This year, I celebrate 35 years as a practicing psychotherapist and 25 years in private practice!
I want to acknowledge and thank my mentors, colleagues, and most importantly, the clients who have walked along this journey with me.
To mark these milestones, I thought I would share a little of my journey as a psychotherapist. I feel extremely fortunate to have chosen a line of work that continues to engage and fulfill me. Work does not feel like work. Likely because it is feeling meaningful.
I am grateful that “work”, for me, means helping others create a path through difficulty and emerge stronger and more resilient. Whether they heal from grief, personal trauma, depression, or other personal life challenges, I love witnessing my clients’ transformation process.
My introduction to psychotherapy
My first encounter with psychotherapy was when I was a teenager. During my parents’ messy divorce, I needed help to cope with their dynamics. Seeing a therapist gave me a safe place to express myself openly, and to learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships. This experience helped me see the value of therapy and it sparked my interest to pursue the educational path to become a therapist.
Following graduating with a master’s degree from Pratt institute, New York, NY, I worked in community-based agencies. My first psychotherapy role brought me to work with individuals who struggled with a wide range of psychiatric disorders. Later, I worked with women and children who were victims of domestic violence and survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
After ten years of working in publicly funded agencies, I took the leap and opened my private practice in Georgetown, Ontario. That was 25 years ago already! Without a doubt, going into private practice full-time has been the highlight of my career. I love working independently. Over the years, I have created strong bonds with many health and business professionals in the GTA and throughout Canada and I value this growing network.
Swissair and 911
Initially, my practice was heavily oriented toward individual and collective trauma work. I trained and served on several Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) teams. To my great surprise, it brought me to contribute to two historic events. The first event was the Swissair disaster near Peggy’s Cove, N.S. in 1998. For three weeks, I joined a CISM team to support personnel from the Canadian Coast Guard as they worked on the salvage operation. The second event was the 2001 attack on the New York Twin Towers. I went to New York City to assist people who worked in the financial district and had witnessed the attack. These experiences touched me deeply. I saw resilience at play in a different way than I had previously experienced in individual sessions.
How things changed over 25 years
Over the years, my interest in working with different issues and client demographics has evolved and this has helped keep me engaged. Initially, I had a strong interest in working with children and adults with a strong focus on trauma. Later I developed a keen interest in the intricate dynamics of adult development and couple relationships.
While I continue to work with the gamut of issues people face, depression/anxiety, grief/loss, and life transitions, I am extremely interested in helping people thrive in their relationships. I find relationships fascinating and complex as inevitably they bring both joy and injury. Helping couples learn to resolve conflict and heal the hurt they caused each other, and witnessing them transform their relationship to be more loving and considerate is rewarding work.
Lately, I have had a particular interest in assisting couples recover from affairs. While many might say “if my spouse cheats on me I would leave the marriage,” the reality is that dealing with infidelity is not straightforward, and it is not easy to leave a relationship. Life is complex and ending a relationship is a complex decision. Surprisingly, I have found that couples who dedicate themselves to healing their relationship after infidelity, develop stronger relational patterns and tools to protect their relationship going forward. Working with infidelity includes trauma recovery work both from the family of origin and from the marriage. It also includes learning to develop healthy relational patterns and having realistic expectations from relationships.
Adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic
COVID changed everything for all of us. Before Covid, I worked strictly face-to-face with clients, but COVID forced us to pivot and do what had been until then, unacceptable. As the rules of life changed, it made video sessions necessary to continue to support clients. The College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) and other professional regulating bodies quickly adapted and provided guidelines for video sessions. While I continue to provide the option of virtual sessions post-Covid, I do still prefer face-to-face. I learn more about an individual when I witness their energy and their body language, and you can’t always see that on a computer screen.
The importance of Being a Registered Member of CRPO and continuous learning
A significant event in my career is the creation of the CRPO. In 2015, due to my extensive training and years of experience, I was grandparented into the college. I am proud to be a member of the college, and membership demonstrates to my clients I have achieved and maintain the highest level of professionalism in my practice.
Continuous learning is crucial for my professional development and my clients. The world of psychology keeps making discoveries that impact how we think about people and life. It is vital to learn about new treatment strategies and I go beyond the minimum standards of learning required by the CRPO.
I look to the future optimistically. I plan to continue to focus my work with individuals who are going through difficult life challenges and transitions, those struggling with anxiety and depression, and couples.
Over the last 25 years in private practice, I have had the honour of witnessing my clients’ journeys of healing and personal growth. The trust placed in me to support them is humbling and inspires me to keep challenging myself to become a more resilient person. I think one of the things I find most gratifying about my work, is being continually surprised by our power to heal and become more resilient. All it takes is the desire — and the willingness to put the work in.