It’s been my pleasure to be a member of OAMHP (previously OACCPP) for so long that I can’t recall when I joined. It was probably in the 1980’s, and I served on the board for a few years. At present I am semi-retired, enjoying the freedom of private practice. Prior to that I worked in the psychiatric system and a post secondary institution. My husband and I have the good fortune to live in spacious and beautiful Northwestern Ontario where we enjoy hiking, photography and being dedicated foodies. Our three sons followed us into the helping professions. I also love reading, music, Ukrainian culture, and creative movement.
Where are you from? Tell us where you were born and raised. Did you have a traditional upbringing for your culture or a unique situation? Did you and/or your family relocate?
Both my parents immigrated from Ukraine after World War II. They settled in what is now Thunder Bay in Northwestern Ontario and raised a large family. We grew up immersed in Ukrainian culture – language, customs, food, spirituality, music and dance. I have a special place in my heart for people who have lived through conflict and oppression. Most of us stayed in the area , though some siblings moved to Toronto.
Your education: Where, when and what did you study? In what courses did you excel and were there any challenges in your education?
My Honours B.A. In Psychology was completed at Lakehead University here in Thunder Bay, then I went on to do a Masters degree in Psychology at the University of Manitoba. I was always attracted to theories of personality, particularly Jung’s take on our psyche and topics such as creativity and dreaming.
What led you to a career in mental health? Did you have an inspirational mentor or a turning point event in your life?
It’s fairly certain that my love of English literature opened my eyes to our interior world. It was difficult to choose a major in University, because I had wide ranging interests, but ultimately I was fascinated by what made humans think and act the way we do. As the oldest in my family I developed a strong sense of responsibility and so I believe these two factors led me to choose psychology and mental health for my professional path.
What is your current workplace setting? What were there stages involved in getting to where you are now?
A golden handshake opportunity at my last place of employment made it possible for me to retire from full-time work five years ago. The first 21 years of my career was spent working at a psychiatric hospital with a wide variety of clientele and other professionals. After that I spent 12 wonderful years as Senior Counsellor in a post secondary institution, which was a satisfying blend of clinical and administrative work. Now I have the luxury of working for myself, including some contract psychotherapy for a local psychological service.
Tell us a bit more about yourself – what do you like to do with your free time? Do you have hobbies, a favourite author, artist, movie, series, food, destination, blogger, etc. – anything at all you’d like to share?
There are many things that enrich my life. My husband, sons and I are dedicated foodies and readers . I have taken up photography with his help and we’ve recently formed a Ukrainian folk music group. Enjoying the outdoors and gardening are wonderful ways to replenish my soul. I am an active spiritual seeker and have danced in a creative movement for over 20 years. In addition ,I am a dedicated Tolkien nerd with a collection of books, films, music, two swords and an Elvish costume (ears and all).
A lot has changed in 2020. Any advice to share about how to approach your work, relationships or homelife in the era of the ‘new normal’? What will life be like in a year from now?
This year’s challenges truly call us to clarify who we are, what is important and what our values are. For me, overcoming stress and fear begins by pausing, grounding in breath and body , to find a place of calm from which to proceed. Although our society tends to emphasize personal achievement, we will only get through these challenges by realizing that we must work together for the good of all.
What advice would you offer to someone thinking about a career in mental health or just getting started?
You will go far if you have the humility to learn from others, expand your horizons and learn from your mistakes. Self-care and feeding your soul after witnessing suffering will be essential to your survival. I have also found that processing difficult sessions through journalling and peer consultations have been invaluable .
Are you seeing clients in-person again? What have you learned about this process?
Due to health concerns for a family member, I am offering counselling only through phone and online sessions.