2019 is finally here, and if you’re anything like me, you have a long list of New Year’s resolutions!

Every year I start off by writing down what I want to achieve. Once I fine-tune them, I put the list somewhere where I will frequently see it, usually in a journal or day planner. Having the list somewhere visible allows me to keep them in mind throughout the year. Where will you put your list so that it is easy to see, everyday?


Setting Smart Goals

I start off the process by jotting down my intentions. This year I am planning to prioritize self-care while I finish my Bachelor of Social Work degree. Last semester, my self-care (regular exercise and healthy eating) took a back seat to my schoolwork. This approach didn’t work for me. and I became tired and run down – I definitely wasn’t performing at my best. I have realized that prioritizing self-care will be very important moving forward, as I won’t have a break leading into my final semester in the spring. Keeping a healthy focus by setting some clear goals around fitness and diet will help me cope with the heavy workload and high expectations.

After I write down my intentions, my next step is to turn them into SMART goals. By using a Specific, Meaningful, Adaptive, Realistic and Time-framed approach, I ensure my goals are clear and achievable. For more information on creating SMART goals, check out this SMART goals worksheet. After I have created my specific goals, I will prioritize which are the most important to start with. In the past, I have found that trying to work on too many goals at once can be pretty overwhelming and can end up making me feel less motivated in the long term. My more recent approach has been to start small. Focusing on just one of my goals at the start has allowed me to be more successful.

This year I will be starting off by focusing on scheduling more time for self-care. For me, this means going to the gym regularly, cooking healthy meals, meditating, and getting enough sleep. If I were to start working on all my goals today, I would easily become overwhelmed and would probably end up giving up on all my New Years resolutions! I find that an all-or-nothing mindset doesn’t work well for me. It’s much easier for me to start small and add more when I know I can handle it. So, my first SMART goal is that I will book myself into a minimum of three one-hour classes each week at my local gym so I can run, ride the exercise bike, row, and connect with my friends, which will help keep my stress under control.



In addition to developing SMART goals, I believe one of the best tools you can use to accomplish your New Year’s resolutions is yourself. When you think about it, you know yourself the best! You know what has worked for you in the past, and you can probably even name things that haven’t worked. This can actually be a great starting point. If you already know what doesn’t work, you can start to come up with new creative solutions that will work.


Uncover Your Strengths

I ask myself these questions when I am trying to figure out how I can use my own strengths to achieve my goals. How would you respond to these same questions?

  1. Reflect on your past accomplishments. How did you achieve these goals?
  2. What was easy? What was harder to do?
  3. How did overcoming past challenges make you stronger?
  4. What skills and resources did you use to overcome the challenges and help accomplish your goals?
  5. What would your friends and/or family members say are your best qualities?

Reflecting on your strengths and your past successes can be really helpful when working towards your future goals.



Maintaining motivation has always been tricky for me when it comes to my New Year’s resolutions. One year can be a long time to stay motivated. Understanding that motivation can be difficult is helpful! Here is what I have learned along the way:

The most important thing is that everyone is motivated in different ways. For example, one of my past resolutions had been to go to the gym at least 4 times a week. I am a person who is typically more externally motivated. In other words, I realize that I need external pressures to hold myself accountable. So, in order to achieve this goal, I ended up joining a group fitness class. That way I couldn’t just show up to the gym, run on the treadmill for 10 minutes and then pack it in without doing much to really enhance my overall fitness. I have made connections in the group class, can participate in group activities and challenges, and we can cheer each other on. I must also book my classes ahead of time to ensure I get a spot. And I am unable to cancel my classes (within eight hours) without an additional charge. All of these steps encourage me to plan ahead, show up, and work towards my fitness goals.



Visualization is also a good technique that can help you to picture your path to success. Take time to think about how you will approach a goal, the steps you will need to complete, and then imagine yourself achieving the goal. Imagine how it will feel, what success looks like, and how good that success will be!


Be Kind to Yourself

After listing my goals, I try to be mindful of two things: “Be kind to yourself” and “Take care of yourself”. Above all else, these are the two most important intentions for me and they take priority over everything else. Realistically I know I am going to make mistakes. I am going to get off track, and I am probably going to struggle. I have learned to accept that this is okay. In fact, it’s more than okay! Being kind and forgiving to myself throughout the process will only set me up to be even more successful.


By Chris Henderson

Chris is currently studying Social Work and will graduate with his Bachelor of Social Work in June 2019.   He previously earned a BA in Criminology and a Diploma in Police Foundations, where he developed a keen interest in social welfare and human behaviour.   Chris is passionate about exploring ways to enhance physical and emotional health, and empowering people to be the best that they can be! 

It’s officially fall and the colder weather is already here. Many of us stay active in the summer months by going for walks, swimming, running outside, gardening, or engaging in other outdoor activities. The winter months can provide a challenge for staying active, as it’s often cold outdoors and we can’t do a lot of the things we enjoy in the summer.

As a result of this, we often become much more sedentary, spending more time indoors watching television (it is football season after all) and snacking. This can lead to weight gain, depressed mood, and an overall decrease in your well-being. You may not realize this, but being sedentary, spending more time at home, and decreasing your activity level can not only affect your overall mood, but it can also increase your level of anxiety (Otto & Smits, 2011).

For those of you with a year-long gym membership, continuing to be active likely won’t be a problem. But if you’re not a gym rat or you can’t afford to pay for a gym membership all year round, we’ve compiled some additional ways you can stay active this year!

Join an Active Team or Club

downloadOrganized sports don’t exist exclusively for children; there are many adult sports and activity leagues, especially in big cities. Often these are recreational leagues that require little to no prior experience or expertise. Joining something like this may give you an opportunity to learn a new skill, meet some new people, and stay active over the summer! Here are some local (Hamilton) leagues that I found with a quick Google search:

  • Soccer World Hamilton: Offering soccer, baseball, football, and drop-ins
  • Wentworth Arenas: Offering soccer and hockey
  • Average Joe Sports: Offering co-ed recreational basketball, dodgeball, flag football, floor hockey, soccer, softball, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, and youth sports
  • City of Hamilton: Information on badminton, swimming, volleyball, and basketball leagues
  • Sport & Social Club: Offering floor hockey, basketball, curling, dodgeball, fitness classes, flag football, hockey, soccer, softball, tennis, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, and water polo

Organized sports can sometimes be expensive, but by doing a search in your home town you may find some drop-in leagues available as well.

Go Swimming Indoors/Aquafit

swimming-659903_960_720Swimming is a fantastic aerobic exercise, and most cities have an indoor pool that offers lane swimming, classes, and free swim. This is something you can do on your own or with the whole family! The city of Hamilton has a list of local pools that you can check out by clicking here.

Most pools have the option to get a membership for the year or season, or pay per visit, decreasing the overall cost to you.

Attend a Yoga Class

Yoga_Class_at_a_Gym3Yoga is more than just meditation and stretching. For those of you who have never done yoga, it can be an intense workout and can help you with strength, flexibility, and the connection between body and mind.

Kayleen holds regular drop-in yoga classes in Hamilton, and we periodically hold yoga-therapy groups. There are also a number of other yoga services in Hamilton, and you can do your own yoga at home using YouTube!

Workout in Your Home

weight-loss-1207555_960_720You have to have expensive equipment or a lot of space to do your own aerobic workouts at home. You can work up a sweat and build muscle by doing bodyweight workouts or using household items as weights, such as jugs of water, water bottles filled with sand or rice, cans, etc.

If you’re not sure where to start, HIIT workouts are a great start as they are short but high intensity, so they get your heart rate up and really make you sweat! You can also make your own workout plans. Some exercises you can do that require no equipment include:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Jumping jacks
  • Push ups
  • Sit ups
  • Planks
  • Mountain climbers

There is really an endless list! There are many resources online where you can find pre-made workout plans or even fitness videos on YouTube. Make sure that you check with your doctor first to ensure that you can engage in any exercises you’re unfamiliar with.

Go Outside

run-1096683_960_720Winter can suck, but there are often really beautiful sights to see in the winter time. If the weather isn’t too bad, you can go for a walk outside on a trail or in your neighbourhood. You can also look into outdoor skating rinks in your area, or go to a lake or pond near your home that has been cleared to be safe for skating on. These can be fun family activities, or things you can do on your own!

If it’s not too cold or icy, you can even take elements of your home workout outside, and do some running, skipping, or your entire workout in the backyard. You can also try out some fun winter sports, such as snow shoeing, downhill, or cross-country skiing!

Get a Gym Membership

download (1)The idea of going to the gym can be daunting, and sometimes the price can be an even bigger deterrent. But a $50/month gym membership at a fancy gym isn’t your only option. There are many smaller gyms around that offer cheaper monthly fees, such as Planet Fitness and Fit4Less, or discounted rates based on your income such as at the YMCA.

Not only that, but many gyms have an option to put your membership on hold or only have it for certain times in the year, so that you can use it in the winter and put it on hold in the summer. The advantage to going to a gym is that:

  • It gets you out of the house
  • You have access to expensive equipment you may not have at home
  • You can often attend classes
  • Some offer free orientations to help you get acquainted
  • You have an opportunity to be social

Practice Gratitude

My last tidbit of information or advice is to practice gratitude. The idea that winter sucks can really get us down and cause us to lose motivation and not put in the effort to stay active. Practicing gratitude for family, friends, our environment, and where we live can help us move in the direction of more positive health. Rather than seeing winter as a gloomy time where you can’t go outside and nothing gets done, think of it as an opportunity to try new things. Remind yourself of how lucky we are to live in this beautiful country, and think of all of the positive aspects of winter, such as Christmas time, more time with family, fuzzy warm sweaters, and football season!



Otto, M., & Smits, J. A. (2011). Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being. Oxford University Press.







Jennifer Thomson

Registered Psychotherapist


Losing someone we love is likely the hardest thing that any of us will ever do in our lives. Grief is such a strong and painful emotion, and it can be scary to think about. The loss of a loved one can turn our lives upside down and change our entire perspective on life. Societies often have rituals, such as funerals, to help individuals come together in times of grief and sadness, and these rituals can be so meaningful and important to our healing process.

If you’re grieving the loss of someone, I encourage you to read this post. Grief can be difficult and isolating, and there are often many mixed emotions. This post is meant to help you move through these thoughts and feelings in a way that is non-judgmental and allows you to heal.

We’ve all heard of the stages of grief before, but we believe that everyone has their own unique process, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. The most important thing to remember is that you are allowed to feel everything you are feeling. Acceptance of what we are feeling is key any time we have any strong emotion, positive or negative. In other words, it is important to allow yourself to feel however you feel, without trying to restrict or minimize what you’re feeling. This tends to be fairly easy early on in the grief process, as we are expected to be sad or angry in response to the passing of a loved one. Later on, however, when others have seemingly moved on and you’re still in the depths of your despair, it can be more difficult to be accepting of how you are feeling.

It is important to remember during these times that you are not alone, and it is okay for you to grieve for as long as you need to. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is that comes up. Perhaps do some mindfulness to really notice what thoughts and feelings are showing up. Often, when someone close to us passes, there are more complex emotions than just sadness; emotions that we don’t always talk about as a society. There may be anger, frustration, regret, hatred, or other emotions that you may think to yourself that you should not be feeling. We are here to tell you that these are perfectly normal feelings to have. The more that you try to make them go away or ignore them, the more persistent they will be. Instead of trying to get rid of these feelings, try holding them lightly. See if you can allow them to be there, and acknowledge that they can’t harm you. They are simply thoughts and feelings, and although they may hurt, you are in control of how they affect you. Hold them gently, and if you have difficulty doing so, it may be helpful to practice one of the following techniques to help you process these thoughts and emotions so that you may be able to hold them more lightly in the future.

1.    Write Down how you feel

Writing can be an extremely powerful action. While we don’t necessarily understand why, writing down how we are feeling and what we are thinking can help us sit with these thoughts and feelings more easily. It’s almost as if we are holding in all of this pent up emotion, and writing it down allows us to release it, and let go in a sense. This doesn’t mean that the thoughts and feelings are going to go away entirely, but that you may be able to better understand them, and begin to move forward.

You can start by writing down what you’re feeling in that moment, and just let your words flow. It may not be in full sentences, but rather specific words. You can try writing on lined paper, or you can use blank paper and colours and write things out the way that feels right. Notice how it feels when you write down those words. Notice what you feel in your body, and how it feels before you write it out versus after. See if you can do this without judgement of your feelings – recognizing that it’s okay to have any thoughts or feelings about the situation. Our thoughts and feelings will ebb and flow like waves in the ocean, and this is all part of the process.

2.    Write a Letter

While general writing can be extremely helpful, sometimes we feel as though we have unfinished business with someone who has passed, or we have things we wish we could have said to them. Writing a letter addressed to the person who has passed can be a really powerful exercise. You have an opportunity to say what you need to say, or what you’d like to say, in any way you want. You can address the person directly, and let them know how you feel about them, how their passing has affected you, maybe how they made you mad, or what you’ll miss about them.

Once you’ve finished your letter, you can save it somewhere, or let it go. Letting it go may be something like crumpling it up and throwing it out, burning it, burying it, or whatever feels right to you.

3.    Honour their Memory

This one is a little bit more vague, because it depends on the individual. This can be different based on the person who has passed and the person who is in mourning. Perhaps the traditional ritual of our society isn’t something that has helped you grieve and move forward, and there’s something else that you need to do. This is likely why celebrations of life have become so popular, because people often prefer to celebrate the life of the individual in a way they would have preferred.

If your loved one really loved animals, perhaps you may volunteer at an animal shelter in their honour, or donate some treats or toys. Maybe you go to their favourite restaurant and order their favourite food with some of their closest friends. Or maybe you plant a garden or a tree in their memory. You can choose to do whatever feels right for you, and whatever makes you feel closer to that person.

4.    Spend time with Loved Ones

Another advantage to celebrations of life is that it allows individuals to speak more freely and talk about the individual in candid ways. Spending time with others who loved this person and being able to reminisce about good times you all had can be extremely healing. While we expect sadness following the passing of a loved one, we often forget about how many positive memories we have with that person. When we spend time with others, it allows us to create a dialogue of positivity around celebrating the individual’s life while also allowing you to mourn their passing. Laughing about funny things that happened, remembering how sweet they were, and just talking about them in a positive light can help you move forward in realizing that this person had an impact in your life, and nothing can ever take that away.

5.    Be Patient with Yourself

This is probably the most important part. Everyone’s grief process is different, and you cannot rush your feelings. Furthermore, just because someone seems ‘okay’ on the outside, doesn’t mean they’re not hurting on the inside. You may decide to return to work and go back to a ‘normal’ life, and that’s okay. You may also feel really sad and cry often, and that’s okay too. Likely, you will have good days and bad days, and having a good day doesn’t mean you didn’t love that person – it just means you’re moving forward. Life is a rollercoaster of emotions, and we have to ride them out even when we’re grieving. So not only should you practice being patient with yourself and your emotions, but also compassionate. It’s okay to be happy sometimes, or angry, or sad.

All in all, every single person experiences and expresses grief differently. We don’t need to fully understand it, but we do need to practice being compassionate towards the process for others, as well as our own process.

Remember, there are people who love and care about you, and you do not need to go through this process alone. It is important to reach out to others during this time, whether that be family members, friends, coworkers, or a therapist. Grief is an extremely difficult and transformative life process, but also a sign of incredible love and devotion. As Thomas Campbell said, “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die”.


By Jennifer Thomson and Kayleen Edwards

For those of you who like to run, you know that nothing compares to the feeling you get when you’re outside running with the sun in your face and the wind at your back. But for many, running can seem like a chore, especially at first, and it can be difficult to get over that hump.

So, if you’ve thought about running, tried it, and decided you hated it, then this article is for you!

At First – It Sucks!

When you first start running, especially if you’re carrying some extra weight, it can really suck. You feel like you’re constantly struggling to breathe, your muscles ache, and you may even end up with a headache afterwards.

Let me tell you – this will pass! Any time we begin a journey to weight loss, fitness, or health, there’s always a period of feeling uncomfortable while our bodies adjust. Stick with it, even for just a few weeks, and you’re likely to see improvements in how you feel.

If you don’t, here are some reasons you may be feeling sluggish or achy during/after a run:

  • You’re dehydrated: make sure you drink lots of water before, during, and after a run; your body needs to be hydrated!
  • You haven’t eaten enough: many people enjoy running while fasted (meaning they haven’t eaten in a number of hours), however this doesn’t work for others. If you’re feeling really tired following a run, check your calories and make sure you’ve got enough fuel to get you through your workout and the rest of your day
  • You’re doing too much all at once: it’s okay to start small. We always want to push ourselves, but make sure it’s within reason. If you’re unsure, speak to your doctor about a good starting point, or hire a personal trainer

When I first started trying to get healthy, the first couple of weeks felt like torture. But I didn’t go from no exercise at all to running 25km a week. I started playing volleyball again, going to the gym a little more, then I joined soccer, and eventually got a home gym and started running most days – and that took me a year to progress to! This journey in itself is a marathon, and you need to pace yourself. Stick with it and I promise you won’t forget it.

The other thing that really motivated me was doing a 5k, without any training. Now, you don’t want to do this in a way that you’re going to injure yourself. But what I mean is, I had the intention to start running so I signed up for a 5km race, thinking that would motivate me to train. It didn’t. But AFTER I did the 5km race, and realized that running 5k really isn’t that bad, I was motivated to improve my time. What I learned was that the first 2km are the worst, and then you sort of get into a rhythm. So, sign up for a 5km race by yourself or with a friend, and see where it takes you!

Proper Footwear

Wearing proper footwear is so important when we’re running – if we have unsupportive footwear, we can end up with a multitude of problems. If you’re not sure what to get, don’t worry; I didn’t either! If you go to a store, you’ll notice there are dozens of brands with hundreds of different shoes, all claiming to be for ‘running’. The sales associate may be able to help you, especially if you have a specific issue, but there will still be many choices. It may also depend on where and how you’re running – if you’re running indoors on a treadmill versus outside on a sidewalk versus on a trail, you may require different types of footwear and support.

It’s worth the money to invest in a good pair of running shoes, both for running outside, on the treadmill, and for weight lifting and other types of workouts. We need to have support for our feet and ankles in order to avoid injury. Personally, I have a pair of Sauconys, which I love. They’re super comfortable and lightweight.

For more information on which shoes to buy, check out these articles:

In general, as long as you don’t have any pre-existing medical issues, and you go with a shoe that is made for running, you should be okay (please consult with your doctor first). Go to the store, try some on, and you’ll find a pair that you like.

A Running Plan

It can be really helpful to have a plan when you’re running. Many people get discouraged because they go out and notice they can’t run for very long, and are often winded. If that’s you, then starting on a specific running plan might be helpful. Typically these are found in apps that you can get on your phone, that offer a gradual progression to running a 5k, for example.

Here are a few of my favourite running apps:

Couch to 5k Running App

Strava Run and Cycling App

Runkeeper App

 Map my Run App

 FitBit Activity Tracker

For those of you who aren’t into technology, here are some running plans that are available online that you can follow:

Having said that, I don’t actually use a running program, and never have. They’re just not for me, and I like to go at my own pace. I have a FitBit and when I started running, I was much further along in my running abilities (due to soccer) than most programs start you at. I simply run based on how my body feels, ensuring that I’m pushing myself along the way. It’s been successful for me, and I continue to reach personal records on a regular basis.

Be Patient

Patience is a virtue – one I admit I often don’t have. When I do something, I typically go all-in and I want to get results FAST. That meant that, for me, I wanted to constantly improve and reach personal records every time I ran. Now, this in itself isn’t a bad thing. A drive to run and improve is great – but you need to ensure you’re listening to your body.

I went from running once a week at soccer, to doing that plus 5km four times per week. Not surprisingly, I got injured. My physiotherapist suggested that I had simply done too much too fast, and my body couldn’t keep up. I developed tendonitis in my hip and had to cut back on my running quite a bit. Not only that, but it affected my game at soccer and took a long time to heal. Go slow, do this gradually, and don’t expect your body to do more than it can do. This takes time and it’s worth it in the end if you go slow and steady.

Don’t Pressure Yourself too Much

I’m someone who, even in the best shape of my life, hated running. Now I love it and it’s the thing that I turn to for stress relief, self-care and relaxation for myself. Having said that, running isn’t for everyone. Some people do not enjoy running, and that’s okay!! Lots of people talk about running as the best form of cardio, but there are so many alternatives. So, if you hate running, or just don’t want to run, here are some really great cardio alternatives:

  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Cycling indoors
  • Sports
  • HIIT workouts

I encourage everyone who is willing and able to get out and try running. Try it with a friend, on a trail, or on a treadmill, and see how it goes. Everyone is different and has different preferences, but the idea is that we’re moving our bodies and being healthy!


Jennifer Thomson

Registered Psychotherapist


Have you often thought about coming to therapy, but then… didn’t? Many things can get in the way of making the call and showing up to that first therapy session.

One of the most common things to get in the way of setting up a therapy session is the fear of the unknown. Often, people aren’t sure what to expect the first time they attend a therapy session, including where to go, what their therapist will be like, and what will happen during the session. This is especially compounded if someone is suffering from anxiety or depression, two symptoms that can make leaving home pretty difficult.

We are here to help clarify what you can expect during your first session with us!

Before the appointment: You are always free to phone or email us to ask us questions before booking any appointment. Once you have decided to book, you may choose to book a free 15-minute consultation call, or to book the one-hour session first. These both can be booked either online, or by phoning or emailing one of us.

Location: Our office is located at 428 Aberdeen Ave. in Hamilton, Ontario. The closest intersection to us is Dundurn St. and Aberdeen Ave. A good landmark is the Aberdeen Tavern, which we are next door to. You can park in the driveway if there is space available, or parking is also available on the road free of charge.


Office: Our office is located in the lower level of the building. When you arrive, please enter through the side door to the left of the building and go down the stairs to get to our office. You can have a seat in the waiting room, where we have magazines and music to enjoy while you wait. Generally you will not be waiting long, and we should be out to get you in less than five minutes.

Waiting room.JPG

Start of appointment: If it is your first appointment, there are some housekeeping items we have to go over at the start of the appointment. The main one is signing our consent form, which is a formal agreement to enter into a therapeutic relationship with one of us. We will review the form with you verbally, and then give you a chance to review the form on your own to ensure you understand. Please feel free to ask questions – it is important that you feel informed and that you fully understand consent to participate.

During appointment: Have a specific issue you’d like to address in the first appointment? Great! Not sure what to talk about? That’s okay too! We will always ask if there is a specific issue you were hoping to work on or discuss during the first session, so that you don’t feel it is just us asking questions. If you aren’t sure of what to bring up first or there isn’t something specific you can think of to discuss in the first appointment, we will usually ask more questions about the difficulties you have been experiencing so that we may have a better understanding of how to help.

However, it’s also important to us that the whole appointment isn’t just asking questions, and that you feel you are receiving help and ideas right from the start. We will generally give some suggestions or ideas as to what we can work on, and then give you the option to choose what you feel would be most helpful for you. Therapy that is a collaborative effort between you and your therapist is our goal, instead of the therapist just leading the way!

Inside 1.jpg

End of appointment: At the end of the appointment, we may assign “homework” for you to think about or work on for the following week. This homework is always optional, and is totally at your discretion as to whether you have the time and feel if it would be beneficial for you or not. We will also usually discuss what we feel would be beneficial to work on during our next session, so that you have an idea of where things are headed.

We will ask you if you would prefer to book your next appointment then, or if you would prefer to have some time to think about things and email us after to book. We will then process payment, whether it is made via cash, cheque, credit card, or e-transfer. We will then provide you with an invoice, which you may submit to your extended healthcare benefits insurance provider, if applicable.

All in all, you can expect our therapy appointments to last approximately 50 minutes, give or take.

We hope this post clarifies the process of working with us and that learning this information may empower you to take steps towards your own healing.

Have more questions? Feel free to contact me at (289) 689-7194. I’d love to hear from you!

Kayleen Edwards

Registered Psychotherapist

We often have clients, family, or friends ask us – what’s the difference between a psychologist, psychiatrist, and psychotherapist? These titles all sound so similar, it’s no wonder people get confused! We thought we’d write a quick blog post to help clarify.


  • Medical Doctor with mental health specialty
  • Registered with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO)
  • Can prescribe medication
  • Can diagnose Psychiatric/Psychological conditions
  • Can provide mental health treatment
  • Private practice, hospitals, and institutions


  • PhD in Clinical Psychology
  • Registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO)
  • Can not prescribe medication
  • Can diagnose Psychological conditions
  • Can provide mental health treatment
  • Private practice, hospitals, and institutions


  • Master’s Degree in Psychology, Counselling, or Psychotherapy
  • Registered with the College of Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO)
  • Can not prescribe medication
  • Can not diagnose Psychological conditions
  • Can provide mental health treatment
  • Private practice and institutions

Social Workers

  • Bachelor or Master’s of Social Work
  • May be registered with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW)
  • Can not prescribe medication
  • Can not diagnose Psychological conditions
  • Can provide mental health treatment
  • Private practice and institutions


It is important to note that mental health services by any of these practitioners is likely not covered under OHIP unless seen through a hospital, school, or doctor’s office. However, any of these services may be covered under your extended health benefits. Most extended health care plans specify the type of the practitioner that you can see in order to get fees covered, so it is often helpful to understand the difference.

Each of these types of practitioners is typically trained in some capacity to address mental health concerns, and is registered with a regulating body to ensure that they are practicing ethically and within their scope of practice. Regardless of who you choose as your therapist/counsellor, the most important factor is the therapeutic relationship, and how well you connect with your therapist. Research has shown that the therapeutic relationship is more important than education, length of practice, type of practitioner, or modality of practice in determining success in therapy (Lisa Firestone, 2016).

Remember, it’s okay to talk to a couple of different practitioners before you choose, and it’s okay to switch therapists should you meet one that doesn’t work for you.

We know – this can be confusing! Here is a chart to summarize:


Designation Can Prescribe Medication Can Diagnose Psychiatric Conditions Can Treat Psychiatric Conditions
Psychiatrist Yes Yes Yes
Psychologist No Yes Yes
Psychotherapist No No Yes
Social Worker No No Yes



Lisa Firestone, P. (2016, December 22). The Importance of the Relationship in Therapy: How a strong therapeutic alliance can lead to real change. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/compassion-matters/201612/the-importance-the-relationship-in-therapy

Kayleen Edwards

Registered Psychotherapist


When deciding whether to talk to a therapist or not, you may have the thought – what’s different about talking to a therapist than talking to a friend? Why invest the money, when I can talk to my friend for free?

While it’s true that friends can be great sources of support, there are some times when we need a little bit more. Here’s how a therapist is different than talking to your friend:

1) A therapist is specifically trained in mental health.

This is probably the biggest advantage of seeing a therapist. Therapists are specifically trained in understanding psychological issues, in addition to various treatment methods. Understanding psychological issues means that we can understand specific symptoms you may be experiencing and how these impact your life. Sometimes it may be difficult for a friend to understand, and we may hear things like “You need to just get over it”, “Don’t think about it” or “Cheer up”. This sometimes serves to isolate us more, making us feel as though we aren’t being heard or that there’s something wrong with us for not being able to not think about it.

This is where a therapist comes in. As therapists, we understand why you feel this way and can offer techniques and tools to help. Whether it’s specific techniques and strategies such as mindfulness, or simply listening compassionately and holding space, we are specialists in helping you to cope with these difficult situations.

2) A therapist can provide an unbiased perspective.

A feedback I often hear from clients is that it feels good to get a fresh perspective from someone who wasn’t previously close to them. This can be helpful sometimes because it means that sometimes we can notice or catch things that friends haven’t noticed before. As therapists, we are specifically trained in noticing how bias can get in the way of helping others. We are experts at checking our own bias, and knowing how to handle our own thoughts and feelings to prevent them from negatively impacting the therapeutic relationship.

We are also going to ask you the tough questions when necessary, where your friend may not. We do this because we know that at times you need to face something that may be difficult, and in order to do that, we have to ask questions that may feel probing or uncomfortable. We are here to help you to work through these difficult questions and move forward on your path to living a better life.

3) Therapists are bound by confidentiality.

Confidentiality is at the core of a therapeutic relationship. We are bound by confidentiality regulations set forth by our respective colleges (e.g. the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario), and uphold these standards each and every day. We know how important trust is, and you can rest assured knowing that when you’re talking to a therapist, what is said will stay between the counselling office walls.

These are only a few examples of the differences between talking to a therapist and a friend. All in all, both are helpful to talk to! Talking to friends and therapists can be a great way to feel heard, hear a different perspective, and create a deeper connection with yourself and others.

Kayleen Edwards

Registered Psychotherapist



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As many of you may know, the month of June is pride month. It’s a month where we take time to celebrate the LGBTQ2S+ community all across Canada and the world. There are parades, events, concerts, shows, and gatherings.

Pride month is about more than just pride, however, for the majority of people. It’s about increasing awareness, educating the public, and reminding the world that the LGBTQ2S+ community is out there. It’s also often about activism and moving towards equal rights for the community, as there are still many ways in which the community is discriminated against.

While many are excited to participate in the pride events taking place this month, I think it is important to recognize those individuals who cannot participate this year. There are many in the LGBTQ2S+ community who have not yet come out for fear of backlash, or even violence, from the people around them. During this month, while we celebrate how times have changed and champion for even more change, I’d like to also take some time to quietly and respectfully recognize those who cannot celebrate with us. To those of you who have not and cannot come out right now, know that we are here to support you, we love you, and you are not alone. Know that when it is safe for you to come out, we will be here to support you, as we recognize that everyone’s journey is different.

youth_line_logo For those of you living in silence and in fear, know that there is hope, and there are people who care about you and love you as you truly are. Should you ever need someone to talk to, keep in mind that as a therapist, I am bound confidentiality, and will not reveal your information to anyone around you. You can talk to me, or another therapist, without fear of your secret getting out. You can click here to see a list of support centres, hotlines, and other resources if you need to talk to someone.

As someone who does not identify as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, I am on a journey to being the best ally that I can be. I identify as a cisgender female, and my goal is to provide a safe and open environment for individuals from all walks of life to express themselves and get the help that they need. I also try my best to be an advocate for the LGBTQ2S+ community, by educating the public in any way I can, whether that’s simply being a supportive presence online and in the community, or calling out prejudice when I see it.

2000px-Straight_Ally_flag.svg The difficulty in being an ally, I find, is that I often find I am lacking knowledge. I’ve attended workshops and training related to the process of transitioning, including learning how individuals can get HRT and surgery if they’re transitioning, and how to provide a safe space for the LGBTQ2S+ community. I have this knowledge, yet I’m left wondering what it is the LGBTQ2S+ community really needs and wants from me as a therapist.

My goal in the next year is to become more involved in the community by attending and participating in events, volunteering, and possibly becoming a member of the pride committee in my home town. I want to provide the community with resources, information, and support that they don’t have, and in order to do that, I need to learn first hand what it is that they’re missing. I’m hoping over the next year, I can meet more individuals in the community, get to know you, and begin to implement more resources that you find useful.

If you’d like to provide me with feedback, I’d love to hear any ideas you may have. Please call, text, or email me:


Or, CLICK HERE to take a short survey to give feedback on the services in your community!


Happy pride everyone!


Jennifer Thomson

Registered Psychotherapist


Hi everyone – we are so excited about the launch of our new business, Roots in Wellness!  We wanted to take some time to explain to you the rationale behind Roots in Wellness, our philosophy, and the way that the business works.

5622261010_d6a8eb66ed_bSo, why Roots in Wellness?  What does that mean, and how do our values tie into it?  Strong roots are so important in order to have successful growth.  That’s what we do, after all – we promote growth in our clients and work to help them grow into whoever they want to be.  The other main aspect of our businesses that we really wanted to promote was this idea of overall health and wellness, not just therapy or mental health.  The idea of Roots in Wellness suggests that in order to move forward and grow, we have to go back to our roots- we need to go back to basics and remember our simple, basic human needs.  Similarly to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we need to go back to basics, and take care of ourselves.  While your mental health may be your main concern when you come to see us, we typically see that your physical health has suffered as well.  We believe that everything is interrelated, and in order to be mentally healthy, we have to be physically healthy, and vice versa.

MaslowMaslow’s Hierarchy of Needs suggests that we start off at the bottom rung, and we slowly move our way up.  We can’t get to the next level until we’ve fulfilled the one below it, and this fits in well with our model of therapy.  We start off with physiological needs: we need to eat, breathe, sleep, etc. to survive.  Without these things, we will die.  Second is safety, and not just from physical harm, but financial safety and security as well.  If we’re not taking care of ourselves physically, it’ll be pretty difficult to hold down a job or be able to buy a home.  Next we have love and belonging, which refers to having positive relationships, and the idea of feeling like you’re a part of a group.  Next we have esteem, which really comes from within.  How do you feel about yourself?  Well, if you don’t have the other things below, you’re likely not feeling great about yourself.  And then finally, the last step is self-actualization.  Some posit that very few reach this level, as it can be difficult to fulfill all of these.  But we believe that it is possible, and we make it our mission to help you get there.

Roots in Wellness therapists have the following shared beliefs:

  • Each and every individual is capable of growth and movement towards their values and what they want out of life. It’s not that people are incapable, it’s that we are sometimes unequipped to handle what life throws at us.  We provide you with the tools to be able to handle what life throws at you, and move forward in a positive manner.
  • The key to making improvements in our lives lies in a holistic approach to health. This doesn’t mean you have to take a bunch of supplements or vitamins and start meditating every day (although it doesn’t hurt!).  Holistic means: “characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.”  In other words, we advocate for the integration of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.  These things are going to be defined differently for each and every person, and that’s okay.  We take the time to get to know you and your unique needs, and help you begin building the life that you want.  We can work on your mental health as much as we want, giving you strategies to help you cope with stress or anxiety, but at the end of the day, if your physical health is suffering, you’re going to have difficulty moving forward.  This doesn’t mean we’re going to force everyone to go on a diet or start running marathons.  Rather, we work with individuals to ensure they’re living the way they want to live in every aspect of their lives.
  • Every person is unique, and the same approach does not work for every individual. While we take a holistic approach in general, everyone has different needs, and as therapists, it’s extremely important that we understand this.  We want to get to know you, talk about your goals for therapy and for life, and come up with a plan with you to move forward.
  • Everyone deserves to have a support system and a safe place to express themselves. We know that being yourself can be difficult, especially when you feel like no one else can relate to you.  While we don’t claim to have personal experience with every type of difficulty, we are able to provide you with a safe place to express yourself, talk about your struggles, and be open and honest with yourself.  We can offer active listening and support, empathy, and guidance that fits your unique needs.  We think of each client as an opportunity for us to learn and grow as well, and we do our best not to make assumptions; we understand that you are the expert in your life, and we are just here to help guide you.

At Roots in Wellness, we aim to help you move towards living the best life you can live, and the life that you want to live.  We put a focus on your values and moving forward from where you stand now.

We are officially accepting new clients, for both counselling and coaching.  We are looking forward to working with the individuals in Hamilton, and we welcome any feedback or suggestions for services, groups, or changes to our approach that you think may be helpful.

Give us a call today, and get on the path towards living your best life!