Spotlight: CPA Campus Representative Kaytlin Constantin

Kaytlin Constantin photo
photo credit Bianca Sabatini Photography

One of these days, and hopefully sooner rather than later, Kaytlin Constantin is going to kick someone in the ribs. She was scheduled to compete at a kickboxing tournament in May, but it got postponed. And postponed again. And postponed once more. She’s looking forward to the day it actually takes place, but is hoping she will not be competing in the 55-and-older division by the time it does. Rib-kicking is much worse for you when you are 55 and older. In the meantime, kickboxing helps with confidence, and with determination. Kaytlin says,

“A trainer I once had told me ‘What doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you.’ So when I’m going through a tough time I tell myself this, that maybe it’s an opportunity for growth. To me it means, some goals can be hard, but that it also means you’re growing toward something or achieving something.”

Despite the ups and downs of 2020, Kaytlin is still growing toward something. She is, like the rest of us, kicking it at home. She is a CPA Campus Rep at the University of Guelph, which means she’s involved in all aspects of the campus rep program. She describes it as being the middle person for all the other reps. That means organizing and helping the other student reps to fulfil their duties, being a liaison between students and the university, and also between students and the CPA.

The Campus Rep job is primarily about making connections and helping navigate processes. Students who want to become CPA Student Reps, who want to present at the CPA Convention, or who are looking to submit articles to Mindpad, the newsletter publication written, edited, and published by the CPA Section for students.

Kaytlin did her undergrad degree at Lakehead, where she was a CPA Undergrad Rep. That means she’s been repping the CPA for about five years now, and seems to have no intention of stopping here.

“When I was an undergrad rep, I led a workshop for other students to help them create posters for the CPA convention. It was the first experience I had in more of a leadership role. Learning what the CPA convention is all about, and becoming familiar with the guidelines and expectations, was a big step in my journey to take on more leadership roles and duties.”

Perhaps Kaytlin’s lengthy involvement with CPA helped paved the way for her success. As a fourth year PhD Candidate in clinical child psychology, Kaytlin holds a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, one of the most prestigious awards available for Canadian graduate students. With this funding, she has been working on her dissertation, supervised by Dr. Meghan McMurtry in the Pediatric Pain, Health and Communication (PPHC) lab, which focuses on better understanding the way parents respond when their child is in acute pain, like during a needle procedure. Related to this, she and a team of clinicians and researchers have been working on a virtual intervention for parents and children, to help kids manage their fear of needles. Which, it turns out, is an even more timely research project than anyone could have imagined nine months ago.


What is the psychological concept that blew you away when you first heard it?
The idea of self-compassion, recently, has been huge for me. The notion of responding to your own pain and suffering with the same warmth and kindness that you would to a friend. What’s amazing is how strong an effect that can have on someone’s overall well-being. I used to think being critical of myself made me a better student, researcher, clinician. But I’ve come to realize through my work in this program, and through my research, that self-compassion is an empowering and beneficial psychological skill to practice.

Favourite book
I have a favourite type of book. I like memoirs and autobiographies. I like learning about peoples’ life experiences, and I think that when someone has had a very different life experience from your own, to learn about that person’s life and to develop more perspective. Recently I’ve read Educated by Tara Westover, and Born A Crime by Trevor Noah.

Favourite word
Right now, I think I’d have to say ‘certainly’. I’ve always struggled with my confidence, and appearing confident in my work. And I feel like sometimes adding the word ‘certainly’ can help me feel more confident.

If you could spend a day in someone else’s shoes who would it be and why?
I’m going to say AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). I think she’s just phenomenal, and her advocacy around racial, economic, social justice, environmental issues is so inspiring. I would love to be able to pick her brain one day, or just shadow her for a day to see what her days are like and what her strategies and approaches are for the work she does.

If you could become an expert at something outside psychology, what would it be?
Probably something related to politics or policy works. I feel really passionate about making psychological services more accessible. Often in my day-to-day work, I feel that a systems-level change is needed, and we can’t separate health, including mental health, from socio-economic and demographic factors. And so, I think that it’s important for those of us in a position where we have a voice to be able to advocate and work toward making services more accessible and inclusive.

Kaytlin always knew she wanted to work with children, and is well on her way to doing so. Growing up in the small Northern Ontario mining town of Marathon, she never thought the path to working with children would have been psychology – her only exposure and knowledge of the discipline was through movies and television. Like the therapist who shows up in some episodes of Law & Order: SVU. But a particularly inspirational high school English teacher began to speak about the human condition, and the human mind, in the context of Shakespeare and other classic works. That teacher told Kaytlin about all the various paths psychology could provide, and she determined she was going to learn about the mind, and why people do what they do. Now here she is, just a few years later, preparing a five-week therapeutic intervention to help kids manage their fears.

Growing up in such a remote community, Kaytlin has been keenly aware of some of the impediments to receiving psychological services. She knows first-hand how geographic location can be one of the biggest barriers to receiving needed care and attention. With the intervention she’s planning, she sees the benefit of tele-psychology, especially for people in more remote locations. She also sees the more rapid embrace of technology, accelerated by the pandemic, that has allowed some of those barriers to be lessened.

Ah yes, the pandemic. It’s sort of impossible to talk to anyone now without discussing it in some way. It’s keeping us cooped up inside, preventing us from meeting at large conventions, and canceling kickboxing tournaments indefinitely. Kaytlin is taking it all in stride, and says she has been lucky enough to be able to work from home, continue with her dissertation and clinical activities, and carry on with her duties as a CPA Campus Rep, like organizing workshops – it’s just that now, they’re over Zoom. She’s especially interested in getting other students involved, whether they be collaborating with another psychology student association or signing up to be a CPA Undergrad Rep.

“It’s a great opportunity for networking, as well as a chance to develop some more leadership skills. Getting connected with other psychology student associations, becoming informed about what kind of psychology initiatives they’re involved in, and helping support and promote a community in psychology has been a wonderful experience.”

And the kickboxing? It seems like one of those sports that would be difficult to do while maintaining physical distancing. To keep up with training, does Kaytlin have anyone in her bubble who could be a willing (or unwilling) sparring partner?

“I have had to get creative…I think maybe some friends from my gym would be willing to mask up and hold pads to train, we’ll have to see! Life does go on!”

Life does, indeed, go on. Kaytlin will get her PhD. More people will connect to psychologists through remote internet platforms. Children will overcome their fear of needles. And some day, hopefully sooner rather than later, Kaytlin will earn points in competition for kicking someone right in the ribs.