I wish I’d had a therapist who really understood what it’s like to live with illness.
So I decided to become one.
Hi, I’m Sarah.
I’m a social worker/therapist, healthcare leader and patient living in Toronto, Canada who loves to recharge by spending time in nature, especially our beautiful Ontario North.
With an MA in Sociology: Families, Health & Well-being and a Masters of Social Work, I’ve been studying health and well-being for almost 10 years. I became a therapist so I could use what I’ve studied and learned through my work, training and my own experiences of illness to help others. Scroll to the bottom of this page if you’re curious about my own chronic illness journey.
I’m here to help you and the people in your life navigate health challenges – both new and existing. This may involve acute (sudden) or chronic (long-term) illness, pain, disability, health anxiety, depression, medical trauma and accessing health and social services.
These are just some of the areas I can support you with:
- identifying and communicating your needs
- exploring what illness means for you and your future
- gaining self-confidence
- connecting with family, peers and significant others
- partnering with service providers and other supports
- decision-making about care, work, family etc.
- navigating disclosure, career and dating
- managing your energy effectively
- preparing for and adjusting to life transitions (leaving for school, changing care providers, retiring, moving, divorce etc.)
- processing big emotions like fear, anxiety, traumatic stress, grief, overwhelm, uncertainty, sadness, anger
If you’re a health professional or student, I have a page just for you.
I can’t wait to celebrate the milestones you’ll reach!
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”― Maya Angelou
Principles That Guide My Practice
Trauma is unfortunately much more common in our society than we may even realize and it can impact people in many different ways. I have taken advanced training in trauma informed care that assists me in identifying how trauma may affect you, recognizing signs and symptoms of trauma if when/they, resisting activities that may lead to harmful retraumatization and designing my resources, sessions and policies accordingly. Being trauma informed also involves honouring your consent to participate, offering choice, in as many ways as possible, to you and ensuring an accepting and respectful environment for our work together. I am also taking advanced training in trauma therapy itself so I can best support individuals who have experienced medical trauma.
I believe in honouring the personal resilience, resourcefulness and abilities that are unique to you. Even in our darkest moments (and sometimes especially in our dark moments!) where it’s difficult to see the light, we have have important strengths at play. I aim to help you uncover them. This approach orients towards hope instead of viewing people from a place of lack or pathology. I think this is especially important when working with illness because diagnosis may be an important part of who you are or it may not. I will spend time exploring what is most important to you, what you’ve tried before, what helps you cope and the supports you have in your life (personal, family, community, work, faith etc.) that you can lean on when things are difficult.
Our work together is and should be mutual. I will check in with you often for feedback on what you’re thinking and feeling and to set and revisit your goals. Though I am a professional in this capacity, you are the expert in your self and I will seek your perspective often. My ultimate hope is for you to feel confident in your ability to move on without me, knowing you can return if needed.
Commitment to Continued Learning
I’m registered with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (#831933 ) and am a member of the Ontario Association of Social Workers (#14039). That means my profession is governed by a regulatory college with standards of practice and a code of ethics that I continuously review. I also engage in ongoing professional development which includes training, self-study, supervision and community service. Currently I volunteer as a board member of a national non-profit organization and with a local community agency.
I believe therapy should be a mix of exploration/self-reflection and skill building. My priority is in creating a safe space for you to explore your self, experiences and hopes for the future while ALSO teaching you practical resources and techniques that will enable you to achieve your goals and find more peace in your day-to-day life.
I take an integrated approach to therapy which means drawing on different parts of the following therapeutic approaches rather than focusing rigidly on applying one approach only. Just as every person is unique, every session should be unique to your needs, preferences and goals. I am happy to discuss as much or as little about the therapeutic approaches as you’d like throughout our sessions together.
- Cognitive behavioural
- Mindfulness + Mindful self compassion
- Dialectical behavioural skills
- Solution focused
- Acceptance and commitment
- Attachment focused
Some Lesser Known Facts About Me
I share my home with my 8 year old cat Isabelle, affectionately called Bun.
I have my Usui Reiki Master attunement and have almost completed my Master Teacher certification.
I was born legally blind. After many eye surgeries I continue to be visually impaired but grateful for the wisdom blindness has taught me.
I looove reality TV!
I’m an Aquarius and highly sensitive person.
How Chronic Illness Led Me Here
I was born with congenital heart disease (CHD) and diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a genetic systemic connective tissue disorder when I was two and a half years old. I have lived through fifteen operations to date, including two open heart surgeries at the age of 10 and 12 and continue navigating through a life with chronic illness.
My journey growing up with Marfan and co. has very much shaped who I am today and who I will become as well as guided my academic and career focus.
Through university degree programs in the social sciences I found that I could analyze and express my biographical experiences of illness through a qualitative research technique called autoethnography. This was quite fitting as writing has been my favourite form of self expression since I was small.
Studying the sociology of health, illness, medicine and disability became like holding up a magic mirror that allowed me to see myself and our social world in a new way. It made me question ideas we take for granted about what it means to be sick and be well and the institutions where we seek care and refuge.
In 2012, I graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with a Masters of Sociology: Families, Health and Well-being (MA). Since that time I’ve worked in health services research studying how policies, programs and practices create the conditions in which people give and receive care.
I wrote about one of these research projects in viewing the ICU differently.
I also work closely with and mentor clinical staff in the areas of academic practice. Through this work I’ve found myself embedded in a hospital network where I am also a patient, giving me unique (and sometimes difficult) insights into the complexities of navigating our health care system. I’ve also engaged in numerous patient advising and/or advocacy roles in non-profit, government and research.
I’ve shared more about the important lessons growing up with Marfan syndrome has taught me on The Mighty.
I decided to return to graduate school in 2016 for my Masters in Social Work (MSW) at the University of Toronto. This degree felt like it was a long time coming. I’d considered social work after my bachelors degree but was dissuaded by the discipline’s tendency to ‘other’ – creating a false dichotomy between those who can help (the well) and those who require help (the unwell).
My lived experience of illness and visual impairment made me wonder if I would be accepted into such a profession and more importantly, if I even wanted to be apart of a profession with a legacy of holding those beliefs.
After working in healthcare for several years I could not ignore the tug, tug tug of my earnest desire – to work more closely with individuals, families and communities touched by illness. So when I decided to apply for my MSW I asked for what I needed from the profession – to accept and honour all parts of me.
You can read some of what I wrote within my graduate admission package in my article on choosing social work.
It hasn’t been easy but I am thrilled to contribute to a new paradigm where more of us can show up in all our uniqueness if we so choose.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”Brene Brown