Three Upcoming Career-focussed Webinars for CPA Student Affiliates!

Building on the huge success of the CPA’s inaugural virtual Career Fair in November 2020, the CPA, in collaboration with the CPA’s Industrial/Organizational Section, will be hosting three career-focussed webinars in the month of May for Student Affiliates of the CPA.

The sessions will focus on some of the most important elements in starting and advancing one’s career:

  1. Searching for a job and writing a customized CV/cover letter (May 6th, 1:00 – 2:00pm ET)
  2. Preparing for an interview (May 13th, 1:00 – 2:00pm ET)
  3. Negotiating an employment agreement/contract/salary (May 20th, 1:00 – 2:30pm ET).

Please note that space is limited for each webinar and that registration for the webinars is restricted to CPA Student Affiliates.

Register now for any or all of the webinars. Cost for each webinar is $10.00.

“Psychology Works” Fact Sheet: Asthma in Children

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a medical condition that involves inflammation of the airway in the lungs. Asthma currently has no cure and is therefore considered a chronic condition. While some children can outgrow asthmatic symptoms, asthma often requires long-term management. The primary symptom of asthma is recurrent cough, and it can also include symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, or chest tightness. It is the most common chronic condition around the world affecting children’s lower airway.

Asthma affects about 8.3% of children (Akinbami et al., 2016). Boys are more likely to have asthma up until adolescence (i.e., 11-12 years old), but girls are more likely to have it during adolescence and into adulthood. Several factors exist that might put a child at a higher risk of developing asthma or experiencing asthmatic symptoms. Primary risk factors can include obesity, being exposed to smoke or alcohol during pregnancy or after birth, being around other chemicals or toxins in the environment (e.g., pesticides), living in a dusty residence or area, or having a history of respiratory infections. There is also a genetic component to asthma: 35-95% of children with asthma will also have a parent with the condition. In fact, a primary factor of asthma is the genetic tendency to develop allergic disease. Finally, children living in poverty and residing in certain areas of Canada are more likely to have asthma. This indicates that many types of privilege (such as socioeconomic, geographic, and racial privilege) can play a role in asthma, and highlights that marginalized groups typically face asthma at higher rates.

If your child is suspected of having asthma, a medical doctor may confirm a diagnosis by using a simple breathing test like “spirometry”, where your child would be asked to exhale into a sensor after taking a deep breath in. An asthma diagnosis is usually based on a decrease or obstruction of airflow, and the diagnosis can usually be confirmed if symptoms improve after the use of a bronchodilator. Bronchodilators and other asthma treatments are explained in the next section.

How is Asthma Treated?

Treatment for asthma in children is usually based on how severe symptoms are. Your doctor may suggest a bronchodilator (i.e., “reliever puffer”) as the first treatment approach, to help relax muscles in the lungs and widen the airway. For children whose lungs seem to function pretty well but who are dealing with occasional daytime symptoms, reliever puffers like salbutamol are often the only necessary treatment. These puffers are designed to provide a quick relief of symptoms.

For children with more long-term symptoms, inhaled steroids (i.e., “controller puffer”) like mometasone might be suggested to help control symptoms. Doctors generally work with families and children to find the best dose of medication.

If bronchodilators or inhaled steroids are not effective at any dose, doctors might search for other diagnoses because bronchodilators or inhaled steroids have been found to work for most children with asthma. Other issues that might cause asthma-like symptoms are allergies, sinusitis (an inflammation of the sinuses), acid reflux, physical activity (e.g., running or playing sports), reactions to certain fungi, or problems with vocal chords.

For severe cases of asthma, a doctor might prescribe medication that can be taken orally, often combined with bronchodilators or inhaled steroids. These medications might involve oral corticosteroids like prednisone, or alternate medications that are designed to reduce inflammation in the airway. Doctors might suggest medications given by injection (e.g., allergen immunotherapy or omalizumab) in cases where other treatments are not successful or not recommended.

In addition to medical treatments, psychological interventions for asthma may be suggested for many reasons. For example, certain situations may “trigger” asthma symptoms, such as intense exercise or being in cold weather for too long. So, psychological treatment may involve recommendations about how to identity these triggers and limit them to manage symptoms, while still finding ways to engage in enjoyable activities. Taken together, management for asthma may involve a combination of medical and psychological interventions which can often be difficult to implement and navigate for families.

What Can Psychologists Do to Help?

Psychologists can help with several aspects of asthma management, including those described below:

a.      Perceiving Symptoms

Children or adolescents may sometimes have difficulty describing their symptoms or how their medications are helping to control symptoms. Approximately 15-60% of asthma patients struggle to describe symptoms (Janssens et al., 2009), which can lead to an overuse of medication.

Psychologists can help children and adolescents learn ways to identify and describe their symptoms comfortably. This is often accomplished by helping focus increased attention on bodily sensations and recognizing situations in which symptoms may present themselves. Psychologists can similarly help children recognize “trigger” situations, in which symptoms might be more likely to arise (e.g., in cold weather). By optimizing the way that children can describe symptoms and recognize triggers, management of asthma can be improved.

b.      Coping

Asthma is often a stressful illness that requires tough adjustments in psychological, emotional, and behavioural areas. Psychologists can help children and families by discussing strategies that could help them cope with asthma.

Some situations are particularly challenging for children and families with asthma, such as moving to a new school or switching to a new medication. A psychologist can work with families to promote helpful coping strategies such as problem-solving rather than unhelpful strategies such as ignoring or denying issues. Research has shown that using helpful coping styles can have a positive effect on children’s quality of life (Braido et al., 2012).

c.       Adhering to Treatment

There are many factors that can get in the way of children and families adhering to the treatments that are prescribed or suggested by healthcare providers. Some of these interfering factors can include misunderstanding how to take medications, embarrassment about taking the medications in public, denial surrounding the illness, difficulties incorporating treatments into a daily schedule, forgetfulness, or lack of knowledge about the importance of management.

Psychologists can help children and families identify barriers that might be getting in the way of adhering to treatments. For example, they can share relevant strategies and educate families about the importance of taking medication and structuring the day to incorporate treatment activities. Psychologists can then help children and families make practical changes to help them adhere to medications.

Adherence can become particularly challenging when children are becoming more independent and beginning to take their medications themselves. Many parents are highly motivated to help their children adhere to their medications, but it can often be difficult to translate responsibilities from parent to child during this period of increasing independence. Psychologists can focus on areas such as motivation and setting reminders to help older children remain adherent as they become more independent.

d.      Parent-Guided Strategies

Parenting a child with asthma can be particularly challenging, especially since children with asthma have been shown to demonstrate more emotional and behavioural challenges than their peers without asthma. Parents who have children with asthma may report higher levels of stress or psychological distress as a result.

A psychologist can work with caregivers (either alone or together) to troubleshoot issues related to caregiving such as managing stress, regulating emotions, coping effectively, optimizing parenting approaches, improving the ways parents and other family member interact with children, and helping with adherence to medications.

e.      Navigating Anxiety Associated with Asthma

Children with anxiety symptoms or anxiety disorders can face particular challenges when navigating their asthma. A primary source of distress among children higher in anxiety involves beginning to associate anxiety-related shortness of breath with asthma.

Psychologists can help children and families recognize that shortness of breath is also a common symptom of anxiety, and they can help children develop strategies to distinguish between, and think differently about, the situations that might be inducing breathing problems due to anxiety versus asthma. They might also discuss ways to regulate worry (e.g., relaxation exercises) that arises in the face of true asthma symptoms.

What Types of Interventions Do Psychologists Use to Help with Asthma?

Psychologists might use several different types of therapies or techniques when providing help for asthma-related concerns. Two common types of therapy are described below.

a.   Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a psychological treatment approach that uses strategies focused on thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Many of the strategies mentioned on this fact sheet may be incorporated into a CBT plan to address difficulties with asthma. For example, a CBT plan often involves education about the illness, identifying behaviours that interfere with treatment, and addressing anxiety associated with symptoms.

With regard to the “cognitive” piece of CBT, psychologists can help by engaging children and families in discussions about thoughts that might interfere with their management of asthma. For example, thoughts about medication being “unimportant”, assumptions about what children believe their peers think about asthma medications, or parental fears about children taking medications incorrectly can all interfere with optimal asthma management. Psychologists using a CBT model will typically help children and families improve their functioning by helping them notice unhelpful thoughts about asthma, “challenge” these thoughts, and engage in behaviours to test and support more helpful thoughts.

b.   Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) focuses on acceptance and mindfulness strategies that can help people engage in behaviours connected to their values.

Psychologists who use ACT can help parents to be aware of their thoughts and feelings surrounding asthma, to accept and adapt to challenging situations, and to take actions that allow them to help their children in a value-driven way.

ACT has also been found to be useful with adolescents directly. Psychologists can work with adolescents in areas similar to parents: increasing awareness of thoughts and feelings, heightening acceptance and flexibility in asthma-related situations, and making health-related decisions that are linked to their values.

Are Psychological Interventions Effective?

The short answer is, yes; psychological interventions are effective for asthma! Research has demonstrated that psychological interventions involving educational, cognitive, behavioural, and family components are beneficial for children and adolescents (Oland et al., 2017). These interventions have been shown to be helpful in homes, school settings, and medical settings.

However, it is worth noting that most of the research conducted on childhood asthma has been conducted in unique ways. For example, studies have often included children with different levels of asthma or have tested the level of children’s symptoms using different tools. This has made each set of research findings quite different from one another. A large review of psychological interventions for childhood asthma was proposed in September 2019 (Sharrad et al., 2019), so it is likely that findings from this review will emerge to shed further light on asthma management.

Even though psychological interventions have been shown to be effective (and often very important for improving outcomes for families), since medical management is the primary treatment for asthma, families should contact a medical doctor if they suspect a diagnosis of asthma or believe there are problems with the current medical management of a child’s asthma.

Helpful Resources?

Visit these websites for useful asthma resources:

  1. Asthma Canada:
  2. The Canadian Lung Association:
  3. The Children’s Asthma Education Centre:
  4. You Can Control Your Asthma:
  5. The Canadian Thoracic Society:

For More Information:

You can consult with a registered psychologist to find out if psychological interventions might be of help to you. Provincial, territorial and some municipal associations of psychology often maintain referral services. For the names and coordinates of provincial and territorial associations of psychology, go to

This fact sheet has been prepared for the Canadian Psychological Association by Jason Isaacs (PhD student at Dalhousie University), in consultation with Dr. Dimas Mateos (MD at IWK Health Centre) and Martha Greechan (RN at IWK Health Centre).

Date: March 17, 2021

Your opinion matters! Please contact us with any questions or comments about any of the Psychology Works Fact Sheets:

Canadian Psychological Association
141 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 702
Ottawa, Ontario    K1P 5J3
Tel:  613-237-2144
Toll free (in Canada):  1-888-472-0657


Akinbami, L. J., Simon, A. E., & Rossen, L. M. (2016). Changing trends in asthma prevalence among children. Pediatrics, 137(1), e20152354.

Braido, F., Baiardini, I., Bordo, A., Menoni, S., Di Marco, F., Centanni, S., … & Canonica, G. W. (2012). Coping with asthma: Is the physician able to identify patient’s behaviour? Respiratory Medicine, 106(12), 1625-1630.

Janssens, T., Verleden, G., De Peuter, S., Van Diest, I., & Van den Bergh, O. (2009). Inaccurate perception of asthma symptoms: a cognitive–affective framework and implications for asthma treatment. Clinical Psychology Review, 29(4), 317-327.

Oland, A. A., Booster, G. D., & Bender, B. G. (2017). Psychological and lifestyle risk factors for asthma exacerbations and morbidity in children. World Allergy Organization Journal, 10(1), 35.

Sharrad, K. J., Sanwo, O., Carson-Chahhoud, K. V., & Pike, K. C. (2019). Psychological interventions for asthma in children and adolescents. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2019(9).


Registration Now Open for the CPA’s 2021 Virtual Convention and Pre-Convention Workshops

The CPA is pleased to announce that registration is now open for the CPA’s 2021 Virtual Convention and Pre-Convention Workshops.  Pre-convention workshops will take place from May 31st through June 5th, with the virtual convention following from June 7th through 25th.

With over 1,000 submissions, a stellar line-up of keynote addresses and section featured speakers, and 6-month of on-demand access, this is an event not to be missed!

Visit the CPA’s Convention website to learn more and register!

Call for Nominations for the 2021 CPA Board of Directors

Nominations are required for the positions of: 

  • Director-at-Large

Note: All Board terms are for three years (beginning in June).

As specified in By-Law 5.04, Directors shall be elected by the members by ordinary resolution at an annual meeting of members at which an election of Directors is required.

Instructions for Nominations

As per By-Law 5.06, any CPA Member can submit a nomination for election to the Board of Directors for the open positions, not less than 30 nor more than 65 days prior to the date of the Annual General Meeting of Members (AGM). A call for an electronic advance vote will be issued before the AGM. Advance voting will occur by electronic vote.

Members and Fellows of the Canadian Psychological Association are invited to make nominations for the position listed above.  Each nomination must include a curriculum vitae for the candidate, including educational background, present and former positions, and research and/or professional activities. It must be accompanied by a letter from the nominator and four letters of support that state the position for which the candidate is being nominated, express support for the candidate, and contains a statement to the effect that the nominator has ascertained the candidate’s willingness to stand for nomination. The nomination letter and letters of support must come from CPA Members or Fellows. In addition, each nomination must include a statement from the nominee, not to exceed 250 words, that indicates the nominee’s highest degree and current positions(s) as well as any credentials, major awards, and licenses held. Most importantly, the letter should detail the qualities, interests and goals the candidate brings to their nomination, as well as a picture to be used on the electronic ballot. 

The names and supporting materials of nominees must be received at CPA Head Office by May 10th, 2021 and should be sent by email to:

For the Present Board Representation please click here

Please take this opportunity to speak with colleagues and friends about running for a seat on the CPA Board of Directors.  Your association needs you – membership engagement makes for a strong and successful organization!

**Please note that CPA affiliates and associates are not eligible to run for a seat on the CPA Board of Directors.

The Science of Psychedelics: Training for Medical Professionals

Ongoing – Homestudy

MD Media Inc

Location: Online
Contact Phone Number: (647) 919-3615
Contact E-Mail:
Event Link:

The Science of Psychedelics: Training for Medical Professionals has been approved for 8.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ through the joint providership of CME Consultants and MD Media Inc., as well as accreditation through the American Psychological Association (APA), the California Board of Registered Nursing, the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, and the Oregon Board of Naturopathic Medicine (OBNM).


CPA’s 82nd Annual Convention & Tradeshow – Virtual Event

June 7 – 25, 2021

CPA 2021 Virtual Conference Logo

Location: Virtual

The CPA is pleased to announce that registration is now open for its 82nd Annual National Convention. Taking place, virtually, from June 7th – 25th with Pre-Convention Workshops, taking place from May 31st – June 5th, this is an event not to be missed!


CPA statement on New Brunswick’s Bill 35

“The Canadian Psychological Association’s guidance paper on psychological test safety describes the training necessary to use psychological tests as part of an assessment of an individual’s cognitive, emotional and behavioural functioning. It is the CPA’s position that psychologists are uniquely trained to undertake psychological assessments, which include, but are not limited to the administration of a single test. The CPA opposes any diagnostic, treatment or remedial decisions made on the basis of the results of a single psychological test alone.”

CPA submitted a letter to the New Brunswick government detailing our position on psychological test use and opposing the sections of the Bill which proposes that qualified teachers be able to administer level C tests. Click here to read the letter.

McGill Summer Institute for School Psychology – Virtual Conference

May 25th to May 28th, 2021

McGill Summer Institute for School Psychology – Virtual Conference
    Location: Virtual
    Contact Phone Number: (514) 398-4242
    Contact E-Mail:
    Event Link:

    This year’s conference will feature 4 English and 2 French Workshops. The topics covered through the English Workshops will include recent findings and interventions on service provision for immigrant/marginalized children (Dr. Doris Paez), the role of educational technology in teaching/learning processes (Dr. Adam Dubé), bullying interventions (Dr. Amanda Nickerson), and child sexual abuse (Dr. Rachel Langevin). While our French Workshops will include recent findings and interventions related to trauma-informed care (Dre. Delphine Collin-Vézina), and autism & cognition (Dre. Isabelle Soulières).

    As mandated by professional orders (OPQ and CPA), all our applied workshops will contribute to the continuing education of attendees. This conference is an excellent opportunity for mental health professionals and students alike, from across Canada and the United States, to foster new relationships and promote professional development.

    Registration is open until May 24th. For more information regarding registration, please visit:

    Abstract submission for poster presentation will be open until April 9th. All abstracts will be received by McGill professors in the field of School and Educational Psychology. Please visit:

Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD – 4-Day Intensive Online Training Workshop

May 13-16, 2021

The Centre for Posttraumatic Stress & Anxiety Treatment
    Location: Online via Zoom
    Times: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Mountain Standard Time)
    Cost: $850.00 CAD plus G.S.T.
    Cost includes electronic copies of workshop slides and assessment materials, and a certificate of completion from the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania. Participants are strongly encouraged to purchase the Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD Therapist Guide and Workbook (Second Edition) prior to the workshop.

    Additional Information:
    (Registration Details and other information that will be helpful for your attendees)
    Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD
    4-Day Intensive Online Training Workshop – May 13 to 16, 2021

    The Centre for Posttraumatic Stress & Anxiety Treatment is pleased to announce a four-day intensive online training workshop in Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

    PE is a manualized cognitive-behavioural treatment for PTSD with an extensive base of empirical support. Numerous controlled studies have shown that PE significantly reduces the symptoms of PTSD in a wide range of trauma survivors. PE is strongly recommended by every major U.S. and international clinical practice guideline for the treatment of PTSD.

    Topics covered:
    • Assessment, diagnosis and psychopathology of PTSD;
    • Empirically-supported psychotherapeutic treatments for chronic PTSD and their comparative efficacy;
    • Emotional Processing Theory and its relation to PE;
    • Implementation of the components of PE, including psychoeducation, breathing retraining, in vivo exposure to trauma reminders, imaginal exposure to trauma memories, and processing of exposures;
    • Identification and management of obstacles to effective emotional processing, including avoidance, over-engagement, and under-engagement;

    Video vignettes will illustrate the various components of PE, and participants will have an opportunity to practice selected interventions in pairs during break-out sessions.

    Intended audience:
    Licensed mental health professionals or those working under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional. Previous training and experience with cognitive-behavioural therapy is advised.

    Deadline May 1, 2021
    Space is limited to 40 participants

    Fees are fully refundable (less an administration charge of $25 plus G.S.T.) for cancellation requests received prior to May 1, 2021.

    More information:
    780. 800. 5585

    About the trainer:
    David Paul, Ph.D., is a Registered Psychologist and Co-director of the Centre for Posttraumatic Stress & Anxiety Treatment in Edmonton, AB. He is certified as a Prolonged Exposure Therapist, Supervisor, and Trainer by the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety (CTSA) at the University of Pennsylvania. This workshop is recognized by the CTSA, and qualifies toward CTSA certification as a PE Therapist for participants who complete the required additional case consultation.

Interdisciplinary Conference in Psychology/Conférence interdisciplinaire en psychologie

May 13-14, 2021

Interdisciplinary Conference in Psychology  |  Conférence interdisciplinaire en psychologie
    Location: University of Ottawa

    The Interdisciplinary Conference in Psychology (ICP) is an international peer-reviewed academic conference organized each year by graduate and undergraduate students from the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa. ICP will be celebrating its tenth anniversary on May 13th and 14th, 2021, online.

    ICP aims to foster reflections and discussions on the different innovative approaches towards interdisciplinary research. The conference is an event for all students, professors, and researchers. It offers a unique opportunity to showcase and discuss innovative research on all topics related to psychology. It provides a forum for interdisciplinary learning and collaboration between students and experts.

    For more information about ICP, please visit our website:

    La Conférence interdisciplinaire en psychologie (CIP) est une conférence nationale revue par les pairs. Elle est organisée chaque année par les étudiants des cycles supérieurs et du premier cycle de l’École de psychologie à l’Université d’Ottawa. La CIP célébrera son dixième anniversaire le 13-14 mai, 2021, en ligne.

    La CIP cherche à promouvoir les réflexions et les discussions sur les différentes approches novatrices de la recherche interdisciplinaire. La conférence est un événement unique pour les étudiants, professeurs et chercheurs. Elle offre l’opportunité de présenter et de discuter de recherches innovatrices par rapport à tous les sujets liés à la psychologie. La CIP fournit un forum pour l’apprentissage interdisciplinaire et la collaboration entre étudiants et experts.

    Pour plus d’informations à propos de la CIP, veuillez visiter notre site Web :

Working with the Inner Critic with Kathy Steele

May 8th, 2021

Solutions On Site
    Location: livestream
    Contact Phone Number: (226) 268-2307
    Contact E-Mail:
    Event Link:

    Everyone experiences an inner critic, based on negative messages from authority figures and from ourselves in reaction to unrealistic expectations of perfection and emotions such as fear, shame, contempt, or envy. In this workshop we will explore an integrative approach to understanding and working with a wide range of inner criticism, punishment, and harshness in our clients, but also in ourselves as therapists. We will explore how these inner aspects develop, and understand their several functions of protection, avoidance, and attempts to gain or maintain validation and care from others. Participants will have an opportunity to explore their own inner critic with compassion as a step toward helping clients learn to deal with their own. Our ability to reflect on and shift our own tendencies toward self-criticism and perfectionism will support our capacity to work with these experiences in our clients.

    Early Bird rate: $89 + hst
    A recording of this event will be available to registered participants until June 11th

    To register, visit or call 226-268-2307

Working with Shame with Kathy Steele

May 7th, 2021

Solutions On Site
    Location: livestream
    Contact Phone Number: (226) 268-2307
    Contact E-Mail:
    Event Link:

    Chronic shame is one of the most challenging experiences to resolving in many clients, and therapists often do not feel they have sufficient skills to effectively address it. This workshop will explore several functions of shame and how we defend ourselves against shame in maladaptive ways. A practical integration of cognitive, emotional, somatic, and relational interventions to resolve chronic shame will be discussed. We will also explore specific “antidotes” to shame, as well as ways to help clients (and therapists) develop resilience to shame reactions. Most importantly, we will examine how to be with shame -our own and our clients – with curiosity and compassion, finding ways to create a safe relational space in which to deeply attune with and help repair chronic shame.

    Early Bird rate: $89+hst (1/2 day event), group rates available
    A recording will be made available to registered participants until June 11th.

    To register, visit or call 226-268-2307

Intro to Nature-Based Therapy

April 15, 16 & 23 (1:00-4:30pm)

Nature-Based Therapy Workshop

CPA 2020-2021 Honorary President Dr. Benoit-Antoine Bacon

CPA 2020-2021 Honorary President Dr. Benoit-Antoine BaconThe CPA is excited to announce the selection of the 2020-2021 Honorary President. Dr. Benoit-Antoine Bacon, President & Vice-Chancellor of Carleton University, has graciously accepted the invitation from CPA President Dr. Kim Corace. Says Dr. Corace,

“Dr. Bacon has demonstrated tremendous leadership in promoting mental health and substance use awareness through the University, in the community and nationally. His tireless commitment to addressing and de-stigmatizing mental health and substance use has helped drive mental health transformation at Carleton University and beyond.”

The selection of Dr. Bacon as Honorary President is the most recent in a venerable list that includes Dr. Suzanne Stewart, Dr. Donna Markham, The Honourable Irwin Cotler, Ms. Mary Walsh, and more. We look forward to hearing Dr. Bacon’s address at the CPA’s 2021 Virtual Annual Convention, taking place June 7 – 25.

Psychology Month Profile: Dr. Justin Presseau

Justin Presseau
Psychology Month has been extended two days, so we can bring you the work of Dr. Justin Presseau, who is co-Chairing a working group of behavioural scientists advising Ontario healthcare executives and government representatives on best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About Justin Presseau

Justin Presseau

Dr. Justin Presseau is going to welcome a new baby in about a month. His wife Leigh is eight months pregnant, which means this new child will be born in the middle of a global pandemic.

This adds one more job to Dr. Presseau’s portfolio, which also includes Scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Associate Professor in the School of Epidemiology and Public Health and in the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa, and the Chair of the Health Psychology and Behavioural Medicine Section of the CPA.

As with many researchers, much of Dr. Presseau’s work had to pivot because of the pandemic. He leads a team co-developing new ways to support new Canadians with diabetes to be comfortable taking an eye test. Retinopathy is a manageable issue for people with diabetes when identified through regular screening but attendance rates could be improved, and so Dr. Presseau and his team are building relationships with different communities and community health centres virtually.

Another thing that’s difficult to do from a distance is blood donation. Dr. Presseau and his team are working with Canadian Blood Services and local communities to develop approaches to support men who have sex with men who may want to donate blood plasma, as screening and deferral policies continue to change to allow more MSM to donate if they want. Part of that work involves addressing the historic inequities that led to the exclusion of these men in the first place. But then – there was a pandemic, and his team like so many others have pivoted to continuing to develop key community relationships and campaigns virtually.

In addition, Dr. Presseau is tackling a lot of COVID-related projects, like for example a national survey of to understand what factors are associated with touching eyes, nose and mouth. The research is changing as we continue to develop an understanding of how COVID-19 is transmitted.

Maybe the most important of these COVID-related projects is the  , a group of behavioural science experts and public health leaders who summarize behavioural science evidence in the context of COVID-19 and identify actionable guidance for Ontario’s pandemic response. Dr. Presseau is the co-Chair of this working group, which also involves CPA President Dr. Kim Corace.

“We sit within the larger Ontario Science Advisory Table. We’ve brought together expertise in behavioural science and particularly psychologists across Ontario, based both in academia and within government, to work alongside public health experts and ministry representatives.”

Dr. Presseau says that because the working group contains representatives from all these different areas and the team can communicate directly in this setting with decision makers and policy creators, it is the most direct form of knowledge transfer and knowledge mobilization of behavioural science in which he has been involved in his career.

“From an impact perspective, we get to translate our science to people who can make use of it right away, and they can also provide feedback to us – what are they looking for? What’s helpful to them? Of all the things I’ve done in my career this feels among the most impactful. One of the hats I also wear in the hospital where I’m based is Scientific Lead for Knowledge Translation [in the Ottawa Methods Centre], so I think about knowledge translation a lot. The ability to connect directly with those in the field that are making a difference is excellent. It’s also such a validating experience for me, as a behavioural scientist and a psychologist, to see that there’s recognition of our science and a need for an understanding of how we can draw from the behavioural sciences to support Ontarians and Canadians.”

The Behavioural Science Working Group is currently focused on vaccine confidence and uptake among health care professionals. Over 80% of Ontario health care workers say overwhelmingly that they intend to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to them. The working group is looking to communicate behavioural science approaches to support healthcare organisations across the province to optimise their vaccine promotion programs – for instance, by clarifying that despite having been created at record speed, these vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective and it’s important that those in the healthcare field get one.

Part of this is modeling good behaviour for the rest of the population. And within the healthcare field, modeling good behaviour is one way the working group is hoping to reach those who may be undecided. It’s one thing to have politicians and celebrities get vaccinated publicly, it’s another far more effective thing for your peer group, and hospital CEOs, and team leaders, to do so in front of your team.

Much of this work involves drawing on the literature from around the world to inform hospital policy or public policy. But some of it happens directly, and goes in two directions. For example,

“Our co-chair Dr. Laura Desveaux and her team did surveys with healthcare workers that not only ask if they intend to get the COVID vaccine, but also ask questions that are drawing from behavioural science and psychological principles around the specific constructs or factors might be associated with greater or lesser intention. So they were able to identify key predictors in healthcare workers in January of 2021, the most current data we have. So it’s kind of exciting to be able to quickly draw from on-the-ground data, iterate principles, and push that out to the field to support those who are doing this.”

We have asked most of our Psychology Month participants if they see a ‘silver lining’ in the pandemic. Something that is good, but that would not otherwise have happened absent the pandemic. Dr. Presseau says one silver lining is that it has highlighted just how important and relevant health psychology and behavioural medicine are to understanding and supporting health behaviour change and health and well-being during pandemics.

“After all, behaviour underpins most if not all the public health measures and vaccination activities that are key to seeing the other side of this pandemic.”

When Leigh and Justin’s baby is born, the pandemic will still be ongoing. But that baby will be born into a world that has a much greater understanding of pandemic science, of the behavioural science that accompanies it, and with more and more diverse teams of interdisciplinary experts working together to solve problems – locally, provincially, nationally, and globally.

One day, this baby will grow into a person who can take pride that Dad had a lot to do with that.

Psychology Month: Silver Linings in the Pandemic

Featured Psychology Month Psychologists
Psychology Month has focused on dozens of aspects of the pandemic, a global catastrophe that is deeply tragic. To close out Psychology Month, we focus on a few positives that have come about as a result of COVID-19.

Silver Linings in the Pandemic

Silver Linings in the Pandemic

It has been a tough year for everyone, and so Psychology Month this year has been tough as well. No matter how many innovative, creative, dedicated psychologists are doing incredible things, it’s tough to forget the reason why. A pandemic that has ravaged the globe, caused untold economic damage, mental health issues, and more. Above all, we can’t forget the two and a half million people who have died as a result, which makes the subject of this year’s Psychology Month deeply tragic.

It is for this reason that we want to end on a high note, in as much as such a thing is possible. We asked many of the psychologists who were profiled for Psychology Month to tell us something good they saw come of the pandemic. A personal or professional observation of a way things had improved despite the global catastrophe. Here is what many of them had to say:

“Across hundreds of universities, dozens of countries, many languages, many disciplines, from the virologists to the immunologists to the mental health practitioners – all these people are working together over months. And doing this work under pandemic conditions, doing this work in labs that themselves could cause a super-spreader event. It’s an amazing human accomplishment that we’re already talking about how to get it under control.”
- Andrew Ryder

“One thing that amazed me was how quickly our field – psychology – was able to pivot to online services and mostly remote delivery of therapy when beforehand it was more of an exception to the rule to see people online or over the phone. Seeing that in-person visits can sometimes be adequately replicated via Zoom, or the phone, or other technologies, has been a really interesting experience for me as a trainee.”
- Chelsea Moran

“It wasn’t on the radar at all to offer virtual group psychotherapy for chronic pain, or for psychologists to have virtual appointments. The way Quebec is set up, we cover people who live seven, eight hours away from our centre. For them, being able to have weekly sessions with a psychologist is something that’s very precious. And for others in chronic pain where even thirty or forty minutes driving in the car to the hospital brings their pain level from a three to an eight, not having to come in on some days can be helpful as well. It’s a door that opened that wouldn’t have opened as fast had it not been for the pandemic.”
- Gabrielle Pagé

“There are certain people who, pre-pandemic, were super-productive and making amazing contributions at work. But because they weren’t bragging, and because they weren’t charismatic, they didn’t get the attention of their bosses and they were kind of overlooked. But now when everyone’s at home, it’s easier to track who’s contributing stuff, who is sending in work product. So all the ‘do-ers’ are getting their chance to shine.”
- Helen Ofosu

“I think the move toward virtual care is something that many many patients find very positive. In the capacity that they’re able to receive care from their home, rather than having to work to get themselves or their children or their family over to the hospital. Parking, and having to sit in a waiting room to come to your appointment – to know that you can do it from home is a huge advantage for a number of patients. This has really pushed us to advance in this area that is a real advantage for many of our patients.”
- Ian Nicholson

“For me, it’s being able to spend time on things I really enjoy. I really like to bake, and I really like to read non-academic books. I love murder mysteries! Being able to give yourself permission to actually engage in the activities that you enjoy, that are non-work-related, that are just for you, to me has been my silver lining.”
- Joanna Pozzulo

“Now that the pandemic has gone on for a long time, I don’t really miss the things like international travel – those were perks. But the things I do miss are seeing my family more, my friends more. Some of these things were clarifying, that the things I thought I was missing were perks but not necessary. As soon as I started giving up on my expectations and the things I was missing, it became easier to deal with them, and easier to reach out to other people for connection.”
- Vina Goghari

We also asked our members to point out some ‘silver linings’ in a poll question we included in our monthly newsletter. Here are some highlights of the responses we received:

“The involuntary aspect for many people to slow down as they were laid off or take time to quarantine and are forced to take time off from vacations and traveling is an opportunity to reflect on goals, and "reset" intentions coming out of the pandemic.”
- Charlene F.

“I have seen increased accessibility to services for people with disabilities.”

“I have seen distance barriers disappear - people are able to access learning, support, and other services virtually no matter where they are (assuming they have access to reliable internet!).”
- Gillian S.

“One positive thing for me was that I left my office and started to work virtually from home. It is much easier for me not to have to drive and find parking, and I don’t have to pay rent. The clients are really happy with that option, too, because it is a lot easier for them not to have to take a half day off work to come to the office.”
- Sharon Z.

“More people enjoying the great outdoors!”
- Julie B.

“One positive thing that I have seen come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is an increased societal focus on the importance of both mental health and social justice.”
- Danial A.

“I'm a third-year undergraduate psychology student at Ryerson. I've really been struggling with adjusting to an online semester, work from home, and volunteering and researching from home. This time has really challenged my mental health, but something positive that has come out of this pandemic is that for the first time in my life I am actually putting my mental health first and prioritizing my own wellbeing. I think I'll come out of this pandemic with so much self-growth, and I truly believe if I did not have so much time alone with my own thoughts, I would not have gone through this self-care journey.”
- Giselle F.

“I have noticed that staying at home has increased my focus on family life. Learning new and fun activities to keep the family busy while staying away from everyone we used to visit. For example, we have discovered new trails in our local area which is difficult because we are already active hikers so know most of the trails. Also, we have taken up painting rocks and searching for others' painted rocks on the more common trails.

As a student I have noticed a high increase of togetherness among students. There is a massive use of discord in the psychology department at VIU. This has helped to stay on top of school work and have discussions about our projects or simply to figure out how to get onto the zoom link the teacher put in a funny spot we can't find. Also on the psychology discord site, students are looking at common interests like gaming that they can do together and discussing various interesting novels that they enjoy.

I have never felt so connected to other students while walking around campus. Now I can log on and ask about test topics or paper ideas.

It's been tough distancing from everywhere, but I realize family life is the most important thing in my world and will not disappear from my life. School is a long term goal and I know one day I will be done with it, COVID is just a bump in the road.”
- Donna S.

“The pandemic has been grounding in the sense that many people have suddenly recognized and remembered the most important aspects of life. When faced with a universal threat to health and livelihood, the superficial details of a day become recognized as such, and the aspects with the most weight and meaning to our lives become clear.”
- Kathryn L.F.

“I believe that this pandemic has taught most individuals the importance of well-being. Seeing as we are no longer under the extreme pressures of traveling from day to day events, we now have more time for self-reflection, personal examination, questioning, and learning. It takes a certain level of resilience to shift perspective from uncertainty and anxiety to gratitude. However, with the pandemic disrupting what we knew as our normal lives and continuing to do so, those who are fortunate enough have been able to embrace this shift. Despite what may be happening in the world the most important thing we can focus on and should focus on moving forward is our overall well-being.”
- Emily T.

“A personal silver lining of the pandemic was having the time to finish my research and apply for residency a year earlier than anticipated. I also had more time to spend with my fiancée since both of us were working from home.”
- Flint S.

“More slowing down. A chance for children to play and be.”
- Jen T.

“Something positive I have seen from the pandemic is a newfound appreciation for in-person interactions, particularly in the younger generations. With so much screen time and so little face to face interaction, not only is in-person socializing of higher value, it’s become higher quality. I’ve noticed people are more likely to put their phones away and live in the moment. Interactions are limited, and we need to make the most of what we get. In my own life and for many of my friends, family, and classmates, it’s been something we’ve come to stop taking for granted.”
- Genevieve J.

“Psychologists being forced to become familiar with providing telehealth services, and the increased access that has provided.”
- Janine H.

“Nonobstant la dure réalité de la pandémie, beaucoup de réalités positives ont émergées. En premier lieu, l’esprit d’entraide et communautaire. Deuxièmement, la créativité, que ce soit dans toutes les formes d’art en tant que telles, mais aussi dans l’adaptation, la réinvention et la recherche de solutions. Troisièmement, toutes les nouvelles habitudes acquises, que ce soit le jardinage, l’exercice, l’apprentissage d’une langue, d’un instrument de musique ou d’une habileté ou encore de connaissances en général. Pour ce qui est de la psychologie, en particulier, la création de portails sécuritaires pour offrir des services en ligne.”
- Elisabeth J.

“Something positive in the pandemic- people have slowed down and reassessed their priorities, needs, and desires.”
- Heather P.

“The negatives from a global pandemic have been catastrophic. The most damaging effects being the crippling of the economy, deaths of millions of loved ones world wide, and an extreme toll taken on people's mental health in so many different ways. Keeping children away from school and their friends, forcing families to remain in abusive situations under the radar, allowing small business's to close down permanently day by day... this damage will take years to repair, and maybe won't be repairable at all.

This cannot be forgotten; however, in order to keep my head above the waters of these unforgettable events, I choose to remain optimistic and seek the positive in a sea of negative.

I remind myself that I have been given a chance to spend quality time with the most important person in my life - myself. People tend to neglect themselves daily, and I believe this pandemic has allowed us to check in with ourselves and take the time to look after our needs and self care. I also think that we often neglect the loved ones in our life. This time of isolation has encouraged me to pick up the phone and call people that I have not spoken to in a long time. I have called my parents more than ever before. I even call my friends instead of just sending them silly photos back and forth on Instagram. These conversations are meaningful.  When we are allowed windows of social gathering, these windows are so meaningful also.

Besides these main points, I think that there are some little positive outcomes as well such as cooking more meals at home that are healthier for our bodies and mind, spending more time in nature and trying new activities we never would have tried otherwise, and of course, saving money if you are lucky enough to keep your job.

Negativity will drown you if you let it and positivity will keep you afloat. “
- Sacha H.

“Since COVID, I have become closer with my roommates. We spend more time together instead of doing our own thing all the time.”
- Laura J.

“1] a lot of children may be spending less time on screens by going outside tobogganing, building snow forts, and snowmen.

2] parents are actually spending more time with their children that they did before such as helping and supervising homework but also playing like colouring together and even playing non-screen table games like the good old days, monopoly, snakes and ladders etc.

3] couples like myself with my wife spend more time having coffee together and talking about all things which there may not have been time for before when people ran off to work for the entire day.”
- Jack A.

“I work in education, and I see teachers paying more attention to their own mental health. We bend over backwards for the kids we work with, but it is rare for a teacher to step back and say "I am not okay", and I have seen more of that this year than ever before. They are getting the help they need and taking time off to rest and heal. I hope this continues as teacher burnout is a real thing.”
- Danielle F.

Thank you to everyone who followed along with Psychology Month in 2021. This past year has been difficult, and it has been hard to put into words. Thankfully, there are psychologists all over Canada willing to try. We salute them all, and we salute the resilience of Canadians who have weathered this storm with diplomacy and aplomb. Take care of yourselves, and those around you.

Attachment and Trauma Treatment Centre for Healing

April 12, 2021-April 16, 2021

Attachment and Trauma Treatment Centre for Healing
    • Location: Live Online


    • Contact Phone Number: (905) 684-9333


    • Contact E-Mail:

    • Event Link:

    • .

Gain insight into leading edge treatments including integrative approaches to healing trauma. Join us in learning proven, effective, concrete tools to help kids, teens and adults heal from trauma. Strengthen your repertoire of tools for creating safety and rapport with children, teens and adults who have experienced trauma and learn new integrative techniques to promote embodied awareness. This year we will have a special focus on the impacts of the pandemic, embodied practices to promote wellness and heal the body, mind and brain. As wth past events, this will be an experiential conference with a blend of theory, research and science and embodied and applied practice.

This comprehensive conference will cover the following topics:

Conference Workshop Overview:

      •  Day 1 ~ April 12 AM
        Eric Pepper – Reduce Zoom Fatigue and Optimize Health: From Tech Stress to TechHealth
      •  Day 1 – April 12 PM
        Jamie McHugh – Inhabiting Ourselves: Embodying Mindfulness and Somatic Self-Care
      •  Day 2 ~ April 13
      •  Day 3 – April 14
        Ilene Serlin, Ph.D, BC-DMT ~ Trauma-Informed Dance Movement Therapy
      •  Day 4 – April 15
        Jack Ernst, MSW RSW ~ Finding Your Routes of Safety
      •  Day 5 – April 16
        Cherie Spehar ~ Writing the Way Through: An Immersive Journal Therapy Experience for Working Through Trauma

This training will be held live online.

Psychology Month Profile: Karen Cohen

Dr. Karen CohenDr. Karen Cohen
The CPA has been adjusting, like everyone else, to working from home and embracing the new normal. Our work has been guided by our CEO, Dr. Karen Cohen.

About Karen Cohen

CPA’s Communications Specialist, Eric Bollman talks to CPA’s CEO, Karen Cohen

“The tail of COVID is going to be a long one. It’s going to be psychosocial, and financial. Long after we get vaccines, long after we achieve population immunity, we’re still going to be addressing the psychosocial and financial impacts of living through a pandemic this long.”

Shortly after the NBA announced the suspension of their season on March 11, 2020, there was an all-staff meeting at the CPA head office in downtown Ottawa. The realization was dawning on everyone, and fast, that we were about to enter a different world – both in terms of our own work lives, and in terms of the role of psychology in the world at large.

We knew things were changing – if the NBA could shut down, the rest of the world was not far behind. We knew we’d all be sent home, and we spent that meeting discussing how that would work. Who needed a laptop? Who needed a refresher on Microsoft Teams, having slept through the training session less than a week before? What we did not know was that this would be the last time we saw each other in person for more than a year.

Our CEO, Dr. Karen Cohen, does not follow basketball. For her, the realization was more incremental. But she reached it at the same time, if not a little before, the rest of us. She made the decision to shut down the office and send everybody home.

“We were trying to make the decision that not only would best take care of our workplace, but that would make us a good corporate citizen. It was clear that if the world was going to be successful in managing the pandemic, we had to put in a community effort. “

As the world changed, and the CPA started working from our homes across Ottawa and connecting with people across the country, we realized that psychology was going to have an outsized role to play in helping people and communities manage the pandemic. CPA wanted to help in that effort.  Dr. Cohen credits the staff at the CPA for making this transition work, almost seamlessly.

“Everything CPA has been able to contribute to managing the pandemic is to the credit of the association’s leadership, its membership and its staff. From the outset, our goal was to listen and respond to what people needed; what staff needed to work efficiently from home, what individuals and families needed to support each other, what members needed to face disruptions in their work, and what decision-makers needed to develop policies to help communities.

At first though, those lockdowns were not extended – we truly thought we’d be back at work in a few weeks, maybe a couple of months. Karen and the rest of the management team made sure to check in, and to cover their bases early on.

“One of the things we did at the outset was to survey staff – asking what’s keeping you up at night? How can we make things better? What are you most concerned about? And not just to ask the questions but to try to do something about them. We developed policies and made decisions that considered the things staff were worried about and responded to what they needed.  We realized that psychology had some tools and suggestions to help them cope so we developed a webinar for staff on coping and resilience.  We also reached out to staff one on one and really tried to hear them so we could help make things easier for them.”

We then thought that the survey and webinar might be helpful to the staff of other of CPA’s not for profit association partners and we delivered them to about a dozen of them. The survey enabled leaders to better understand the needs of their workplaces and psychology had some tools and suggestions to help workers cope.   Something that was created internally, for the use of our own staff, ended up being of value to other organizations and an unforeseen contribution our team has been able to make.

While we didn’t know how long the pandemic would last, or what the long-term effects would be, the one group we knew for sure would be affected long-term were frontline health care workers. We were already seeing reports from Italy and Spain of overflowing hospitals, a health care system in crisis, and doctors and nurses overcome with exhaustion and despair. So what could we do?

The first major effort of the CPA during the pandemic was to ask our practitioner members if they would be willing to offer their services to frontline healthcare workers, on an urgent basis, as they faced the stressors of delivering health care services during a pandemic. It seemed essential that the people who were out there fighting against this scourge of a virus had every support possible as they took care of everyone else and, because of their work, faced heightened risk of contracting the virus and bringing it home to their families.

“Hundreds of psychologists came together to do that.  It was good for CPA, it was good for psychology, and most importantly, it has been good for the health providers psychologists helped.

From there, it was a question of developing and delivering information, and getting as much of it out to members, decision-makers and Canadians as possible. Psychologists across Canada answered the call to help create more than a dozen COVID-specific fact sheets for students, psychologists, faculty, people working from home and more. Our team developed webinars, started a podcast, and undertook the herculean effort of moving the CPA annual convention online with just a few months notice.

The CPA team has been collaborating with innumerable other organizations and agencies, commissioning surveys and public opinion polls, and advocating for mental health to be front and centre in every governmental pandemic-related decision and policy across Canada. The work is ongoing, and it is not likely to stop any time soon.

“We know that rates of anxiety, depression and substance use have gone up as people cope with this prolonged chronic stressor. We can see the impact managing the pandemic has had on our work, relationships, and wellbeing.  Maybe the pandemic has shown us that a pandemic takes as much of a psychological toll on our lives as a biological one.  Maybe the pandemic has shown us that managing a critical health event successfully is as much about psychological and social factors as it is about the biological ones. Maybe, governments, workplaces, and insurers will fully realize that mental health matters and that it is time that making investments in mental health care matters too.”

Psychology Month Profile: Dr. Jenn, Dr. Laila, Dr. Mary and the Coping Toolbox podcast

Dr. Jenn Vriend, Dr. Laila Din Osmun, and Dr. Mary Simmering McDonald Dr. Jenn, Dr. Laila, and Dr. Mary
Friends since they did an internship together at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, child psychologists Dr. Laila Din Osmun, Dr. Mary Simmering McDonald, and Dr. Jenn Vriend are trying to reach as many kids and parents as they can during the pandemic with the Coping Toolbox podcast.

About Dr. Jenn, Dr. Laila, Dr. Mary and the Coping Toolbox podcast

Laila Din Osmun, Jenn Vriend, and Mary Simmering McDonald

Everyone is swamped. Kids, learning virtually for the past year and dealing with constant uncertainty. Parents, looking after those kids and trying to work remotely or cope with being out of work. Psychologists, whose services are more in demand than ever but who don’t have any spots available for new clients.
Dr. Laila Din Osmun
Dr. Laila Din Osmun is a parent and a psychologist, dealing with two young children learning from home and an increasing demand for her professional services. She started spending time with her two children, aged five and seven, throughout the week and moved her practice to the weekends. She found she was turning people away because she just didn’t have the availability to see the number of people seeking services. And so she did something that may seem illogical – she added a whole other project to her workload.

In conversation with her friends Dr. Jenn Vriend and Dr. Mary Simmering McDonald, Dr. Din Osmun found that they were experiencing the same thing. The three had become friends during an internship at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), and now all three were child psychologists in private practice in Ottawa. None of them could keep up with the demand.
Dr. Mary Simmering McDonald
How do you get essential information to as many people as possible as quickly as possible? Nothing can replace one-on-one therapy, but there was clearly a void as the supply was not coming close to matching the demand. Dr. Din Osmun proposed a podcast. Coping techniques for kids, delivered one episode at a time, coupled with discussions of the issues facing families during the pandemic and some personal stories about spending time at home with their own children.

The CopingToolbox: A Child Psych Podcast was born. The first episode was published February 17th, discussing specific coping strategies (setting boundaries, practicing gratitude) for children and parents during COVID.
Dr. Jenn Vriend
“Everybody’s feeling overwhelmed right now, myself included. My friends, my clients – it’s a really difficult time. One of the things I’ve been practicing is just allowing myself to feel some of those feelings. Sometimes we feel sad and we don’t want to, or we feel anxiety and we don’t want to. But it’s a really difficult time and we’re going through a lot, and I think it’s really important that we allow ourselves to feel that feeling for a little while.”
Jenn Vriend, The Coping Toolbox Episode One

Future episodes will deal with subjects like depression, as the three friends try to bring more services to more people through a new and interesting platform. On the podcast, they refer to themselves as ‘Dr. Laila’, and ‘Dr. Jenn’, and ‘Dr. Mary’. To an outsider, this might remind people of the ‘Dr. Bobby’ episode of Friends (okay it’s me – I’m the outsider who was reminded of that episode) but it also creates a friendly and welcoming atmosphere should kids be listening with their parents. This was clearly an intentional choice, as was the use of the word ‘toolbox’. Says Dr. Laila,

“We called it The Coping Toolbox because we wanted to provide tools for coping. Not getting into too much detail, and we wanted it to be useful. At the end of every podcast we give three coping skills that we review for the people listening.”

In episode one, those skills are; take a few minutes and breathe, modeling positive behaviours for your kids, and being kind to ourselves. On the podcast, Dr. Jenn says;

“We’re modeling positive behaviours, but we’re not doing it perfectly. So we can take a deep breath, do our best to model those positive behaviours, for ourselves as well as our kids, and then just be gentle and kind to ourselves knowing that we’re doing the best we can given the situation.”

All three Coping Toolbox podcast co-hosts know about doing their best given the situation. They all have young children at home, and each of them brings a different perspective. While Dr. Din Osmun has set aside a large portion of her work to take care of the kids while her husband works a demanding job, Dr. Simmering McDonald, a mom of 3- and 5-year-old boys, is balancing her clinical practice with her husband’s long work days, limited childcare, and weekly appointments regarding the health needs of family members.

In The Coping Toolbox Episode One, Dr. Simmering McDonald notes, “it’s important to consider our own well-being and our own mental health. This is necessary for our own functioning but also for the functioning of our kids and our families.” Dr. Vriend speaks about grief, something many people are experiencing with COVID-19. She separated from her son’s father a few years ago, then sadly he passed away in the summer of 2020. “I’ve had to learn not just single parenting but lone parenting, where you’re it – you’re kind of the everything. I think that perspective, during the pandemic, is going to be interesting to discuss. I remember at one point feeling like ‘I’m my son’s entire world’. I’m his teacher, and I’m his coach, and I’m his mom, and I’m his dad, and it felt very overwhelming. It can add a different perspective because there are a lot of people who discuss both parents, and when you’re a single parent it can hurt a little bit and I think the pandemic has created a whole other layer for single parents and for lone parents.”

In professional practice, divulging personal details is not something psychologists do. But in the context of a podcast, doing so can help the narrative hit home – a narrative that, in the case of The Coping Toolbox, is warm, friendly, expert-driven and truly helpful for many who can’t access that help in other ways at the moment. Dr. Din Osmun says,

“It’s been a crazy time, and we just can’t meet the demands right now. It was getting really frustrating, and the three of us kept talking in group conversations – how can we help? We’re so limited in what we can do. We had the idea of creating a podcast, but we knew nothing about podcasting. The three of us are clinicians in private practice, we have no expertise in podcasting whatsoever. It was a huge learning curve, but we figured this IS something we can do to help people because it’s something the three of us can do from home. We felt like this was a way to help more people in a shorter period of time.”

Laila has taken the lead on the podcast, including taking on hosting duties and – the most painstaking and time-consuming job of all – the editing after the fact. It will all be worthwhile if enough people listen and take away something helpful they did not already know.

You can find The Coping Toolbox: A Child Psych Podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Black History Month: Charles Henry Turner

Charles Henry Turner photo from
Charles Henry Turner was a zoologist, one of the first 3 Black men to earn a PhD from Chicago University. Despite being denied access to laboratories, research libraries, and more, his extensive research was part of a movement that became the field of comparative psychology.

Dr. Turner was a civil rights advocate in St. Louis, publishing papers on the subject beginning in 1897. He suggested education as the best means of combatting racism, and believed in what would now be called a ‘comparative psychology’ approach.

About Charles Henry Turner

Charles Henry Turner was a zoologist, one of the first 3 Black men to earn a PhD from Chicago University. He became the first person to determine insects can distinguish pitch. He also determined that social insects, like cockroaches, can learn by trial and error.

Despite an impressive academic record, Dr. Turner was unable to find work at major American universities. He published dozens of papers, including three in the journal 'Science', while working as a high school science teacher in St. Louis.

Despite being denied access to laboratories, research libraries, and more, his extensive research was part of a movement that became the field of comparative psychology.

Dr. Turner was a civil rights advocate in St. Louis, publishing papers on the subject beginning in 1897. He suggested education as the best means of combatting racism, and believed in what would now be called a 'comparative psychology' approach. He retired from teaching in 1922, and died at the age of 56 on Valentine's Day in 1923.


Psychology Month Profile: Penny Corkum

Penny CorkumPenny Corkum
Dr. Penny Corkum studies sleep and children, and created Better Nights Better Days, a cross-Canada trial that improved sleep for both kids and parents before the pandemic. In the last year, Dr. Corkum and her team went back to those families to see how they were doing during COVID. Their launch of a revamped Better Nights Better Days for the pandemic era is imminent.

About Penny Corkum

Penny Corkum

“When we launched our survey study asking parents during the pandemic how their child’s sleep was impacting them, what really came up was that it’s the whole family and not just the child. So we not only had to help the child sleep better but also give strategies for the parent to sleep better. So we added that into the intervention as well.”

It probably goes without saying that sleep is incredibly important for children. Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep can have a big impact on a child, in terms of daytime functioning. They’re not able to focus or learn as well, and it might result in behavioural problems. Dr. Penny Corkum has been studying sleep in children for a long time. In the last decade, her sleep studies have taken the form of connecting parents and families with the interventions they now know work for children and sleep. Part of this is an e-health program, online tools that parents can access when they need them.

Between 2016 and 2018 Dr. Corkum and her team ran a cross-Canada trial called Better Nights, Better Days, to see if this program was effective. It was, and the program resulted in improved sleep, improved daytime functioning, and even parents were less tired during the day as a result. Then the pandemic hit, and it became a constantly evolving crisis – lockdown for a while, then lockdown lifted. School online from home then back to in-person classroom learning. Right away, sleep patterns were disrupted for both children and adults around the world.

The team went back to the families who had participated in the original Better Nights, Better Days trial, to see how they were doing during the pandemic.

“It seemed like a good place to start because we already knew about their sleep, and we knew that they had learned a lot of strategies to help their child sleep. We were curious – were they still using these strategies? There was some research coming out at the time that suggested families were actually having better sleep, since they didn’t have to get up at a certain time. But that’s not what we found. A small portion of our families were doing better, but about 40% of the children and 60% of the parents were sleeping worse than they were before the pandemic.”

A lot of this was happening because of disruptions in routine and structure. We sleep best when we have consistency in our days – a regular bedtime, a regular time to wake up, a standard time for supper. All of this was being upended by a constantly evolving pandemic and the restrictions that went along with it. Two of the biggest factors were anxiety as a result of worry about the pandemic, and screen time. Kids were using screens a lot more while locked down at home which was disrupting their sleep in a big way.

With new data collected from the Better Nights, Better Days cohort, Dr. Corkum and her team could move forward. Almost all the parents said they were still using the interventions they had used for sleep pre-pandemic. 95% of them said that they thought other families should have access to these strategies during the pandemic. Based on this, the Better Nights, Better Days team was able to get some funding to launch an intervention for all families during the pandemic.

That new program launches Very soon – hopefully very early in March. It is free for families to use, intended for parents of children ages 1-10 who are struggling with falling asleep and staying asleep. There have been slight modifications, now that Dr. Corkum and her team have information about the pandemic and how it impacts sleep. They’ve also added to the intervention some information about parents’ sleep, and how to help parents sleep better. Sleep is essential for the whole family!

Dr. Corkum also runs a diagnostic clinic in Truro, Nova Scotia that brings together pediatricians, school psychologists, health psychologists and others to do differential diagnostics for kids who have fairly complex presentations and need a comprehensive assessment. Well, she normally does. But in the past year the doors have remained closed because they just can’t have all those people together in one room. It’s disappointing for Dr. Corkum and her team, who likely won’t be able to re-open until next year. Therapy can be done virtually, diagnostic assessments not so much.

Dr. Corkum says she misses working at Dalhousie and seeing her students, staff and colleagues but doesn’t miss the walk! Her parking spot is far from the office that carrying a bag, and papers, and a laptop through deep snow or a blizzard makes the walk to work something of a nightmare and a serious workout, every winter. She’s still getting the walk and the workout in – but walking a big dog three times a day is a much more pleasant experience.

Fresh air, exercise, and sleep are three of the things that can make life during the pandemic a more pleasant experience. And with the launch of Better Nights, Better Days which has been modified for the COVID-19 context, Dr. Corkum is making at least one of those things easier and more accessible as of today. You can sign up for the Better Nights, Better Days during COVID-19 study here:

Standing Committee Releases 2021 Pre-Budget Recommendations

As part of the federal government’s pre-budget consultation process of which CPA contributed to, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance released its report. Importantly, two of its top five recommendations focused on investing in a long-term mental health COVID-19 recovery plan for all Canadians, and targeted investments that will improve access to primary care, mental health supports and virtual care. It also included a recommendation to provide a one-time 25% increase in funding to the Tri-Councils for research restart and recovery. Hopefully all three will be reflected in the 2021 federal budget.

Report link

Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Legault (February 2021)

Given that Prime Minister Trudeau recently signaled the federal government’s willingness to discuss increasing its share of health funding to the provinces and territories, the CPA and the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental health (CAMIMH) wrote to the Prime Minister and Premier urging them to increase their investments in mental health services and treatments.
CPA Letter to Prime Minister and Premiers
CAMIMIH Letter to Prime Minister and Premiers

Psychology Month Profile: Natalie Rosen

Natalie RosenNatalie Rosen
At Dalhousie University, Dr. Natalie Rosen studies sexual health in the context of couples. Many people thought there would be a baby boom during the pandemic – Dr. Rosen explains why this hasn’t happened.

About Natalie Rosen

Natalie Rosen

Where are all the babies? When the COVID-19 pandemic started creating lockdowns in March of 2020, the memes were everywhere. The generation that was sure to come from the pandemic baby boom was being given all kinds of names – Coronials! Baby Zoomers! We were all looking forward to making lame jokes in 2033 about these children entering their Quaranteens.

It made some sense that we would think that way – hey, we’re stuck at home with nothing else to do, we’ll probably all bake more cheesecake, learn a new instrument, and make a bunch of babies. But the boom never came. In fact, Canada’s birth rate in 2020 declined by 0.73% from 2019 – continuing a steady trend downward that continues into 2021 (we are projected to decline by 0.74% this year). So what gives?

Dr. Natalie Rosen specializes in couples and sex. Dr. Rosen is a clinical psychologist and an associate professor in the departments of Psychology and Neuroscience, and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Dalhousie University. She and her team are currently in the middle of several longitudinal studies with couples, some of which began before the pandemic. They’re hoping that they get some good data at the end of the studies that can shed light on the impacts of pandemic-related stress on sexual health, particularly for vulnerable groups like new parents. In the meantime, she’s looking at other studies that are just now starting to release data.

“A study published last Spring in the States looked at the impact of COVID on people’s sex lives. What they found was that just over 40% of people said their sex lives had taken a hit and were declining. Just over 40% said it was about the same, and then there was a minority of about 13% who reported that their sex lives had actually improved during the pandemic. I think it’s fair to extrapolate to some extent to Canadians, which means a big chunk of us are experiencing a declines in their sex lives.”

So what happened? Why aren’t people having sex more than ever? Where are all the babies we were promised in the memes? Dr. Rosen says we probably should have known this would be the case.

“I think that was wishful thinking. We actually know that for many people, stress and uncertainty puts quite a damper on mood and desire for sex. Of course, there are lots of individual differences, so not everyone is the same, but for many people stress and uncertainty negatively impact sexuality. Also, when you think about all the young families who have had these extended periods of time with their kids at home – not only is that a stressor, but it’s also interfering with opportunities for sex.”

Dr. Rosen’s research focuses on sexual dysfunction from a couples’ perspective. In the past, much of the research has focused on the person with the problem – but of course many sexual problems exist within the context of the couple, and she says that very often the other person in the relationship really wants to be involved and to do something differently in order to help their partner and improve their sex lives. Dr. Rosen’s team is hoping to expand the availability of couple-based, empirically supported, treatments available for sexual dysfunction. They have an upcoming publication reporting on a randomized clinical trial for the results of a novel couple therapy vs. a medical intervention for pain experienced during sex, and they are hoping to do the same with low desire. They’ve just launched a CIHR-funded study into couple therapy when women have low sexual desire.

Dr. Rosen’s clinical work is small. She works with a few couples each week who have sexual problems, such as pain during sex and low desire, and with couples who are going through major life transitions, like becoming new parents. In the beginning of the pandemic she paused her practice because it was impossible to meet in-person, but Halifax is doing well enough that she was able to start seeing couples in person again last Fall. She says that some of the couples she sees have adapted to virtual sessions and now prefer that, so going forward it looks like her clinical practice will be the kind of hybrid model we might expect to see in most clinical settings post-pandemic.

The biggest disruption for Dr. Rosen is likely the lack of travel – in a typical year she’s on a plane every six weeks or so, going to an academic conference, or visiting her family in Ottawa or Toronto. She says that now, she hasn’t seen most of her family in over year outside her husband and two children – but that this slowing down of the pace of life has had its benefits.

“For us it’s been a kind of investment in the nuclear family, spending lots of time just the four of us. And we’ve also had the chance to really explore a lot of the nooks and crannies of Nova Scotia! I also find that it’s forced me to take a step back and evaluate what’s important to me. I can get caught up in the minutia of my work, and particularly early in the pandemic I felt the frustration of trying to find work-life balance with two young kids at home. But you take a deep breath, and you figure out your values - health, family, happiness. I care about my work a lot, but there’s a pandemic, and there are many times when it just can’t be the number one priority!”

People across Canada are re-evaluating their priorities and have been for almost a year now. Like Dr. Rosen and her family, they are finding ways to support one another, to balance work and home life, and to stay as healthy and happy as they can throughout. Dr. Rosen emphasizes that finding ways to prioritize and connect sexually with your partner has many benefits for health and well- being. And that’s a valuable thing to do – just don’t feel like you have to live up to the memes of March!

CPA is honoured to have been recognized by the Scotiabank Transfer Some Good campaign.

The CPA is honoured to have been recognized by the Scotiabank Transfer Some Good campaign. They have made a donation to Strong Minds Strong Kids, Psychology Canada in our name. The CPA’s offering of pro-bono services by psychologists across Canada for frontline healthcare workers is ongoing.

Black History Month: Keturah Whitehurst

Keturah Whitehurst. Photo from Kirsten's Psychology Blog
A mentor to countless black psychologists, Keturah Whitehurst’s contributions to psychology extend beyond her own work to the work of her protégés that continues today.

About Keturah Whitehurst

Keturah Whitehurst was the first African-American woman to intern at the Harvard Psychological Clinic, and the first Black psychologist to be licensed in Virginia. She created the first counseling service at Virginia State College.
Keturah Whitehurst. Photo credit: Kirsten's Psychology Blog
She received her Master's from the historically Black research university Howard in the 40s, and a PhD from Radcliffe in the 50s. She was a mentor to many future leaders in Black psychology - notably Aubrey Perry, who was the first Black person to graduate with a PhD in psychology from Florida State.

Dr. Whitehurst died in 2000, at the age of 88.

Photo from Kirsten's Psychology Blog

Psychology Month Profile: Joanna Pozzulo

Joanna PozzuloJoanna Pozzulo
Dr. Joanna Pozzulo and the Carleton University Psychology Department launched a virtual space for researchers, students, and other stakeholders called MeWeRTH (The Mental Health and Well-being Research and Training Hub). It’s a means of connecting the university with community organizations and anyone else who might be a consumer of mental health and well-being research.

About Joanna Pozzulo

Joanna Pozzulo

“You’re going to come out of this pandemic either a contestant on the Great Canadian Baking Show, or a really good murderer.”

“Hmmm. Yes, I hope it leans more toward the baking…but you never know?”

Dr. Joanna Pozzulo spends a lot of her spare time during the pandemic learning new recipes, and reading murder mysteries. Dr. Pozzulo is the world’s foremost expert in the psychology behind children’s eyewitness identification. She has spent more than two decades working in Criminal Justice psychology, and so she doesn’t read a murder mystery the way the rest of us do. She notices what is plausible, and what is implausible, and the many mistakes the killer inevitably makes. “I wouldn’t do it that way”, she thinks…getting one step closer to becoming really good at murder.

As the Chair of the Department of Psychology at Carleton University, Dr. Pozzulo has been doing a lot more during the pandemic than baking stacks of cookies and devouring stacks of mystery novels. She and her department have launched a virtual space for researchers, students, and other stakeholders called MeWerth (The Mental Health and Well-being Research and Training Hub). It’s a means of connecting the university with community organizations and anyone else who might be a consumer of mental health and well-being research.

“It’s a varied group, all focused on conducting research that is of high quality around topics of mental health and well-being. Ultimately, being able to disseminate evidence-based research to the public to improve daily lives.”

MeWerth was planned before the pandemic began, which meant that the virtual platform was a little bit ahead of the curve.  Dr. Pozzulo says that COVID had little impact on the creation of MeWerth, but it did make the team rethink how they were going to bring people together.

“Even though it is a virtual space, the traditional idea is that you have a launch, and you invite people to a place and you have, almost a party. We were initially going to launch it in September, but we were in the middle of COVID, so we moved the launch to December and made it virtual. It worked out really well, because we were able to reach a far larger audience without concern for borders or public health risks. We had people attend from all over the world. It was great to get so many people involved when traditionally that would not have been possible. We had one person tune in from Turkey – you can imagine the travel from Turkey to Ottawa, I’m thinking it probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”

MeWerth is a multi-disciplinary space with a broad range of topics. Some are COVID-related, most are not. Dr. Rachel Burns is a member working on studies related to diabetes (how and when do spouses influence the health and wellbeing of people with diabetes?). Dr. Johanna Peetz is researching financial factors in well-being. Dr. Michael Wohl is looking at several facets of addiction, notably gambling addiction, including a study on casino loyalty programs.

Every Wednesday is #WellnessWednesday at MeWerth. On the website there is a ‘Wellness Corner’ where this week Dr. Robert Coplan’s research explores the novel concept of “aloneliness”, conceptualized as the negative feelings that arise from the perception that one is not spending enough time alone. A concept that very much applies during the current pandemic. This is just one of many facets of MeWerth, a platform Dr. Pozzulo already considers to be a success.

“We had 800 people register to attend the launch, a number that’s unheard of in an academic environment - to have so many people from so many different backgrounds be interested in something. I was really pleased, and it signalled to me that we were filling a need, and maybe we had underestimated how much that need was there. I’m seeing lots of interest in MeWeRTH – and its continued interest. I’m thrilled about that and I hope we can continue to grow MeWeRTH both locally and globally.”

For Dr. Pozzulo and her team to grow MeWerth, more researchers, students, community groups, organizations and other stakeholders will need to discover the web platform and sign up ( So, if you are one of those individuals interested in mental health and well-being, you probably should sign up. Or else…

Or else Dr. Pozzulo might not share any of her fresh-baked chocolate and candied-pecan éclairs with you.



Psychology Month Profile: Vina Goghari

Vina GoghariVina Goghari
Dr. Vina Goghari is the Editor of the Canadian Psychology journal. The amount of pandemic-related research and article submissions has been overwhelming in the past few months. The upcoming COVID special edition of the journal will present papers that cover a very broad range of topics related to the pandemic.

About Vina Goghari

Vina Goghari

Dr. Vina Goghari had big plans for 2020. There were going to be conferences that would synergize with her vacations – including one in Banff where she was planning to rent a cottage and hang out with some of her friends. A couple of talks in Vienna were going to allow her to explore the nearby areas and experience Austria for the first time. Instead her breaks disappeared, her workload increased threefold, and she ended up stuck at home with a kidney stone for five months. 2020, right?

Dr. Goghari is a professor at the University of Toronto where she is the Graduate Chair of the Clinical Psychology program. What interests us here at the moment is Dr. Goghari’s position as the editor of Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, the flagship journal of the Canadian Psychological Association. The bulk of a journal editor’s work is remote already, so very little has changed in that respect, but the pandemic has created a bit of a slowdown in the review process.

“The ability of academics to spend their time on peer review has been impacted. I find they’ve still been gracious, and people are still volunteering to review these papers, but sometimes we find that people need more leeway in terms of time to actually get us the review back. We’ve been lucky that both the authors and the reviewers are having a little bit more patience with each other, and the editor, and the associate editors. It allows us to make sure this process is still equitable and fair and we still get enough reviews.”

Another thing that has, predictably, changed is the number of submissions Canadian Psychology is receiving concerning COVID itself. So many, that they have prepared a special issue just for the pandemic. Dr. Goghari says the volume of articles has been overwhelming.

“We did a call for COVID papers in May dealing with psychological perspectives on the pandemic – we feel a psychological, as well as a Canadian/International, lens is very important to helping people deal with the pandemic in terms of work and life balance and mental health. The Special Issue will be coming out in the next few weeks. We saw a record number of papers for that call. This was especially so (true) for the two of us who are the English-speaking editors ̶ we were fielding a tremendous number of papers! It was positive in the sense that the psychological perspective on the pandemic is resonating with people, but also really increased our workload, as we always want to ensure we do a professional job with all submissions. Luckily we were able to get through all of them, and I really think we have a fantastic special issue

Canadian Psychology is a generalist journal, which allowed Dr. Goghari and her team to design the COVID special issue with intention. They wanted the articles to cover a wide range of topics related to Canadians, and to reflect different parts of our society and our population. There are articles about work, sleep, mental health, adults, children, training, and much more. There are also two articles in French, and Dr. Goghari hopes that there is something for everybody in this journal issue.

Not only have they seen an increase in COVID papers, but papers regarding race-related issues that have become increasingly front and centre over the past year. More papers addressing topics such as mental health and racial disparities have been submitted. Dr. Goghari says she wishes this has also been the case for journal in the past given the importance of these societal issues, but is heartened to see that this is more of a focus now.

“One of the things COVID highlighted was that the pandemic doesn’t affect everyone equally. There are certain groups that are more affected by the pandemic like the elderly, we know that there were racial disparities in both outcome and incidence of the virus. And so the two things came together – the societal tensions on race, but also highlighted and made worse by the COVID pandemic interacting with these factors.”

Dr. Goghari says that she is encouraged by the rise in awareness created by the new focus on inequities and dismantling the systemic causes of racism. She is also encouraged by the number of papers she and her team are receiving surrounding COVID and expects that the studies launched later in the pandemic that focus on longer term impact, challenges, opportunities, and resilience, will produce some new, useful, and fascinating results. Dr. Goghari is above all an optimist. Even when it comes to missing out on some great trips, and a kidney stone!

“I find I don’t really miss the things like travel – they were just perks. I miss seeing my friends and my family. I also had some interaction with the health care system because I had a kidney stone for five months. I was very grateful for all the people who are still doing ultrasounds and CT scans and keeping the hospitals clean for us. They were just so kind! Even though they themselves were dealing with all these things, I was touched by their professionalism and their help even while I could see the burden on the health care system. When the kidney stone clinic had to close, there was an onslaught of people and we all have to get in…it was a very eye opening experience. Given what the health care workers go through, they were tremendous even though they must be in a difficult situation. I think COVID plus a kidney stone made me grateful for all the smaller things!”

Psychology Month Profile: Judy Moench

Judy MoenchJudy Moench
Dr. Judy Moench has helped create protocols to help her Alberta community and others during the pandemic. Prepped 4 Learning helps teachers, parents, and kids cope with disruption. The Self-care Traumatic Episode Protocol (STEP) is helping mental health clinicians, hospital staff, and others decrease stress and increase coping.

About Judy Moench

Judy Moench

“I feel like a budding musician who started out in the basement! During COVID we weren’t able to get into a studio or anything like that so I literally developed these videos in my basement using audio on my phone.”

The Self-care Traumatic Episode Protocol fits into a neat little acronym – STEP! Was this one of those programs that worked backward, to shoehorn its description into an easily-remembered four-letter word? Dr. Judy Moench says no.

“It was named that on purpose because it’s a modified version of a protocol that was developed called EMDRGTEP – which is the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Group Traumatic Episode Protocol.”

Nobody worked backward, I think we can assume, to make EMDRGTEP a neat little acronym!

Dr. Moench is a registered psychologist in Alberta with a private practice, and also an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta. During COVID, she’s been working on a number of protocols that might be helpful in the community. One is a school-based program, focused on the universal promotion of emotional health with an emphasis on the well-being of students. Prepped 4 Learning is a self-regulation program that starts with teachers and parents helping kids regulate to learn, all the way up to what to do if there is a crisis in school. Dr. Moench thinks STEP might be helpful in this setting as well, for teachers in particular, and they are beginning research with school staff soon.

STEP was launched during the pandemic to assist mental health clinicians, medical staff, and other front line workers to decrease stress and increase coping. The idea was that because people were unable to meet in person a computer-delivered protocol was necessary. This was not intended to be a substitute for psychological treatment or medical diagnoses, but that a 90-minute session with STEP videos could develop containment strategies that would allow them to continue working on the front lines through this time of overwhelming stress. Eye movement is part of the process.

“Eye movement is part of EMDR Therapy, an approach that has an eight-phase model, and you go through all the phases with a client to help them resolve unprocessed material and recover from distressing life experiences. STEP is an adapted protocol but it still uses eye movements and goes through modified phases of treatment – you print out a worksheet, and the person taps from one side of the protocol sheet to the other side and follows with their eyes as they’re doing that. The eye movements help to add distance and give calmness around the event that is being processed.  It helps to consolidate the memory in a more cohesive way.”

Normally Dr. Moench and her team would do this kind of activity in groups in the office. You know, in the before-times. Now, this program has to be modified for online delivery, which means a few steps have been adapted. Typically, EMDR treatment would involve an extensive history with the client – with STEP, this has been modified to a few specific questions up front that ensure the person is ready and eligible to use the protocol. For example, someone who was thinking about suicide, or had a complex trauma history, may be better served with one-to-one EMDR Therapy.

Another thing that sets STEP apart is that it is designed to deal with only one very specific trauma episode at a time – right now, the trauma brought on most recently by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Moench calls this ‘titration’, and it narrows the focus to that one episode and excludes the larger history that might otherwise be part of treatment.

“With STEP, the research study we did focused exclusively on COVID. Since then, I’ve used it with other things that aren’t specifically COVID-related…even though right now everything is kinda COVID-related! But there are other events that are happening along with the pandemic.”

The STEP protocol has been used in Alberta with mental health clinicians, with a small group of staff from the United Nations, and with other national and international groups in which Dr. Moench is a member. Right now, she and her team are making a more professional version of the current STEP videos – after all, the originals were shot in her basement with audio from her phone! Only time will tell if this psychology-as-garage-rock-band will be a pandemic-specific flash in the pan (like the Strokes) or a longer lasting international sensation (like U2).

Hey…that’s got us thinking now. How come there hasn’t been a Live Aid / Live 8 pandemic relief show yet? Those were always super-distanced!

Psychology Month Profile: Chloe Hamza

Chloe HamzaChloe Hamza
Dr. Chloe Hamza has an article in the upcoming Canadian Psychology journal COVID-19 special edition entitled ‘When Social Isolation Is Nothing New’. It’s part of an ongoing study of post-secondary students, some of whom had pre-existing mental health concerns before the pandemic, and some of whom didn’t.

About Chloe Hamza

Dr Chloe Hamza

Dr. Chloe Hamza is an assistant professor in the department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She’s the lab director of the CARE lab (Coping, Affect, and Resilience in Education), and her research has been broadly about stress and coping among postsecondary students. It was with this focus that she and her team ran a study looking at the psychological impacts of COVID-19 among postsecondary students.

Like so many other studies at this time, Dr. Hamza and her team were lucky to have already done a similar survey, that one in May of 2019. This meant that repeating many of the same questions with many of the same participants could give a good indication of where they were now, with the pandemic, compared to where they were before.

“We had some pre-COVID assessment data, and then we went back in May 2020 and surveyed students again. We were looking at stress, coping, and mental health before and during the pandemic. What we had originally hypothesized was that students with pre-existing mental health concerns would be those who would be most adversely impacted by the pandemic. But what we found was that students who had pre-existing mental health concerns fared similarly or were actually improving during the pandemic. Whereas students without pre-existing mental health concerns showed the greatest decline in mental health.”

This study, and these results, have resulted in an article that will be published in this month’s COVID-19 special issue of the journal Canadian Psychology. (See our upcoming profile of Dr. Vina Goghari for more on the journal the day the special edition comes out.) The article is called ‘When Social Isolation is Nothing New’, and it details these findings from Dr. Hamza and her team.

“When we looked at why those students without pre-existing concerns were declining, we found that increasing social isolation seemed to be associated with deteriorating mental health. What that seems to suggest is that if you were feeling socially disconnected before the pandemic, which in our case was among students with pre-existing mental health concerns, the start of the pandemic and distancing guidelines may have been less impactful. In contrast, if you weren’t used to experiencing social isolation, and this was a real change for you, your mental health was more likely to decline.”

It looks, for now, as though students with pre-existing concerns were already experiencing some kind of isolation socially pre-pandemic, and that has made the adjustment easier and less impactful for them than it has for others. There are of course other possibilities that might account for the findings of Dr. Hamza and her team, and they plan to explore those in a follow-up study that is beginning right now.

“For many students some stressors actually decreased. For example, having multiple competing demands, or academic pressures, lessened. Which sort of makes sense if you think about how universities initially responded to the pandemic. Students weren’t going to class any more, they may not be going to work, and so the demands on their time – both academic and vocational – may have decreased.”

The follow-up study is currently under way, where Dr. Hamza and her team are asking those same students how they’re coping now during the pandemic. Some of it will involve the results of the previous study, where they will ask the participants about the results. “Here are some of our findings – how does this resonate with you? Do you think it’s accurate? What are some of the reasons you think we might have seen this result back in May?”

While that study is ongoing, Dr. Hamza is also focused on her own students – trying her best to ensure that they remain engaged, well, and healthy through what has been a very difficult school year. Her department does a ‘wellness challenge’ which challenges people to get outside and walk, or pick up and learn a new instrument, or try a new recipe. All things we can do to maintain better mental health during this time of isolation. Things that are good both for those of us who are still new to distancing and socializing remotely, and for those of us for whom social isolation is nothing new.

“Psychology Works” Fact Sheet: Physical Activity, Mental Health, and Motivation

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) recommends that adults aged 18 or older do at least 150 minutes/week of moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise, with each session lasting at least 10 minutes. All adults should also do muscle and bone-strengthening exercises at least twice/week. Older adults (65+) with poor mobility should regularly do activities that help to improve balance and prevent falls (e.g., yoga).

Canadian statistics show that most adults don’t meet these requirements, with levels of physical activity decreasing as people age. This is a particular problem for people with kids, as children and youth look to adults to model good behaviours; statistics show that only 15% of children (5-11 years) and 5% of youth (12-17 years) meet their recommended level of physical activity (60 minutes/day).

What Do “Moderate” and “Vigorous” Mean?

The definitions of “moderate” and “vigorous” physical activity depend on your age, health status, current level of activity, and relative level of (dis)ability. For example, a young, able-bodied athlete might not be affected by a brief walk, while an older, generally inactive person with poor mobility might experience this as “vigorously intense.” The following guidelines can help:

  • Moderately intense physical activities should noticeably raise your heart rate. While you’re doing moderately intense physical activity, you should be able to have a conversation, but not be able to sing your favourite song.
  • Your resting heart rate increases a lot while doing vigorously intense physical activity, although you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable as a result. While doing a vigorously intense activity, you shouldn’t be able to say more than a few words without having to take a breath.

What Are the Mental Health Benefits of Physical Activity?

Regular physical activity comprised of both cardiovascular and resistance exercise, has many mental health benefits. The longer you stick with your exercise schedule and the more often you exercise, the more benefits you’ll see. For example, research shows that regular physical activity can help:

  • Prevent depression and anxiety disorders and may be as effective as psychological and pharmaceutical treatments for depression and anxiety;
  • Reduce day-to-day stress;
  • Particularly among middle-aged individuals, reduce the risk of cognitive decline, measured as a slowing in attention, memory, and concentration, later in life;
  • Individuals perform better than others their age on tests of cognitive ability (e.g., memory, attention, processing speed);
  • Boost academic performance (e.g., grades) in children, youth and young adults;
  • Lower the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s Disease) and can make the symptoms of these diseases less severe (e.g., issues with memory, concentration, attention);
  • Increase self-reported happiness and lower levels of sadness and loneliness, both in the short-term and later in life;
  • Reduce feelings of fatigue, improve sleep quality, and lower your risk of insomnia (provided vigorous exercise is not done too soon before bed);
  • Enhance the impact of the treatment of addictions, particularly in the reduction of cravings;
  • Boost self-esteem, itself a key sign of good mental health and overall well-being, from early childhood straight through older adulthood; and
  • Aid in the treatment of eating disorders, chronic pain (tailored to your physical abilities), post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and body dysmorphic disorders (i.e., being obsessed with a real or imagined physical “flaw”).

Why Does Physical Activity Have These Benefits?

There is no single reason why physical activity has mental health benefits. Instead, research suggests that benefits come from the combined physiological, psychological, social, and neurological effects of exercise.

  • Physiological: Physical activity both boosts your body’s production of endorphins and endocannabinoids, which are chemicals that help you to relax, feel more pleasure, and feel less pain, and reduces the amount of cortisol (i.e., “stress hormone”) that your body produces.
  • Psychological: Regular physical activity helps to increase feelings of self-esteem and self-efficacy, or how much you believe in yourself to accomplish important goals. Short bursts of exercise can also make you happier in the moment by interrupting negative trains of thought.
  • Social: People who exercise regularly tend to have bigger social networks and stronger relationships with friends and family. The regular face-to-face interaction that comes from group exercise (e.g., fitness classes, team sports) boosts your mood and can help to prevent depression.
  • Neurological: Physical activity helps your brain to use and produce more dopamine and serotonin – chemicals produced in your brain that make you feel happy. People who exercise regularly also have more blood flow to the brain, better brain functioning, and even have more brain matter in certain areas (e.g., hippocampus, which is associated with memory).

How Do I Get Started and Stay Motivated?

Before you get started, you should ask yourself why you want to exercise, and what types of exercise might be best for you based on your physical (dis)abilities, personality, and goals. Consult your family physician for help in developing a healthy and realistic exercise plan.

Some of the most common reasons for not exercising include: not having enough time; not having enough money; not having enough energy; and feeling uncomfortable (physically or socially). Solutions for these can include:

  • Planning to exercise frequently, but in short bursts (i.e., 10 minutes or more).
  • Scheduling your day so you exercise when you tend to have more energy, and always try to do what you can.
  • Finding free or low-cost activities that you enjoy (e.g., walking, cycling, or pick-up sports).
  • Not pushing yourself too hard and trying to find an environment where you feel comfortable and motivated (e.g., home, outdoors, with a buddy).

Once you’ve started your exercise program, there are many ways to help you stick with it. Researchers from numerous areas of psychological research (e.g., clinical, sport, and social psychology) suggest that you:

  • Make a plan and set regular, concrete goals.
  • Don’t delay.
  • Be realistic in choosing and committing to an exercise regimen.
  • Remind yourself why exercise is important to you every day and whenever you’re facing difficulties.
  • Ensure you eat regular, well-balanced meals and sleep regularly.
  • Focus on you and your accomplishments, not what other people are doing.
  • Track your progress and celebrate small gains.
  • Make physical activity part of your daily routine.
  • Don’t do the same thing every time and try to do activities you enjoy.
  • Plan for how you’ll deal with potential obstacles or distractions.
  • Practice self-compassion, especially when you haven’t met your daily or weekly goals.
  • Find an exercise buddy who’s similar to you (e.g., age, fitness level, ability level).

Where Can I Go for Help or to Learn More?

Visit the CSEP website for physical activity guidelines:

Community and recreation centres offer a variety of programs that can help you add physical activity to your daily routine.

Drop-in sports and fitness classes are a great way to sample what’s available before committing to anything.

See a psychologist to discuss motivational tips, concerns you may have related to self-image and exercising, and strategies specific to your needs.

Where Can I Get More Information?

You can consult with a registered psychologist to find out if psychological interventions might be of help to you. Provincial, territorial, and some municipal associations of psychology often maintain referral services. For the names and coordinates of provincial and territorial associations of psychology, please visit:

CPA Sport and Exercise Psychology Section:

American Psychological Association (APA) Division 47:

This fact sheet has been prepared for the Canadian Psychological Association by Matthew Murdoch, Canadian Psychological Association.

Date: November 2016

Your opinion matters! Please contact us with any questions or comments about any of the Psychology Works Fact Sheets:

Canadian Psychological Association
141 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 702
Ottawa, Ontario    K1P 5J3
Tel:  613-237-2144
Toll free (in Canada):  1-888-472-0657

Psychology Month Profile: Laurie Ford

Laurie FordLaurie FordLaurie Ford
Dr. Laurie Ford at UBC has school psychologists to train, students adjusting to online learning, and innovations to replace hands-on experiences. She also has a community garden and two great dogs!

About Laurie Ford

Laurie Ford

“Every night we talk on FaceMail”.

Two things are getting Dr. Laurie Ford through this pandemic in a positive way. One is her nightly ‘FaceMail’ chats with her dad in Oklahoma. Not sure if this means FaceTime, or FaceBook, or Zoom or some other video chat platform, but dad calls it FaceMail and so FaceMail it is. The other is a community garden where Dr. Ford is the President. The garden has become a meeting-place and something of a pandemic oasis throughout the past year. Sometimes up to six or seven people, Laurie and her friends, will head to the garden after work, sit well-distanced on the various plots, and share a laugh and a glass of wine. Maybe pull some weeds. It’s a nice break from long days at work.

“I’m getting a lot of work done – when all I have to do is go to the front of my house and come back. The bad thing is I think many of us are working too much, as the lines between work and home are blurring.”

Even Dr. Ford’s beloved community garden has become part of that blurring of work-home-life, her meetings with friends inspired her to do the same with her grad students. A few months into the pandemic, she suddenly realized that most of her students lived in Vancouver but had never actually met one another in person! With the exception of one student stuck in Australia and one stuck in Alaska, she invited them all to meet, in person, at the garden. (The two stranded students were able to join virtually, by Zoom.)

Dr. Ford is at UBC. She is the Director of Training for the School and Applied Child Psychology program and has been involved in training school psychologists for a long time. She is also a board member at the CPA. As the pandemic has gone on, she has become more and more accustomed to Zoom calls, as has her dogs Gracie Belle and Cooper come to say hi and investigate the goings-on before wandering off to find more interesting ‘dog stuff’ as Dr. Ford goes back to teaching her now presumably more interested class.

“One of the big things, from a training perspective, is to figure out ways that students can get some of that hands-on training, in schools and in clinical settings, when everything’s restricted. The other part that’s related to training is – how do you move to train people to do service delivery in less traditional ways?”

Right now, Dr. Ford’s training is primarily preparing Masters and Doctoral-level school psychologists. Training that would ordinarily involve a lot of hands-on experience. Before 2020, Dr. Ford would take her students to a local homeless shelter for some classes. Others would take place in a rehab clinic, or a xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (People of the River Grass) longhouse located within walking distance of the UBC campus. Dr. Ford says, just being in these physical locations was a huge part of the experience. That, of course, has not been possible in the past year. So they are finding some workarounds.

Members of community join Dr. Ford’s Communities Systems class some weeks as they try alternate ways to immerse students in a variety of settings. In this class and others, she’s also experimenting with videos, podcasts, and other methods of delivering information that are different that simple Zoom lectures. She says she has been surprisingly impressed by how many of her students are doing the extra work and taking advantage of the extra content she makes available to them.

“I think I was just so determined to make this be awesome, even though it sucked being on line, that it’s made me become more familiar with the technology of teaching online, but it has also in some ways made me work harder to find diverse sources of information. I actually think I’m better teaching this course than I have been in the past. I’ve had to work harder to be more creative to find new and better ways to engage my students. It’s made me think like the kids a little bit – I’m doing less lecturing and I’m using podcasts and videos. They’re good teaching pedagogies that we talk about but then we kind of get lazy, you know? So I really think I’m doing a little bit of a better job this year!”

Dr. Ford has a big personality, the kind that can fill a lecture hall in person better than a Zoom screen. She says she misses that part of teaching, addressing a large room full of people, and it’s clear that will be the first thing on the docket, whenever this pandemic ends and she can get back to the front of a class. But while it goes on, she hopes that the innovations she and her students have come up with have made her a better teacher, and they have certainly made her more tech-savvy. When the spring arrives, her students will be able to meet one another again, in a safely distanced fashion. They still have the community garden.

And Laurie’s dad will still have his FaceMail.

“Psychology Works” Fact Sheet: Attachment in Children

What is attachment?

Attachment is a special emotional relationship between two people, with an expectation of protection. Usually when we talk about attachment, we’re talking about the relationship between a child and his or her parents or caregivers. Sometimes we talk about attachment in romantic relationships as well. The attachment between parents and children is our focus here.

Almost every child attaches to someone. When they don’t, it is usually because of unfortunate circumstances, such as being raised in an orphanage or experiencing severe abuse or neglect. Children with no attachments are very rare and may have an attachment disorder. They, along with and their caregivers, usually need professional help. Attachment disorders are not our focus here. Information on attachment disorders can be found at:

Children can attach to a small number of adults, usually those who take care of them. They don’t usually attach to other children. Although children can have great relationships with lots of adults (teachers, babysitters, family friends), they don’t really attach to those people. They like them and trust them because their experience in their attachment relationships tells them that it is safe to do so.

Although almost all children do develop attachments, attachments can vary in their level of “security.” Psychologists, researchers, and therapists often categorize attachment relationships. The main categories are secure, insecure, and disorganized. Most children (about 60%) are securely attached. Secure attachments are the best for children’s development. Disorganized attachments lead to the most difficulties in mental health and behaviour. Children can have different styles of attachments with different caregivers.

What are the different styles of attachment?

Securely attached children explore what is around them when their caregiver is nearby. They also check in by looking at their caregiver regularly. If their caregiver leaves they usually stop exploring. When their caregiver returns they are happy to see them and calm down quickly if they are upset. Secure attachments have been shown to help children learn, empathize, develop relationships, cope with stress, handle fear, and be independent.

There are two types of insecure attachment. In insecure avoidant attachment, children don’t appear to care whether their caregiver is there or not, but they actually care a lot. These children usually explore a lot. When their caregiver returns after leaving them these children often ignore them, but if we measure their stress response using physiological measures like heart rate, we find that they’re actually quite upset.

Children with resistant insecure attachment often appear clingy. They usually stick close to their caregiver and don’t explore much. They get very upset when their caregiver leaves them. They are not easily calmed when their caregiver returns.

Children with disorganized attachments are more unpredictable. As babies, they might do unusual things like freezing or coming to their caregiver with their head turned away. As preschoolers they tend to be bossy and controlling.

How do attachments develop?

Attachments develop over time as a child and caregiver interact. It is innate or “hard-wired.” When a child has a need, their caregiver responds. For example, if a child falls off her bike and her caregiver comes over and comforts her, the child learns to expect that. On the other hand, if the caregiver yells at her she learns to expect that. It isn’t so much what happens in any one situation, so much as the pattern of reactions that matter. Over time, the child learns what will happen when they have a need. Will their caregiver respond kindly and fulfill their need? Ignore them? Yell? This pattern determines the attachment style between a child and a specific caregiver. You can’t always see someone’s attachment style. It is only activated (turned-on) when they’re in need (e.g., stressed, sick, scared, or hurting).

Children also learn what they need to do to get their needs met. Do they need to ask, yell, or cry? Eventually, kids start to expect all relationships to be like their attachment relationships. So they start to trust people, be unsure of people, hide their feelings, or not know what to expect. They also learn how they should behave in relationships.

When does attachment develop?

The building blocks of attachment start soon after birth. Attachment becomes clearer around 6 to 9 months of age, Each of us develops an attachment style that characterizes our approach to relationships over the course of our lifetime, but attachment styles can change based on experiences or in response to treatment.

How do I help my child securely attach?

There are lots of things you can do to help your child securely attach. First, try to be there for them when they need you. Second, let them explore or interact with what is around them when they’re ready. Here are some other things you can do:

  • Be sensitive to your child’s needs and emotions and try to respond in a way that is in tune with them.
  • Talk about feelings: your feelings and their feelings. Label everyone’s feelings and indicate that it’s okay to feel whatever you feel. You can do this even when they’re babies.
  • Stay with your child when they’re upset. Even when your child is misbehaving, you need to show them you love them. Don’t send them away or threaten to leave.
  • Enjoy your child: play with them, laugh with them, read with them, watch their television shows.
  • Follow your child’s lead. This shows them you value their ideas and thoughts.
  • Take charge when needed. This helps your child feel safe.
  • Be consistent, predictable, and stable. This helps kids feel safe.
  • Set limits. Too much freedom makes kids feel anxious, even if they think they want it. You need to be the strong one who lets them know what are safe limits.
  • Accept them for who they are. You don’t need to approve of their behaviour, but you need to love them whatever they do.

What if I make a mistake?

It’s okay! Attachments are built on thousands of experiences and are always able to change. Research shows that kids need “good enough” parents not perfect parents. In fact, there’s something to be said for a child facing some adversity (not too much, but a little). This teaches children that they can manage these situations and helps build resilience.

What if my child isn’t securely attached?

There are a variety of different attachment-based therapies available that are supported by research. These include Parent-Child Interaction Therapy; Circle of Security; Watch, Wait, and Wonder; Interaction Guidance, Reflective Family Play, and others. See a psychologist or talk to your child’s paediatrician for appropriate evidence-based local referrals. The above-mentioned therapies and others supported by research should be favoured. There are some other therapies that indicate they are for attachment, but that are not evidence-based.

Where can I get more information?

You can consult with a registered psychologist to find out if psychological interventions might be of help to you and your child. Provincial, territorial, and some municipal associations of psychology often maintain referral services. For the names and coordinates of provincial and territorial associations of psychology, please visit:

This fact sheet has been prepared for the Canadian Psychological Association by Jen Theule, Ph.D., C.Psych., University of Manitoba.

November 2016

Your opinion matters! Please contact us with any questions or comments about any of the Psychology Works Fact Sheets:

Canadian Psychological Association
141 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 702
Ottawa, Ontario    K1P 5J3
Tel:  613-237-2144
Toll free (in Canada):  1-888-472-0657

“Psychology Works” Fact Sheet: Gender Dysphoria in Adolescents and Adults

What is gender dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria refers to the distress that some people feel with their physical sex and/or gender role.

Some theorists propose that gender exists on a spectrum rather than being fixed opposites. Most people experience the sense that their physical bodies (i.e., female/male) are a good reflection of their gender identities (i.e., their internal sense of gender, or core gender) as women and men – they are cissexual/cisgender (the Latin prefix “cis” meaning “the same”). The term transgender (or increasingly, trans) refers to the many different ways that a person may experience their gender identity as different than the one assigned to them at birth. Some people experience a more marked inconsistency between the physical bodies they were born into and their gender identities. For example, they may have male genitalia and have been raised as male, yet identify as a woman. Still others identify more androgynously or feel they occupy a more middle space on the gender spectrum (e.g., genderqueer), and yet others might have a more fluid sense of gender (e.g., non-binary, gender-fluid). Those who feel less categorical may indicate a preference on a gender spectrum, such as being transfeminine or transmasculine.

How common is gender dysphoria?

It is a complex task to establish solid prevalence rates among hidden, and stigmatized, populations and there are no large-scale population studies of gender identity of which we are aware. Recent community-based research efforts such as Ontario’s Trans Pulse Project have proposed innovative methods to best approximate prevalence, such as respondent-driven sampling. Public health and epidemiology principles suggest that the prevalence rates of health issues capture only those who present for treatment and that these numbers represent the metaphorical “tip of the iceberg”. Of note, anecdotally, gender identity clinics across Canada have seen a significant surge in number of referrals over the past few years. Another clear referral trend is trans women and men presenting in fairly equal numbers, where it was previously thought that there were many more trans women than trans men. A recent demographic study conducted by the Trans Pulse Project shows that trans communities are diverse in age, sexual orientation, ethno-racial and educational backgrounds, and relationship and parental status.

Gender dysphoria in adolescents

Gender dysphoria in adolescence may be accompanied by depressed mood, anxiety, and behavioural problems, all of which can considerably heighten the adolescent’s distress. The Standards of Care outlined by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH, 2012) recommend a careful assessment involving the family, and ample opportunities for an adolescent’s gender exploration. If indicated, staged medical interventions are advised, often beginning with fully reversible ones such as puberty-delaying or –blocking hormones, to integrate and evaluate their effects before moving on to a next stage. Additional clinical competencies are required for working with adolescents.

Gender dysphoria in adults and transitioning

How people manage their gender dysphoria is a highly individual process that can depend on factors such as degree of dysphoria, financial resources, health status, and social support including relationship status and human rights protections. People may choose to live in accordance with their assigned/physical sex and not undergo any physical changes. Some might present themselves in a manner consistent with their core gender only in certain situations, such as at home or with specific groups of friends. Others may choose to live socially in accordance with their core gender through changes to their name and/or appearance, without undergoing any medical changes. Many adults with gender dysphoria do seek to change their body, however, to bring it more in line with their gender identity, a process called “medical transition”. They may do this by means of hormonal treatment, electrolysis, chest/breast surgery, cosmetic surgeries, gonadal and/or genital surgery. For those who feel it right for themselves, transition generally has a relatively high degree of satisfaction. Moreover, emerging research shows that there is a significant reduction in symptoms of distress and/or psychopathology during the process of medical transition, particularly after the initiation of hormone therapy (Heylens et al., 2014; Keo-Meier et al., 2015). Similarly, timely access to care and medical transition was among the factors associated with a strong reduction in suicide risk among a large Canadian community sample (Bauer et al., 2015).

How people access care for medical transition depends on the kind of intervention they desire and where they live in Canada. Hormone therapy can masculinize a body (with testosterone) or feminize a body (with an anti-androgen and estrogen source). Results can vary significantly depending on such factors as age and genetics. Hormones have some reversible and some irreversible effects, and can take approximately two years to determine their full effect. Increasingly, family doctors with training are prescribing hormone therapy, some on an informed consent model and some with assistance from a mental health professional with special competence in this area, or endocrinology, where indicated (LGBT Health Program, 2015).

Gender affirming surgeries are covered by many (but not all) of the provincial and territorial Ministries as insured services under the public health care plan. Among those where coverage is available, not all available surgeries are considered insured services. Even in cases of provinces with good coverage, there may be financial costs, such as travel, and the emotional toll of long wait lists for surgical assessments and/or surgery. In order to access these surgeries, clients must meet criteria for Gender Dysphoria (GD), along with what are considered eligibility and readiness criteria. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) outlines the criteria for GD as a “marked incongruence between one’ s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender” for a minimum of six continuous months, defined by at least 2 of the following: (1)  marked incongruence between experienced gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics, (2) a strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics on account of a marked incongruence with experienced gender, (3) a strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender, (4) a strong desire to be the other gender, (5) to be treated as the other gender, or (6) a strong conviction that one has the typical feelings of the other gender (there is language to also acknowledge an alternative gender). To meet criteria, there must be evidence of distress about the incongruence. GD subtyping is with, or without, a disorder of sexual development. There is now a post-transition specifier for those living full-time as themselves with the help of one transition-related medical intervention.

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care (SOC) (Coleman et al., 2012) are a set of international guidelines for the care in working with trans clients, whose interpretations may differ based on national and regional context and health policies. The SOC have different eligibility and readiness criteria for different surgeries; the more significant the surgery, the higher the bar. Candidate recommendations for surgery are provided by a mental health professional with diagnostic powers (including psychologists and psychological associates) and special competency in Gender Dysphoria. Recommendations for gonadal and genital surgeries require two mental health recommendations and that clients be of legal age (18). Eligibility criteria for gonadal and genital surgeries is one year of continuous hormone therapy. A further eligibility criterion for genital surgeries is one continuous year of Gender Role Experience, where the person presents in their core gender in everyday public life, as part of a lived informed consent. There is also a set of readiness criteria for every surgery, which includes aspects such as having good mental health stability, social support, and knowledge of the intervention, its risks and a thoughtful aftercare plan. Requirements vary across provinces and territories, however, and individuals who are considering physical interventions are advised to consult with a local or regional mental health professional with competence in this area. Some provinces have identified providers or organizations empowered to carry out assessments for publically-funded surgeries. The Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH; contact information below) may be a useful resource.

There have been more recent provincial and federal policy changes to reflect the reality that some trans people, for a variety of reasons, do not have transition-related surgeries (TRS- also known by some as sex reassignment surgeries). For example, the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s case of XY (2013) found that the bar of needing TRS to change one’s sex designation on provincial identity documents was discriminatory and now a letter from a medical doctor or psychologist suffices. Federally, a changed birth certificate can now be the basis for a changed sex designation on one’s Canadian passport (2015). Some community members are calling for the option of a gender neutral identity marker.

What causes gender dysphoria?

The exact cause of gender dysphoria remains unknown. Researchers have been trying to understand how much of gender identity is the result of nature (biological influences) or nurture (social or environmental influences). There is evidence to suggest that both have a role. There are debates about at what age gender identity is considered fixed, however, many would generally agree this is around the time of puberty. This means for those who clearly meet criteria for GD, therapy will not change their identity, nor would it be considered ethical do try to do so. If indicated, a social and/or medical transition is considered the treatment of choice.

Although gender dysphoria has been viewed as a mental health issue in recent history, it was not always this way. Recorded history includes many descriptions of people, from a range of cultures, who did not fit into the simple categories of male or female. In some cases, these people were highly regarded by virtue of their insight into both female and male worlds (e.g., 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations, 2008). It is important to remember that the idea of two opposite sexes may be a recent, Western idea.

What is the Role of Psychologists?

The psychologist’s role in working with adults with gender dysphoria is varied and generally includes the following:

  • Assessing and identifying a client’s gender dysphoria;
  • diagnosing and providing treatment for any co-occurring mental health conditions (such as anxiety or mood-related problems) or substance use;
  • exploring with the client the range of treatment options and their implications;
  • determining readiness for hormonal or surgical treatments;
  • helping clients adjust to their changing life circumstances as they transition;
  • educating family members, employers, and institutions about gender dysphoria; and
  • advocating on behalf of individuals to ensure that school and work environments are accepting and accommodating of gender diverse adolescents and adults, and their gender expression.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Bauer, G.R., Scheim, A.I., Pyne, J., Travers, R., & Hammond, R. (2015). Intervenable factors associated with suicide risk in transgender persons: a respondent driven sampling study in Ontario, Canada. BMC Public Health, 15: 525

Coleman, E., Bockting, W. O., Botzer, M., Cohen-Kettenis, P., DeCuypere, G., Feldman, J, et al. (2012). Standards of Care for the health of transsexuals, transgender and gender-nonconforming people, 7th version. World Professional Association of Transgender Health.

Heylens, G., Verroken, C., De Cock, S., T’Sjoen, G., and DeCuypere, G. (2014). Reassignment therapy on psychopathology: A prospective study of persons with a gender identity disorder. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 11, 119-126.

Keo-Meier, C.L., Herman, L.I., Reiser, S.L., Pardo, S.T., Sharp, C. & Babcock, J.C. (2015). Testosterone treatment and MMPI-2 improvement in transgender men: A prospective controlled study. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 83, 143-56.

LGBT Health Program (2015). Guidelines and protocols for hormone therapy and primary health care for trans clients. Toronto: Sherbourne Health Centre.

2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations (2008). Our relatives said: A wise practices guide – voices of Aboriginal trans people. Toronto:


  • Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH). CPATH is an interdisciplinary professional organization devoted to the health care of individuals with gender variant
  • Rainbow Health Ontario. This provincial program offers educational trainings, public policy advocacy and an online resource database to improve the health of LGBT people and access to competent care.
  • Vancouver Coastal Health Transgender Health Information Program. This BC-wide information hub providing access to information about gender affirming care and supports.
  • World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH; formerly known as the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association). WPATH is an international multidisciplinary professional association devoted to promoting evidence-based care for transgender health. WPATH provides ethical guidelines concerning the care of individuals with gender dysphoria, as well as a membership directory and resource

Where can I get more information?

You can consult with a registered psychologist to find out if psychological interventions might be of help to you. Provincial, territorial and some municipal associations of psychology often maintain referral services. For the names and coordinates of provincial and territorial associations of psychology, go to

This fact sheet has been prepared for the Canadian Psychological Association by Nicola Brown, Ph.D., C.Psych., Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, ON.

Your opinion matters! Please contact us with any questions or comments about any of the Psychology Works Fact Sheets:

Canadian Psychological Association
141 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 702
Ottawa, Ontario    K1P 5J3
Tel:  613-237-2144
Toll free (in Canada):  1-888-472-0657

“Psychology Works” Fact Sheet: Chronic Pain

What is chronic pain?

Chronic Pain is pain that does not go away. When pain lasts longer than 3 or 6 months, or beyond the usual time of recovery, it is said to be chronic. Different types of chronic pain exist, many of which are not clearly understood. Chronic pain may be associated with an illness or disability, such as cancer, arthritis, or a phantom limb. Some types of pain start after an injury or accident and become chronic over time. Others may begin gradually, as is sometimes the case with low back pain. In some types of chronic pain, like migraine headaches, the pain is recurrent, rather than constant. There are many other kinds of chronic pain, such as postsurgical pain, fibromyalgia, and neuropathic pain. In some cases, the cause of the pain remains unknown.

Research indicates that between 10% and 30% of Canadians experience chronic pain. The direct and indirect costs associated with this are staggering, with estimates in the billions of dollars annually. Women tend to have slightly higher rates of chronic pain than men. People of all ages can experience chronic pain, but it is most common in middle age (for additional information about pain in the elderly, please see the CPA “Chronic Pain Among Seniors” Fact Sheet). Chronic pain can make simple movements hurt, disrupt sleep, and reduce energy. It can impair work, social, recreational, and household activities. People who have been injured in accidents may develop other symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. Chronic pain can have a negative impact on financial security and, in some cases, it can contribute to alcohol or drug abuse. It can also disrupt marital and family relationships.

Pain is invisible. As a result, many people who experience chronic pain feel misunderstood and/or alone in their suffering. Some people feel judged or stigmatized, whereas others believe pain is “all in their head.” Pain is, indeed, “all in the head” because the brain is located in the head, and the origin of pain resides in the brain. Because chronic pain can negatively impact quality of life and functional abilities, it is not surprising that more than a quarter of people who experience chronic pain also experience significant depression or anxiety.

Medications are often used to treat chronic pain. Indeed, medications can help, however, the suitability of long-term use needs to be carefully considered and monitored.

How can a psychologist help a person with chronic pain?

Psychologists focus on many aspects of chronic pain, including assessment, treatment, research, teaching, and advocacy. In terms of treatment, psychologists use several different approaches and techniques to help people with chronic pain improve their quality of life, regain their sense of purpose, and improve their functional abilities. Psychologists address important themes, such as acceptance and loss, and they help people with chronic pain through support, education, and skill building in areas such as relaxation, mindfulness, problem solving, goal setting, sleep, assertiveness, and adaptive thinking.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of psychological treatment that focuses on thoughts, feelings, and actions. It aims to help people think and behave in more adaptive ways. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), another psychological approach, focuses on acceptance, choice, and committed action. It aims to help people live in ways that are consistent with their core values. Mindfulness meditation is yet another approach that can help individuals with persistent pain. In all cases, a basic treatment goal is to improve functioning and quality of life, as opposed to eliminating pain symptoms. A vocational assessment examines a person’s interests, aptitudes, and abilities. It can be useful for individuals who may need to change the way they work or the type of work they do. Psychotherapy for anxiety and/or depression can be helpful for individuals experiencing chronic pain, as can treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, when required. Couple, marital, or family therapy can also be beneficial for addressing pain-related interpersonal difficulties.

Are psychological approaches effective?

Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of psychological approaches in helping people with chronic pain. Psychological treatments have been shown to improve quality of life and functioning in many life domains, such as activities of daily living, emotional health, and interpersonal relationships. Following psychological treatment, people report they are more active, more confident, and more in control of their lives, as well as less depressed and less anxious. In many cases, they endorse reductions in pain and physical symptoms. Even though people may continue to experience pain, it is often more manageable.

Although individual therapy may be offered, people experiencing chronic pain are often treated in groups where they are able to share their experiences with others. Because chronic pain is complex, psychologists frequently work in interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary teams comprised of other health care professionals, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, physicians, nurses, and social workers. Again, the primary treatment goal is to help people with chronic pain develop satisfying and healthy lifestyles. Interdisciplinary chronic pain rehabilitation programs are as effective in reducing pain intensity as medications and medical interventions; however, they are more effective in decreasing medication use, reducing health care utilization, improving functional activities, improving mood, and promoting return to work.

How can research help?

In addition to working directly with people who experience chronic pain, psychologists have contributed significantly to our understanding of chronic pain through many types of research. For example, some studies focus on reducing the incidence of chronic pain through injury prevention or early intervention programs. Other studies examine the effectiveness of chronic pain treatments. Some researchers examine how psychological variables influence pain and suffering, whereas others study the role of the central nervous system in a variety of chronic pain conditions.

Where can I get more information?

For information about chronic pain, you could contact the Chronic Pain Association of Canada ( or the Canadian Pain Society (

Information about pain in children is available at the web site entitled “Pediatric Pain – Science Helping Children” at Dalhousie University, .

Consultation with or referral to a registered psychologist can help guide you as to the use of the therapies mentioned in this Fact Sheet.

You can consult with a registered psychologist to find out if psychological interventions might be of help to you. Provincial, territorial, and some municipal associations of psychology often maintain referral services. For the names and coordinates of provincial and territorial associations of psychology, please visit:

This fact sheet has been prepared for the Canadian Psychological Association by Dr. John Kowal, a private practice psychologist.

Revised: January 2021

Your opinion matters! Please contact us with any questions or comments about any of the Psychology Works Fact Sheets:

Canadian Psychological Association
141 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 702
Ottawa, Ontario    K1P 5J3
Tel:  613-237-2144
Toll free (in Canada):  1-888-472-0657

“Psychology Works” Fact Sheet: Bullying Among Children and Youth

What is bullying?

Bullying among children and youth is defined as repeated, unwanted aggressive behaviour(s) by a youth or group of youths. It involves an observed or perceived power imbalance. It can result in physical, social, or educational harm or distress for the targeted youth.[1]

  • The power imbalance may be based on differences in size, strength, ability, popularity, appearance/body size, race/ethnicity, culture, religion, financial resources, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, or any other difference.
  • Bullying is a relationship problem. Over time, the person who is bullying feels more and more powerful and the person who is being bullied feels more and more helpless, shamed, and trapped.
  • Bullying requires relationship solutions. That is, solutions that create safety and social-emotional growth for those who bully, those who are bullied, and those who witness it.
  • Bullying happens most often when few adults are around (e.g., school playgrounds, hallways, cyberspace).
  • At least 1/3 of bullying is experienced beyond school boundaries (e.g., recreation settings, online).

Forms of bullying

  • Physical bullying: physical aggression such as hitting, kicking, shoving, stealing or harming property.
  • Verbal bullying: teasing, name calling, put-downs, shaming, threatening or humiliating others.
  • Social bullying: excluding others, damaging friendships, negative gossiping, spreading rumours etc. This is also known as indirect or relational bullying.
  • Cyber bullying: is the use of electronic communication technology to bully others. The technology itself creates a power imbalance. It reaches youth anywhere and at any time, messaging is instantaneous, the audience can be huge, and the messages can be permanent.

How common is bullying?[2],[3]

In 2018, a large and representative sample of Canadian youth in grades 6 through 10 were asked whether they have been involved in bullying over the last two months.

  • 36% of the sample reported they had been involved in bullying at least once over this time period.
    • 6% bullied others
    • 20% were bullied
    • 9% reported they both bullied others and were bullied
  • Being bullied is more common among girls than boys – approximately 1 in 3 Canadian girls are bullied.
  • Bullying others is more common among boys than girls.
  • Teasing or name calling is the most common form of bullying for both boys and girls.
  • Bullying rates in Canada have remained relatively stable over the last 12 years. Relative to other wealthy nations, Canada ranks in the middle in terms of bullying rates (23rd out of 35 nations).

Bullying – The role of peers

Observational research of elementary school children showed that bullying incidents occurred every 7 minutes on the playground and bystanders were present for 85% of these incidents.[4] Bystanders influence bullying dynamics in both ways:

  • When bystanders remain passive observers, this sends the message that bullying is acceptable. The bigger the audience, the longer the bullying incident lasts.[5]
  • When bystanders intervene, the bullying stopped within 10 seconds in 57% of observed incidents.[6]

Defending against bullying is a complex, social-emotional task for bystanders. They must recognize the event as bullying, take responsibility for helping, and have the skills necessary to intervene successfully. Research suggests that defending can take multiple forms[7]:

  • Comforting: Offering emotional support to the person being bullied.
  • Reporting: Telling a teacher or another adult about the bullying.
  • Solution-focused: Using assertiveness or problem solving to stop the bullying.
  • Aggressive: Using retaliation against the aggressor.

Youth should be encouraged to defend using the behavior that is safest and most effective for them in the moment. Boys tend to defend aggressively and may need help to develop more prosocial intervention strategies[6].

Who is at risk?

Of being bullied?

  • Those with few friends who are seen as unable to defend themselves
  • Those with a disability, neurodevelopmental difference, special healthcare need, intellectual exceptionality (both gifted and learning disability)
  • Overweight children and youth
  • LGBTQ children and youth report being bullied significantly more and more severely than other students[8]

Of bullying others?

  • Children and youth who believe that bullying is normal
  • Those who have friends who bully
  • Not all children and youth who bully are alike. Some are popular and socially skilled, while others have behaviour problems and few friends.

Dangers and psychological impacts

Bullying is a health issue. It is linked to both short and long-term mental and physical health problems and academic under-achievement.[9]  Strong and supportive relationships with parents, a caring and responsive school environment, and positive relationships with family and friends can all help protect against long-term harm. The harm related to bullying is related to:

  • Severity and frequency of the bullying behaviour
  • Pervasiveness of involvement in bullying (e.g., is bullying happening in just one relationship or place, or in many relationships and places?)
  • Chronicity of involvement in bullying (how long has the bullying gone on? Have there been other bullying problems in the past?)

Children and youth whose bullying involvement has been severe/frequent and/or pervasive, and/or chronic require the most intensive and focused support.

Research has documented many immediate and long-term negative impacts of bullying involvement[10]:

  • Negative impacts of bullying are significant and have been found across all cultures.
  • For some individuals, the impacts can last throughout life.
  • Lessons learned about the abuse of power in relationships from bullying may carry over to: sexual harassment, dating aggression, intimate partner violence, workplace harassment, child and elder abuse.
  • Children and youth who both bully others and are bullied tend to have the most severe and enduring problems, including the negative impacts in both lists below.

Negative impacts linked to bullying others[11]

  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Aggression and anti-social behaviour
  • Sexual harassment and dating aggression
  • Academic problems and increased school dropout rate
  • Delinquency and criminal behaviour

Negative impacts linked to being bullied[12]

  • Depression, anxiety, mood disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Low self-esteem and social confidence
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Poor peer relationships
  • Stomach aches, headaches
  • “Toxic stress” or enduring low grade systemic inflammation which is linked to disease[13]
  • School absenteeism and learning problems
  • Contemplating, attempting, or committing suicide

How can psychologists help?

In Schools?[14]

  • Provide training for staff members on how to promote healthy relationships and social climates, and to identify and address bullying issues.
    • After training, teachers report feeling more supportive toward children who are bullied and more confident handling bullying issues.
  • Recommend school policies that address prevention, intervention and evaluation. [15]
  • Develop intervention strategies for children who are involved in bullying problems that develop social-emotional capacity and skills. Counsel students and families dealing with impacts of bullying and victimization.

Those who bully others?

  • Help them recognize and understand the negative impacts of their bullying on others and on themselves.
  • Support understanding of human rights to safety, respect, and dignity.
  • Help develop the ability to control behaviour, resist peer pressure, and use problem solving strategies.
  • Help find ways to use their power in a positive way (e.g., identify leadership roles).
  • Find opportunities to engage in positive social experiences with a diverse mix of peers where the focus is on making a contribution to the greater good (e.g., peer mentoring, or peer mediation)

Those who are bullied?

  • Help develop an immediate plan of safety so they can feel comfortable attending school and participating in community activities.
  • Listen, empathize, and reduce shame and self-blame.
  • Help them understand and assert their human rights to safety, respect, and dignity.
  • Help find ways to build self-esteem, confidence and healthy interests.
  • Find opportunities to form positive friendships with peers.


  • Support understanding of human rights and healthy relationships.
  • Educate about bullying and its impacts on health and well-being.
  • Use role-play and scripts to teach bystanders specific skills for standing up to various bullying situations, instead of being passive or joining in.
  • Run workshops to build assertive communication skills and problem solving skills, and peer pressure resistance.

Where can I get more information?

Additional information about bullying can be found at  For downloadable resources, see Factsheets and Tools for Schools at

You can consult with a registered psychologist to find out if psychological interventions might be of help to you. Provincial, territorial, and some municipal associations of psychology often maintain referral services. For the names and coordinates of provincial and territorial associations of psychology, please visit:

This fact sheet has been prepared for the Canadian Psychological Association by Annie Tang, Dr. Joanne Cummings, Dr. Debra Pepler, and Kelly Petrunka, PREVNet.  This fact sheet was updated by Dr. Wendy Craig, Dr. Debra Pepler,  and Laura Lambe.

February 2021

Your opinion matters! Please contact us with any questions or comments about any of the Psychology Works Fact Sheets:

Canadian Psychological Association
141 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 702
Ottawa, Ontario    K1P 5J3
Tel:  613-237-2144
Toll free (in Canada):  1-888-472-0657

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Retrieved from

[2] Craig, W., Pickett, W, King, M. (2020) The health of Canadian youth: Findings from the health behavior in school-aged children study. Public Health Agency of Canada, retrieved from

[3] UNICEF (2020). Canadian companion to the UNICEF report card 16. Retrieved from:

[4] Craig, W. & Pepler, D. (1997).  Observations of bullying and victimization in the schoolyard. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 2, 41-60.   See: for a downloadable research summary of this article.

[5] O’Connell, P., Pepler, D., & Craig, W.  (1999) Peer involvement in bullying: Issues and challenges for intervention. Journal of Adolescence, 22, 437-452.

[6] Hawkins, D.L., Pepler, D., & Craig, W. (2001). Peer interventions in playground bullying. Social Development, 10, 512-527.  See for a downloadable research summary of this article.

[7] Lambe, L. J., & Craig, W. M. (2020). Peer defending as a multidimensional behavior: Development and validation of the defending behaviors scale. Journal of School Psychology78, 38-53.

[8] Taylor, C. & Peter, T., with McMinn, T.L., Schachter, K., Beldom, S., Ferry, A., Gross, Z., & Paquin, S. (2011). Every class in every school: The first national climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools. Final report. Toronto, ON: Egale Canada Human Rights Trust.  Retrieved from:

[9] Hymel, S. & Swearer, S. (2015). Four decades of research on school bullying. American Psychologist, 70, 293-299.

[10] Hymel, S. & Swearer, S. (2015). Four decades of research on school bullying. American Psychologist, 70, 293-299.
See also: Takizawa, R., Maughan, B., & Arsenault, L. (2014). Adult health outcomes of childhood bullying victimization: Evidence from a five-decade longitudinal British birth cohort. Am J Psy in Advance. Retrieved from
See also:  Ozdemir, M., & Stafttin, H. (2011). Bullies, victims, and bully-victims: A longitudinal examination of the effects of bullying victimization experiences on youth well-being. Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research3, 97-102.

[11] Farrington, D.P. & Toffi, M. M. (2011).  Bullying as a predictor of offending, violence, and later life outcomes.  Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health (21)2, 90-98. See also: Fergusson, D. M., Boden, J. M., & Horwood, L. J. (2014). Bullying in childhood, externalizing behaviors, and adult offending: Evidence from a 30-year study. Journal of school violence13(1), 146-164.

[12] Bowes, L., Maughan, B., Ball, H., Shakoor, S., Ouellet-Morin, I., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T.E., and Arseneault, L. (2013). Chronic bullying victimization across school transitions: The role of genetic and environmental influences. Development and Psychopathology, 25, pp 333-346.

13 Copeland, W. E., Wolke, D., Lereya, S. T., Shanahan, L., Worthman, C., & Costello, E. J. (2014). Childhood bullying involvement predicts low-grade systemic inflammation into adulthood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences111(21), 7570-7575.
See also: Rueger, S. Y. & Jenkins, L. N. (2014). Effects of peer victimization on psychological and academic adjustment in early adolescence. School Psychology Quarterly, 29, 77-88.
See also: Vaillancourt, T., Hymel, S., & McDougall, P. (2013). The biological underpinnings of peer victimization: Understanding why and how the effects of bullying can last a lifetime. Theory into Practice52(4), 241-248.

[14] Pepler, D. & Rodrigues, B. (in press). Bullying prevention: Re-imagining a non-violent and healing learning environment for all students at school. In E. Cole and M. Kukai (Eds.)
Mental Health Consultation and Interventions in School Settings: A Scientist–Practitioner’s Guide, pp. 339-357. Boston: Hogrefe Publishing.

[15] Ttofi, M. M., & Farrington, D. P. (2011). Effectiveness of school-based programs to reduce bullying: A systematic and meta-analytic review. Journal of Experimental Criminology7(1), 27-56.

“Psychology Works” Fact Sheet: Quitting Smoking

According to the most recent Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, about 4.2 million people in Canada over the age of 15 smoke tobacco. This is the lowest national smoking rate ever recorded, but is still about 15% of the adult population, with provincial rates ranging from 11% in B.C. to 20% in New Brunswick. Smoking is a leading cause of illness and early death in Canada, reinforcing the need to bring this national smoking rate down even further to allow all Canadians to live longer, healthier lives.

Quitting smoking reduces your chances of developing many physical conditions (e.g., cancers, heart disease, respiratory diseases). Quitting smoking also has a lot of mental health benefits. Compared with those who continue to smoke, people who quit smoking experience the following benefits for many years after quitting: less stress and anxiety; fewer symptoms of depression; more frequent positive emotions; higher overall quality of life; and feeling healthier in general.

Why is Smoking So Addictive?

Nicotine is the major addictive chemical in cigarette smoke and acts very quickly in your body, reaching your brain in about 10-20 seconds. Within about 2 hours of finishing your cigarette, nicotine levels in your body drop by 50%. This leads to cravings, feeling anxious or irritable, and generally feeling ‘down.’

Nicotine affects a number of important chemicals in your brain and body, which can boost your mood, reduce stress, make you feel energized, and even reduce pain. However, these effects are short-lived and most common in new or occasional smokers. This is because your body adapts to these changes over time, resulting in a need to smoke more over time in order to feel any of these effects – or just feel ‘normal.’

Although nicotine is very addictive, it’s not the only reason why people have trouble quitting. For regular smokers, lighting up a cigarette is often part of a routine. Whether you smoke after dinner, on work breaks, or when socializing, smoking in response to daily triggers can make it more difficult to quit.

What Treatments Are Available?

Quitting smoking involves managing the physical symptoms and breaking the links between smoking and how you feel, what you do, with whom who you spend time, and how you see yourself. As a result, it often takes many attempts, and many treatment types, before you’re able to quit successfully.

Quitting “cold turkey” is one of the most common approaches, but it’s also one of the least effective. A number of treatments are proven to help make your quit attempt a success:

  1. Behavioural Therapy: These treatments target the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours that support an addiction. Common therapies include cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and functional analytic therapy.
  2. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT): NRT comes in two forms: slow release (e.g., nicotine patch) and rapid-delivery (e.g., nicotine gum, inhalers). NRTs help to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms by releasing small amounts of nicotine into your body, but are not addictive.
  3. Prescription Medication: In Canada, two major prescription drugs are used to help people quit smoking: varenicline and bupropion. These drugs affect nicotine receptors in your brain and help to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Varenicline also helps to make smoking less pleasurable.

Note: You should always consult a doctor for information on the risk of side-effects or interactions before using NRTs or prescription medications.

What Works?

Varenicline is the most effective on its own, but all three types of treatment work. While using at least one of these treatments can boost your odds of successfully quitting by as much as 80%, research shows that the best way to quit is by combining treatments. The two most successful combinations are:

  • Combined NRTs, which involve using a combination of a slow-release NRT (e.g., nicotine patch) and a rapid-delivery form (e.g., nicotine inhaler).
  • Combined Pharmacotherapy and Behavioural Therapy. You can boost your chances of quitting by using pharmacotherapy (i.e., NRT or prescription drugs) while getting help to quit from a licensed mental health professional (e.g., registered psychologist).

Quit-lines and online help, whether on their own or combined with other treatments, can also increase your likelihood of staying smoke-free.

What Doesn’t Work?

Aversion therapies (e.g., smoking until you feel sick), alternative tobacco products (e.g., chewing tobacco, snuff, e-cigarettes, and alternative therapies (e.g., hypnotherapy, acupuncture, and natural herbs and remedies) don’t improve your odds of quitting.

How Can I Help Myself Quit?

Whatever route you choose, keep in mind that it can be incredibly difficult to quit smoking. Even if it takes you many tries, you can eventually succeed.

Whether it’s your first attempt or your fifth, psychological research shows that there is much you can do to make your quit attempt a success:

  • Set concrete and realistic goals (e.g., set a specific ‘quit date’).
  • Start using treatments before you quit.
  • Tell your friends and family that you’re quitting and let them know how they can help.
  • Embrace change in your daily routine, social circle, and motivations.
  • Find a buddy who is also trying to quit.
  • Gradually reduce your smoking before you quit.
  • Start by reducing the amount you smoke.
  • Reward yourself, even for small gains.
  • Make a plan to deal with withdrawal symptoms (e.g., headaches, sadness, irritability, anxiety) in the first 1-4 weeks after quitting. These are signs that your body is recovering.
  • Follow the 4 Ds to help deal with cravings: Distract yourself, Drink water, take Deep breaths, and Delay smoking for as long as possible.
  • Get active.
  • Keep your focus on what you don’t enjoy about smoking rather than what you enjoy.
  • Forgive yourself if you have the occasional cigarette.
  • Keep yourself busy.
  • Understand your triggers and learn how to manage them.
  • Replace cigarettes with other things, activities, and people that you enjoy.
  • Re-identify yourself as a “non-smoker” or “former smoker” to your friends, family, co-workers, and yourself.
  • Accept that this will be difficult for a while, but the rewards will last a lifetime.

Where Can I Go For Help?

Your family doctor can help you to develop a plan for quitting, figure out which treatments might be most effective, and refer you to other health care professionals who can also help you quit smoking. Doctors can also advise you on the safety of NRTs and medications (e.g., side-effects, interactions).

Registered psychologists can help you develop a plan for quitting and provide therapy that will help you quit. Psychologists can offer a variety of effective therapies and will work with you to figure out which one is likely to work best for you. Check with your provincial or territorial psychological association at to find a psychologist in your area who can help you quit smoking.

Health Canada and the Canadian Cancer Society offer a free, confidential ‘quitline’ at 1-866-366-3667. Their telephone counsellors are trained to provide support and help you create a plan for quitting.

You can also seek online help at, which includes support forums, information on treatments, self-help resources, and a mobile app.

This fact sheet has been prepared for the Canadian Psychological Association by Matthew Murdoch, Canadian Psychological Association.

Date: August 2016

Your opinion matters! Please contact us with any questions or comments about any of the Psychology Works Fact Sheets:

Canadian Psychological Association
141 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 702
Ottawa, Ontario    K1P 5J3
Tel:  613-237-2144
Toll free (in Canada):  1-888-472-0657

Psychology Month Profile: Dr. Christine Chambers

Dr. Christine ChambersDr. Christine Chambers
Dr. Christine Chambers is part of the #ScienceUpFirst initiative, the Scientific Director at the CIHR Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health, and many other things. The biggest change for her during the pandemic might be as the Scientific Director of SKIP (Solutions for Kids in Pain).

About Christine Chambers

Dr Christine Chambers

Busy mom of 4, PhD Psychologist, Scientific Director @CIHR_IHDCYH ,  Scientific Director @KidsInPain , Professor & Tier 1 @CRC_CRC  in Children's Pain @DalhousieU

  • Christine Chambers’ Twitter bio

You’ll note that the first word in Dr. Christine Chambers’ Twitter bio is ‘busy’. It’s a shame that Twitter bios allow a maximum of 160 characters only…or maybe it’s a blessing? By the time people finished reading hers, they might have no time left for doomscrolling! That’s also why we have profiles such as this one, which, as you will note, has no character limit whatsoever.

I feel lucky to have been able to spend half an hour speaking with Dr. Chambers. When I first started at the Canadian Psychological Association, I had made plans to meet with Dr. Chambers in the spring of 2020, when she would be in Ottawa for a conference. Back then, that was how meetings worked – you would wait until you were in the same city, then you would squeeze in some time. Things operate a little differently now but with Dr. Chambers, even on Zoom it’s still about squeezing in time.

Dr. Chambers is speaking with me just after one Zoom meeting and just before another, each one involving a different hat she wears. One of those hats is as the scientific director of Solutions for Kids in Pain (SKIP).

“SKIP is a federally funded national mobilization network, focused on moving research into practice. We received funding for four years, so our first year of operation was in the ‘before-times’. - In that first year we laid groundwork, developed relationships, built momentum. The pandemic hit just as we were entering into our second year of operation. It’s fascinating, both in terms of the areas of focus that we’re engaging in right now, but also just the process of knowledge mobilization.

How research gets moved into practice is based a lot on relationshipsand bringing people together. In our first year we had so many workshops, and we played a key convening and catalyzing role in bringing people together on a number of issues in physical spaces. All of a sudden you lose your ability to do that. Thankfully we had a lot of partners in SKIP who were already in the digital space either with health providers or with parents, so we had the right tools and the ability to leverage those.

From a content perspective, obviously vaccinations are a huge topic right now. In the area of children’s pain, vaccination pain evidence is very robust. Anna Taddio and others like Meghan McMurtry (also a psychologist) have pulled together this evidence and there’s a clinical practice guideline. So we’ve been doing a lot of public engagement around needles, and how to prepare for needles.

Virtual care has obviously also been something people in the healthcare space have been engaging in in new and different ways, and Katie Birnie – also a psychologist in SKIP – has been leading some really interesting work in this space.

Another thing though, and every health person is struggling with this right now, is how do you keep your issue (in my case pain) a priority in the middle of the pandemic? We were working to improve pain management in Canadian health institutions, now we have to figure out how to keep that issue a priority while competing against all this very important focus on the pandemic. So it’s been a hell of a year!”

Dr. Chambers says she’s been pleased and surprised at how well the team at SKIP has been able to keep pain front and centre, and how well institutions are responding. There have been many champions for this cause working for many years, and the disruption of COVID may actually have made things a little easier. One, because a lot of people in the healthcare space are re-constructing their practices in a different way, and two, because talking about pain and pain management gives those health institutions a bit of a break from talking about the pandemic.

Another hat Dr. Chambers wears as an expert with the #ScienceUpFirst initiative, combatting online disinformation around the pandemic, the vaccine, and more. (See our profile of Dr. Jonathan Stea for more details on #ScienceUpFirst.)

“This is a fantastic collaboration led by Tim Caulfield and Senator Stan Kutcher, and I was thrilled to be one of the psychologists that was an early joiner. I’ve been using social media for a number of years to help promote the work we’re doing and to raise awareness with a particular focus on parents. So it’s been really nice to be a part of this group addressing misinformation head-on. I have my eye on the types of misinformation that gets shared around children and families. It’s a wonderful group of people trying to make sure that evidence (in my case psychological evidence) is embraced and accepted.”

Some more hats. Dr. Chambers is a professor at Dalhousie University. She runs a research lab where they generate new knowledge about children’s pain. And she is also the Scientific Director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health.

“It has been a busy year! It was going to be a busy year before the pandemic, but the pandemic really took it up a notch. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity engage in so many different roles, and I tell people I’m definitely not bored during the pandemic! And also I think that never before has Canadian science and global science been on such a stage. Never before have we needed science more, or have needed to communicate the role of science. So it’s important that psychologists have visibility, and that the psychological evidence be generated and shared. I’m always trying to put up my psychology flag at every table I sit at, and reminding people of the value of psychology.”

Dr. Chambers has four kids between the ages of 9 and 14. Several years ago, she realized that all this research – research she had been instrumental in creating – was not being used to the benefit of her own children. It was then that she started getting into the mobilization side of things, the advocacy and media and policy veins. This involved creating videos, becoming active on social media, and ensuring that knowledge moves to where it needs to go and it led to a career of many hats.

“All this great psychological research is wonderful, but if it sits in journals, or in conferences, and doesn’t actually get out into the hands of people who need it, then what was the point?”

Passing of Dr. David R. Evans

The CPA Board and staff are saddened to announce the passing of Dr. David Evans, a past-President of the CPA (1996) and an Honorary Life Fellow. Dr. Evans was a professor emeritus at Western University, having been a professor in the clinical psychology program at Western for 30 years. Dr. Evans consulted to many health and police agencies over the course of his career and served on the leadership of several organizations of psychology provincially, nationally and internationally. Among his many publications, he is well known for his most recent books The Law, Standards, and Ethics in the Practice of Psychology (3rd ed., Carswell); Essential Interviewing (8th ed., Brooks/Cole); Cultural Clinical Psychology (Oxford University Press) and the Handbook of Clinical Health Psychology (Academic Press). The CPA extends its condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. The discipline and profession is built on the contributions of its leaders.

Black History Month: Dr. Olivia Hooker

Dr. Olivia Hooker with President Obama
As a psychologist, Dr. Olivia Hooker worked to change the unfair treatment inflicted upon inmates at a New York State women’s correctional facility. In 1963 she went to work at Fordham University as an APA Honours Psychology professor, and was an early director at the Kennedy Child Study Center in New York City.

About Olivia Hooker

Olivia Hooker was six years old when she lived through the 1921 Tulsa race massacre in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma. She went on to become the first Black woman in the US Coast Guard, joining during World War II in February of 1945. She later went back to the Coast Guard, joining the Auxiliary in Yonkers, NY at the age of 95 in 2010.

Her GI benefits allowed her to get a Masters from Columbia University, followed by a PhD in psychology at the University of Rochester.

As a psychologist, Hooker worked to change the unfair treatment inflicted upon inmates at a New York State women's correctional facility. In 1963 she went to work at Fordham University as an APA Honours Psychology professor, and was an early director at the Kennedy Child Study Center in New York City.

Honoured by the American Psychological Association, the Coast Guard, President Obama, and a Google Doodle, Olivia Hooker died in 2018 at the age of 103.

Psychology Month Profile: Mélanie Joanisse

Mélanie Joanisse
When the pandemic began, Dr. Mélanie Joanisse created a simple, easy, and funny Guide to Wellness for her frontline co-workers at the Montfort hospital. It immediately took off and has been shared and translated around the world to help healthcare workers everywhere.

About Mélanie Joanisse

Mélanie Joanisse

“I wrote this in what I would call a hypomanic phase…as psychologists, we always have to pathologize any kind of creativity.”

Dr. Mélanie Joanisse was still processing the fact that she was not going to be able to attend a Pearl Jam concert when she had something of a viral moment in the early days of the pandemic. Can we still say ‘going viral’? Or has that phrase now passed out of the lexicon like so many others before it that conjure unwelcome memories? Anyway, a lot of people suddenly found Dr. Joanisse’s work. Like, a LOT of people. Her ‘Guide To Wellness’ was being discovered.

“I got a call from the communications director at the Montfort hospital, who said ‘what was your marketing and communication strategy for this? [Mélanie laughs heartily] I was like…none? She said we were being bombarded with messages from people who said they like it, and I was starting to receive a lot of emails – even from people in Europe – saying ‘we like this, can we translate it?’ And so I said sure, go for it! So the communications team at the Montfort helped me to create a creative commune so people would understand that they could just take it.”

Dr. Joanisse’s has a private practice in Ottawa, but does a lot of work at the Montfort Hospital, Ontario’s only francophone hospital. When the pandemic first hit, she saw at the Montfort the stress that the staff was experiencing. The sudden worry among doctors and nurses. The occupational therapists and social workers who were wearing masks and gowns, something they would never have done before. It was all hands on deckand changed how everyone was working. She wanted to do whatever she could in her capacity as a psychologist to help.

“As a psychologist I’m not trained in acute care – no one would want me in the ER! So I figured maybe doing a guide would be helpful. I was reading a lot online, and there are a lot of good resources, but I was just picturing a physician or a nurse or an RT sitting down with a list of 25 papers that they could read on wellness. I just pictured them shutting down their computers and saying ‘I don’t have time or the capacity for this’.”

So Dr. Joanisse set about writing something that encompassed as much as possible about the evidence-based ways to wellness, but to package it in a more engaging way. Visually attractive, a little bit funny, and representative of what frontline healthcare workers were experiencing. An easily-digestible light read, rather than another arduous undertaking.

“The only mask you should be wearing is a medical mask; please discard the infallible mask, as research has shown it suffocates its users.”

  • From the Guide To Wellness

The humour in the guide comes from Dr. Joanisse herself. She’s extremely funny, in a very natural way, and that good humour has helped her get through this pandemic and all the setbacks. Like the Pearl Jam concert she missed – her first realization of how big COVID-19 was going to be was that cancelation. Or, more recently, the Chiefs loss in the Super Bowl – her husband is a huge Chiefs fan and just after they were married they flew to Kansas City to take in a game at Arrowhead. In 2019, moments before the pandemic really took hold, the Chiefs finally overcame decades of ineptitude to deliver a Super Bowl victory to fans like Mélanie’s husband.

“Last year when they won, it was pre-pandemic so we were at a friend’s house for the Super Bowl. He got up and spontaneously screamed ‘this is the best day of my life!’ There was a silence, and everyone looked at me. I was like, sorry daughter…birth…wedding…I’m just putting that in my pocket. The next time I spend I don’t know what on what, I’m bringing that card out!”

Now, after watching her husband celebrate the greatest day of his life, Dr. Joanisse is something of a Chiefs fan too. This is perhaps more because of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the French-Canadian starting right guard with a doctorate in medicine who left the Chiefs in the offseason to join the front lines of the pandemic back in Montreal. Just the kind of person who might benefit from the Guide to Wellness.

Dr. Joanisse still sees stress in her co-workers at the Montfort. Now, it’s not the stress of uncertainty that existed at the beginning of the pandemic, but rather a stress borne of long hours, fluctuating numbers, a desire for the pandemic to be over, and sheer exhaustion. She’s heartened, however, that many have taken her Guide To Wellness to heart – not only at her own hospital, but at institutions around the world.

“Now I know people in Hawaii, BC, all over the world. All types of different healthcare workers have reached out to me. It has been quite the experience, I have to say. And very moving, to know that this has touched people in that way.”


Psychology Month Profile: Khush Amaria

Khush Amaria
MindBeacon had a bit of a head start on other similar groups when the pandemic began, as they had already been providing online services for some time. Dr. Khush Amaria is the Senior Clinical Director at MindBeacon, and the last year for her has been packed with speaking engagements.

About Khush Amaria

Khush Amaria

“My Zoom background used to have my Parent Report Card up there but I took it down because I wasn’t doing very well – my cooking skills were poor, there were many problems.”

Dr. Khush Amaria’s Zoom background now has a bar graph made by one of her children, which really is ideal – it’s homey, warm, colourful and comforting – but also scientific! Just the atmosphere she probably wants to evoke for CBT Associates and MindBeacon.

If you are a resident of Ontario, a pop-up window appears when you go to the MindBeacon website. ‘Free therapy for Ontario residents! MindBeacon’s Therapist Guided Program is now free thanks to funding by the Government of Ontario.’ They were always providing live therapy through a digital stream with the CBT Associates division of the company, but it was restricted to Ontario only. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they have expanded their Live Therapy program (now capitalized and official) across Canada, and the Ontario portion is now free thanks to government assistance.

“The one thing that is so clear to me is the demand. In the summer we may have seen about 800 new accounts created each week. In the fall that number was reached close to 2,000 new accounts some weeks. It’s indicating that Canadians are struggling, but that they’re not waiting – they’re reaching out for help right now.”

Dr. Amaria is the Senior Clinical Director at MindBeacon and manages the CBT Associates side of the business. During the pandemic, that has meant she does a huge amount of speaking engagements. Companies who reach out looking for an expert in stress, or anxiety, or depression, get Dr. Amaria’s full attention, as she walks them through some of the steps they can take to alleviate the difficulties of their employees. She gets them to understand what level of help they might need, and what supports are available.

“Sometimes it’s a company that will come to me and say, ‘we’re all feeling a little concerned about each other, and we don’t know how to know if our colleagues are doing well’. So what I often do is talk about how we identify stress in ourselves. A common topic might be ‘what is burnout vs. just feeling burnt out?’ How can you be there for others? For me that’s a really nice way to make psychology and the science of psychology understandable to the day-to-day person. My intention with almost every single event I’m part of is to have people feel like they can walk away with a plan.”

That plan may be that they research the thing Dr. Amaria was talking about. Or they’re going to reach out to a friend that they think might not be doing so well. Or that they themselves will reach out because they’re not doing well. It’s always about reminding people of the supports that are available, and destigmatizing mental health – recognizing that mental health is an integral part of everyday health.

In March of 2020, MindBeacon was one of the companies chosen by the Ontario government to provide services quickly and on-demand to Ontarians, which meant that Dr. Amaria and her colleagues expanded their roster of psychologists, and other mental health professionals, very quickly.

“We had to figure out really quickly how we could build our roster, and we brought on psychologists but we also brought on registered social workers. We needed to be able to deliver services, and our psychologists could then be involved in places where diagnosis was required, or helping with triaging, or oversight. Our psychologists are involved in developing protocols. We recognized that some people don’t fit the criteria of having a depressive disorder or being anxious – but they have stress! So we launched this amazing managing stress protocol in the fall because many people just needed to ‘tweak’ their stress management skills. That was a psychologist who wrote that out and put that material in there. That’s the nature of what we do.”

Another major thing that happened during the pandemic was that MindBeacon went public. Dr. Amaria is a psychologist, still does clinical work, oversees the residency program at CBT Associates, speaks to large groups and does a lot of work as a spokesperson for the company. What she does not do is IPOs and the stock market.

“I’m not sure I really understand most of it – but the most amazing thing about it was the attention that this garnered, and the investment coming back into us as a company to continue to support Canadians. So that’s been really neat.”

When GameStop stock took off, and Wall Street was all in an uproar, Dr. Amaria says she got the Coles’ Notes version of it from her husband, presumably during one of those moments when she was not doing one of the many jobs she has at the moment. Maybe during one of the forced getting-outdoors breaks they take with their school-age children. Taking care of stress levels and mental health is something clinicians have to remember as well.

“I remind myself I need to take a dose of my own medicine in a way. In a week I might talk to 1,000 people about stress management, and share examples from my own life. It’s about recognizing that we’re all in it together, and we do really have to work on mental health. Nobody is immune – it doesn’t matter if you’re a psychologist or a therapist, taking care of your mental health is effortful, and we all have to do something.”

For some of us, doing something means reaching out to a friend, or taking a walk outside. For others, it might mean reaching out to Live Therapy from MindBeacon. Maybe doing something is as simple as learning something new. Like improving one’s ‘cooking skills’.

Black History Month: Inez Beverly Prosser

Inez Beverly Prosser was a Texas native who taught in segregated schools in the early 1900s. She travelled to the University of Cincinnati to obtain her doctorate in 1933, making her the first Black woman with a PhD in psychology.

About Inez Beverly Prosser

Very little is known about Inez Beverly Prosser, a Texas native who taught in segregated schools in the early 1900s. Her state's universities were segregated, so she travelled to the University of Cincinnati to obtain her doctorate in 1933, making her the first Black woman with a PhD in psychology.

Sadly, Dr. Prosser was killed in a car accident a year after earning her PhD, but her dissertation was widely discussed for years afterward. She found that Black students in segregated schools had better mental health and social skills than those in integrated schools - in large part because of the prejudicial attitudes of the white teachers in those integrated schools.

Psychology Month Profile: Helen Ofosu

Helen Ofosu
Dr. Helen Ofosu runs IO Advisory in Ottawa where she helps organizations and businesses tackle structural racism and promote equity, diversity, and inclusion. During the pandemic, more and more groups are looking for this kind of assistance and her business is growing.

About Helen Ofosu

Dr. Helen Ofosu

“There are certain people who, pre-pandemic, were super-productive and making amazing contributions at work. But because they weren’t bragging, buttering up the boss, or charismatic, they were overlooked. But now, when everyone’s at home, it’s easier to track who is contributing – who is sending in work product. So, all the “doers” are kind of getting their chance to shine.”

Dr. Helen Ofosu is writing a book. The working title is The Resilient Career, and will impart lessons she has learned over a 20 year career in Work and Business (Industrial/Organizational) Psychology. It will be a resource for people dealing with underemployment, harassment, workplace scapegoating, or being a newcomer to Canada trying to adapt to a new culture in the workplace. A lot of the book will be about employees’ identities, and how those tie into career progression, as well as some insights around the “glass cliff” phenomenon (i.e., women and racialized people being more likely than men to achieve leadership roles in an organization in times of crisis, when the chance of failure is much greater).

It may seem like writing a book during the COVID-19 lockdown is something a person with a lot of time on their hands would decide to do. That does not seem to be the case for Dr. Ofosu, who is an HR Consultant, Executive Coach, and Career Coach who runs I/O Advisory Services in Ottawa. Much like the employees she sees getting more recognition for the work they do during the pandemic, Dr. Ofosu is getting more recognition as well. The bulk of her clients were once in Ottawa, but now that Zoom is the de facto way to connect she is working with companies all over Canada, and sometimes the US and Saudi Arabia.

An additional reason for that branching out is the newfound focus companies are placing on systemic discrimination, anti-racist workplaces and restructuring their policies around equity, diversity, and inclusion. That happens to be Dr. Ofosu’s specialty – what she refers to as a ‘passion project’ turned full-fledged business line. This process is taking something of a different turn now as well, with the pandemic forcing this kind of coaching to be done at a distance. At the moment, this is mainly taking the form of mentorship and sponsorship programs for employees.

“My favourite model is one that I’ve been experimenting with and tweaking – it’s blending mentorship with allyship. At the same time that we train mentors to be more effective working with racialized people with whom they may not have a lot of experience, we’re also going to train a second group of people called ‘allies.’ These are people who may be senior and well-intentioned in the organization, but who don’t have the time to dedicate to either a one-on-one protégé or a small group of protégés. But they can still benefit from some training around systemic discrimination and what it means to be a good ally and mentor. They can then be out there in their organization as resources and influencers on more of an ad hoc basis.”

The mentors and the allies both receive the same kind of training – but while the allies tend to have giant workloads and full calendars and therefore less time to dedicate to this sort of thing, the mentors commit to six month or year-long programs where they check in with Dr. Ofosu regularly.

Mentors are ideally people in leadership positions in the organization. They are people with good ‘soft skills’ (e.g., communication, empathy, judgement, strategic thinking, etc.) and a genuine interest in supporting the career development of more junior employees. This way they will be more effective at imparting the lessons learned to the rest of their teams.

It was shortly after the death of George Floyd that a group in Toronto reached out to Dr. Ofosu, and it’s with this group that she has been developing the mentorship program as it stands today to support communication, marketing, and PR professionals in Canada. Now the federal government has caught wind, and she’s working with them to get this program launched there as well.

That likely means more work, which might also mean less time working on her book. But Dr. Ofosu will find the time, while still taking the occasional break. One of the perks of living in Ottawa is all that free time outdoors taking long walks and shoveling snow, where she puts on her headphones and listens to R&B, gospel, and hiphop music. Then she’ll come back in refreshed, ready to work on that book (with support from her American editor) and to get busy supporting leaders and dismantling structural racism at organizations across Canada.