It’s not the mountain ahead that wears you down; it’s the pebble in your shoe.
Life can be challenging, but when we equip ourselves with the right psychological skills – skills that allow us to adapt and rise above those challenges – we can achieve incredible things. Whether your goal is to manage or overcome mental health difficulties, or to maximize your performance in a particular job or sport, I can help you along your path to a better life.
Your path awaits.
After growing up in Vancouver, I travelled and worked around the world for a number of years before returning to university. I completed my honours degree in psychology at the University of British Columbia in 2006 and my doctoral degree in clinical psychology at the University of Manitoba in 2015. In 2014, I moved to Calgary for my predoctoral clinical residency and quickly fell in love with this young and vibrant city. Being an outdoor enthusiast, Alberta's blend of mountains, rivers, forest, desert, and true wilderness is a slice of perfection. When I'm not engaged in my own training and clinical practice, I'm usually spending time with friends and family. Relationships are very important to me. I'm also passionate about mental health advocacy work.
With respect to my athletic background, I've competed in a number of sports including baseball, soccer, judo, jiu jitsu, football, and rugby. Currently, I compete in ultraendurance obstacle course races and ultramarathons. Participating in these events has taught me firsthand about the factors contributing to resilience and high performance. Although these extreme events are sometimes daunting, I find the gratification of completing them is proportional to their challenge. And being a member of the broader community of competitors, supporters, and fans is both inspiring and humbling. It is truly remarkable what humans are capable of when they possess the right skills, motivation, and support.
Frequently Asked Questions
1Are my problems “serious enough” to seek a psychologist?
If your thoughts, emotions, or behaviours are interfering in any way with your life and you are motivated to change that, then you would likely benefit from treatment provided by a psychologist. Psychologists often specialize in the treatment of different mental health problems, so you should find a psychologist who provides treatment for the particular problem you are struggling with. If you are unsure about exactly what the problem is, all psychologists are trained to assess or diagnose a variety of mental health problems. And if that initial psychologist does not provide treatment for your particular problem, then he or she will provide you with a referral to another treating professional that does.
2Should I seek treatment right away or should I wait?
There is no black and white answer to this question. We know from research that some types of mental health problems occasionally resolve on their own without formal intervention. However, it is also true that many mental health problems when left untreated become worse, more complex, result in greater life impairment, and become more challenging to treat as time goes on. Therefore, a general rule of thumb is "better safe than sorry". If you're feeling distressed, it's best to seek help.
3Who should I see?
[From the CPA website:] Once you have made the decision to see a mental health practitioner, you need to decide what type of practitioner to choose. There can be many different people who claim to treat mental health problems. Not all of them are well trained professionals in the mental health field. Whomever you consult, it is important to ask them if they are regulated – in other words, do they have a license to practice?
4Why should I bother seeing a regulated professional?
[From the CPA website:] Provincial and territorial governments give a few health professions the responsibility to license or regulate their profession. Regulation or licensure is important because it ensures that the practitioner has met a high standard of training and provides a high standard of care. If you have any concern about the behaviour of a regulated practitioner, you can contact the provincial or territorial regulatory body that licenses his or her practice. The role of the regulatory body is to protect the public by ensuring that its practitioners are properly trained and are competent. You have no assurance that an unregulated person is competent to provide the service offered and no regulatory body to contact if you have any concern about the service provided.
5How can I tell whether a psychologist is regulated?
[From the CPA website:] You can verify a regulated practitioner’s credentials yourself by calling the regulatory body and asking if the practitioner is in good standing. The Canadian Psychological Association’s website lists the names and coordinates of all the provincial and territorial regulatory bodies of psychology. Because psychologists are regulated provincially and territorially, contact the one in the province or territory in which you are receiving service because that is where the psychologist would need to be registered.
6What happens to the personal information that I discuss with my psychologist?
[From the CPA website:] In consulting a practitioner about personal psychological problems, people are often concerned about confidentiality. Early on when seeing a client, the psychologist should review the limits of confidentiality. Information disclosed to a psychologist is confidential and cannot be disclosed without the client’s consent except under certain specific conditions. These conditions are referred to as the “limits of confidentiality”. These limits typically involve situations where the client gives the psychologist information that leads him or her to suspect that harm might come to someone. If a psychologist suspects that a client is going to harm himself or someone else, that a child is being abused or neglected, or that another health care practitioner has sexually abused a patient in some way, then he or she has an obligation to report this information to the appropriate authority (the police or children’s aid society for examples). The courts also have the power to subpoena a psychologist’s files. Psychologists must retain records of their contacts with clients and these records typically include details about the clients presenting problem and history, psychological test data and any diagnoses made, as well as details about sessions attended. These records must be kept and stored securely for periods of time defined by provincial regulation. Typically, records are kept for 10 years after the last client contact and for at least 10 years after a minor client reaches the age of majority. After the 10 years are up, files are securely discarded by being shredded.
7How are psychological services paid?
[From the CPA website:] In Canada, the services provided by a psychologist are only covered by provincial health insurance if the psychologist is employed by a hospital, correctional facility, community clinic, social agency or school. The services provided by a psychologist in private practice are not covered by provincial health insurance plans and the psychologist bills the patient directly. Many people have extended health benefits through their employers that cover some amount of psychological service annually. The services of a psychiatrist, whether they work in a hospital, clinic or in a private office, are covered by provincial health insurance plans. As is the case for psychologists employed in hospitals or schools, wait lists to see a psychiatrist can be long.
1What will my first appointment look like?
The first appointment is intended to achieve a number of objectives. First and foremost, it is an opportunity for the client and the therapist to assess their therapeutic "fit". This involves two parts: (1) The therapist assessing whether he or she can provide effective treatment for the client's problem(s); and (2) The client assessing whether the therapist is someone he or she feels comfortable working with. Another goal for the first appointment is for the therapist to gather information about the client's difficulties, such as when they began, and how they impact his or her functioning. After gathering this information (which can sometimes take longer than one session), the therapist and client can discuss treatment options and collaboratively develop a treatment plan together. Although a treatment plan is often recommended by the clinician, the client has a significant amount of control in choosing what therapy will look like. This treatment plan is often quite stable, but can be always be modified if required.
2What is the role of a psychologist?
The role of a psychologist will vary for each client and across therapy. A psychologist can serve as the following: (1) A clinician - Psychologists are trained to assess and treat a number of difficulties along the full spectrum of psychological functioning, from safely managing crisis, to navigating challenging life adjustments, to optimizing performance output; (2) An advisor - Psychologists may offer clients suggestions about adaptive courses of action; (3) A facilitator - Psychologists also facilitate the process of clients making their own decisions and identifying their own course of action; (4) A subject expert - Psychologists may share with a client the knowledge and experience they have gained from training and research in human behaviour, and from working with other clients; (5) A technician - Psychologists may impart knowledge of specific techniques and procedures that the client can apply; and (6) An advocate - Psychologists support clients and may speak on their behalf to other professionals, agencies, etc.
3What does therapy involve?
Therapy can look very different from client to client, depending on the unique needs of each client. However, there are some common similarities. Although therapy begins with some gathering of information it also serves as a safe place for you to talk about your life and share your experiences. This discussion naturally leads to identifying goals for therapy, which, in turn, allows us to identify targets for treatment. I take a collaborative approach to treatment, meaning that we will always work together to move you towards your goals in a manageable and sustainable way. This means striking a balance between supporting and encouraging you, and challenging you to think and behave in new ways that help you achieve the outcomes you want in life. Although this isn't the case for all clients in all situations, effective psychological treatment usually involves the client completing "assignments" in between sessions. These assignments achieve two objectives: (1) They facilitate the integration of useful skills into daily life, where they matter the most; and (2) They give the client the most "bang for the buck" by having treatment continue outside of the clinic.
4What do psychologists actually do?
Psychologists engage in research, practice and teaching across a wide range of topics having to do with how people think, feel, and behave. Their work can involve individuals, groups, families and as well as larger organizations in government and industry. Some psychologists focus their research on animals rather than people. Here are some of the kinds of topics towards which psychologists focus their research and practice: (1) mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, phobias, etc.; (2) neurological, genetic, psychological and social determinants of behaviour; (3) brain injury, degenerative brain diseases; (4) the perception and management of pain; (5) psychological factors and problems associated with physical conditions and disease (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, stroke); (6) psychological factors and management of terminal illnesses; (7) cognitive functions such as learning, memory, problem solving, intellectual ability and performance; (8) developmental and behavioural abilities and problems across the lifespan; (9) criminal behaviour, crime prevention, services for victims and perpetrators of criminal activity; (10) addictions and substance use and abuse (e.g. smoking, alcohol); (11) stress, anger and other aspects of lifestyle management; (12) court consultations addressing the impact and role of psychological and cognitive factors in accidents and injury, parental capacity, and competence to manage one’s personal affairs; (13) the application of psychological factors and issues to work such as motivation, leadership, productivity, marketing, healthy workplaces, ergonomics; (14) marital and family relationships and problems; (15) psychological factors necessary to maintaining wellness and preventing disease; (16) social and cultural behaviour and attitudes, the relationship between the individual and the many groups of which he or she is part (e.g. work, family, society); and (17) the role and impact of psychological factors on performance at work, recreation and sport.
5How often will I need to come to therapy?
In most cases, the recommended frequency for psychological therapy is a single one-hour session, once per week. This particular frequency reduces the probability of the client losing momentum in treatment (e.g., when attending once every two weeks) while also reducing the probability of "diminished returns" (e.g., when attending more than once per week). Although there are specific cases where the clinician may strongly recommend a particular treatment frequency (e.g., when the client is in crisis), how often a client comes in for therapy is ultimately up to the client.
6What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?
From the CPA website: In Canada, the professionals who most commonly treat people with mental health problems are psychologists and psychiatrists. A psychologist holds a master’s and/or doctoral degree in psychology that involves from 6 to 10 years of university study of how people think, feel and behave. Psychologists who hold doctoral degrees can use the title ‘Doctor’ or ‘Dr.’. Psychologists who practice (and hence those who are licensed) typically will have completed their graduate university training in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, clinical neuropsychology or educational/school psychology. Although psychologists are licensed generally and not in specific specialty areas, they are required to declare their areas of competency to the regulatory body and required to practice within the bounds of their competence. It is important that, for example, a psychologist practicing neuropsychology (assessing and treating problems in thinking or brain function that might occur after an accident or stroke for example) has been trained in the area of neuropsychology. A psychologist working with children should have been trained in the area of child psychology and so on. Typically, the psychologist will have received this training while in graduate school where he or she will have chosen the courses and training experiences to prepare for working within a particular specialty area. Sometimes, psychologists pursue specialized training after graduation by completing a post-doctoral fellowship for example. A practicing psychologist is trained to assess and diagnose problems in thinking, feeling and behaviour as well to help people overcome or manage these problems. A psychologist is uniquely trained to use psychological tests to help with assessment and diagnosis. Psychologists help people to overcome or manage their problems using a variety of treatments or psychotherapies. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who go on to specialize in mental health and mental disorders. Psychiatrists often use medication to help their clients manage their mental disorders and there are some disorders for which medications are very necessary (schizophrenia and some depressions for examples). Some psychiatrists also do psychotherapy much like psychologists do. For more information on the study and practice of psychiatry, please visit the website of the Canadian Psychiatric Association at http://www.cpa-apc.org. Sometimes a client might consult his or her family physician about medication while seeing a psychologist for psychotherapy. Some family physicians have an interest and training in treating psychological problems.
7How are psychological tests used?
Psychological tests are used to gain a better understanding of the kind of problem in thinking, feeling or behaviour a person presents. If a psychologist plans to use a test, he or she should explain why it is being used and what kind of function it is used to assess. For example, some tests are used to assess and help diagnose mood, some are used to assess problems in memory or concentration, and some might be used to better understand personality characteristics. For example, some are pencil and paper tests that pose questions to which you must answer true or false and others might require you to manipulate objects or remember numbers or phrases. Testing is used to help the psychologist arrive at an impression or diagnosis of your particular problem.