 2024  By Michelle Vincent

Photo: NickyLloyd / Getty Images

In the world of policing, we have some understanding of the importance of mental health wellness. There are so many resources and opportunities available to choose from for both preventative and restorative purposes.

When considering the best fit for a therapist, it might feel a lot like dating. We might go online, search through various profiles, perhaps hear an amazing recommendation and dive in. We might be directed through our organizations or associations to various therapist resources. Regardless of where the resources come from, if possible, we support the therapeutic process best when we connect with that therapist when we’re at our base level, rather than in an urgent situation.

I have discussed this idea and its importance in prior articles; it’s the same importance as knowing our local tradespeople so that when our toilet backs up or our electrical system fails, we can ensure those urgencies are looked after by a professional, and we already know the quality and cost of their work. In an urgent moment, when our mental or physical health needs immediate attention, it’s difficult to stay clear-minded in our search for that professional, and even more difficult to resonate with an appropriate connection.

When exploring various therapists, it dawned on me that perhaps rather than looking to “fix” the mental health issue, as clients we might be more inclined to empower ourselves by developing a skillset through various tools that will support working through our issues. This may seem obvious to those who have a relationship with a therapist already, however, have we considered whether we intend to seek the services of a clinician or consultant? Maybe both at once?


We need to decide if we are looking for temporary or more permanent changes in our deep-seated habits.

The terms “clinician” and “consultant” are very different and yet could be considered and experienced simultaneously. A clinician diagnoses and treats patients directly. A consultant provides professional advice. Perhaps neither of these terms would define the support or resources we are truly seeking from our mental health professionals.

To further define where we might want to access our services, perhaps we should explore what we are genuinely looking for, if possible. Personally, when I consider what I want most from my practitioner, it’s the tools and support that will help me shift the lens through which I am experiencing my mental health issue so that I might be empowered to make the necessary changes to initiate mental wellness. This is where we can decide if we are looking for temporary or more permanent changes in our deep-seated habits. Such aspects are referred to as behavioural changes, which tend to be short-term and seemingly quicker fixes, as well as paradigm shifts, which tend to be longer-lasting and take more time to achieve (Covey, S. R. and Covey, S., 2021).

If we are looking for a more simplistic change in behaviour – perhaps needing a quick fix for momentary relief – we might choose specific resources or provide this information to our mental health provider so they can support the exploration of best approaches. If we are looking to make some great changes so that we do not revert to this same mental state, we may consider a paradigm shift, thus changing the lens through which we are experiencing our challenges. The reason it may be important to put some thought into this task is that, especially if you are approaching mental health care from a preventative perspective, you want to ensure the practitioner you choose is onboard and supports the self-efficacy of a paradigm shift. They must have the tools to support a paradigm shift rather than just simpler behaviour changes. That being said, there is a time and place for both. Having this information can make for a rich, constructive collaboration with your mental health provider and may support reasonable expectations for both parties.

The choice and selection of a mental health provider can be key in the synergetic relationship that is developed when we are dealing with the most challenging times in our lives. In the world of policing, we are especially vulnerable to mental health challenges from both our professional and personal worlds. Having insight into what we want from a mental health professional, as well as any anticipated outcomes, may support an effective pathway to achieving these goals. With the proper information, you will have the ability to articulate what you want and need.

Michelle Vincent PhD/MACP is a retired officer and the founder of The Haven, Ontario’s first non-profit, inpatient treatment centre exclusive to first responders and uniform personnel. Contact her at

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