About Sarah

I wish I’d had a therapist who could relate. Who actually understood what it’s like to live with illness.

My hope is to fill that void.

Registered Social Worker

Healthcare Leader

Patient

With an MA in Sociology: Families, Health & Well-being and a Masters of Social Work, I’ve been professionally exploring the concepts of health and well-being for almost 10 years.

I became a patient of our Ontario health system before I even took my first steps and have been working in an urban health network since 2013. You could say I’ve come to know the system from both sides of the bedrail.

I know what it’s like to feel locked in a battle between your self and your body. To be left out of contemporary definitions of wellness. To feel different from your peers. To be viewed as a collection of symptoms and body parts rather than a whole person. To know what the best course of action is but to be met with resistance. To mourn the loss of what used to be. To feel overwhelmed with fear.

You are not alone.

It can get better. And it starts by reaching out to someone who’d love to hear your story. I’d be honoured to create that space for you.

“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 Informed

A trauma informed perspective is about viewing the world with the understanding that so many of us have and will experience trauma. It means viewing problem behaviours as our attempt at coping through difficulty. The question shifts from “what is wrong with this person?” to “what happened to this person?”. My promise to you is that I will always honour your consent to participate (or not participate), offer choice in as many ways as I can, be open and receptive to your feedback and do my very best to create an accepting and respectful environment for our work together.

Strengths Based

I believe we all have personal resilience, resourcefulness and abilities that are unique to each of us. A strengths based perspective orients towards hope instead of viewing people from a place of lack or pathology. I think this is especially important when working in the realm of health and illness. You may consider a diagnosis as an important part of who you are or you may not. I will spend time listening to what is most important to you, what you’ve tried before, what helps you move through difficult times and what supports you have in your life. We have so much to build on.

Commitment to Ethical Practice

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 follow. Importantly, regulation offers the public (you) protection. I engage in ongoing professional development and believe in life-long learning which includes training, self-study, peer support, supervision and community work.

Therapeutic Approach

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 introducing tools you can call on in difficult times.

I take an integrated approach to therapy which means drawing on different parts of the following therapeutic approaches rather than applying a single, rigid approach only. Just as every individual is unique, every session should be uniquely suited for 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
  • Motivation interviewing & Brief Action Planning
  • Acceptance and commitment
  • Existential
  • Somatic
  • Attachment focused

Fun Facts

I’m a big fan of a good cup of tea, cuddling with my 9 year old cat Isabelle (affectionally called Bun) and recharging in nature, especially our beautiful Ontario North.

I have my Usui Reiki Master attunement and have almost completed my Master Teacher certification.

I love watching reality TV!

I was born legally blind. After many eye surgeries I continue to be visually impaired. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m grateful for the wisdom blindness has taught me.

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 young.

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 provided the opportunity to 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 a unique (and sometimes difficult) position from which to view 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 and challenges  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