Sarah Pearson PhD (c), MMT, Dip SCP, RP (CRPO# 003835)
About my approach
I am an eclectic, humanistic therapist. This means that I draw on a variety of modalities to support each client and that every client’s journey looks different, but that I also work off of the assumption that every person has an innate ability to be well, given the right support.
Read below to learn more about me and my approach to therapy, or reach out to inquire more.
If I had to sum it up, I’d say my approach to therapy is: attachment-focused, trauma-informed, humanistic, and justice-oriented. The modalities I have trained in and draw upon include: Emotion- and Emotionally-Focused therapies, Somatic Experiencing, Gestalt, group psychotherapy, brief therapy, solution-focused therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Internal Family Systems, BodyDreaming, mindfulness-based therapies, and psychodynamic psychotherapy.
- Attachment-focused: attachment theory explores the way we learn to seek out safety in relationships. It is shaped by early childhood experiences but can change throughout our lives and depending on who we are relating with. My advanced training in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples (in 2018-19) gave me a solid foundation by which to work with attachment both individually and in dyads. Clients and I often look at how learned attachment habits are shaping recurring life patterns (ie. feelings of “why does this keep happening to me??”), and explore how we can address core underlying attachment needs can shift those patterns. Ultimately, I believe that learning to experience secure attachment within ourselves is not only possible, but is the foundation for experiencing secure attachment with others.
- Trauma informed: As humans we are biologically wired to do hard things, but we are also wired to do hard things with support. Trauma, an ever-growing buzz-word on social media, is what happens when we experience strongly adverse experiences and we didn’t get the support we needed at the time to recover from them. Much about modern life under capitalist structures has an inherent traumatic effect on our nervous systems: we increasingly live in isolation, with growing pressure to respond to stimuli and little reward for rest. For me, being a trauma-informed therapist means that I come to sessions with an awareness that we all likely have some trauma in our nervous systems, and a curiosity about how to provide the conditions to experience a bit more support so our bodies can return to their natural state of being in connection. While I have studied a variety of approaches to trauma-informed practice, including narrative therapy, internal family systems, and mindfulness-based therapies, I am currently most influenced by the work of Peter Levine and Somatic Experiencing (as of 2022 I have completed two years of SE education with over 150 hours of training in this modality). I also humbly learn from the long-held knowledges of various cultures, particularly Indigenous nations on Turtle Island, as well as the wisdoms of my own ancestral lineages, about how to heal community trauma, and how to heal individual trauma in community.
- Humanistic: this is a big word, but it refers to a whole approach to therapy that centers experiential, relational ways of being in the therapy (zoom) room. It focuses less on a client’s problems and pathologies and more on who they actually are. It also focuses on the experience of being in relationship with the therapist in the moment – what comes up for us? What do we need to feel supported? How does that translate to all our other relationships? As a humanistic therapist, I draw on the “here and now,” often inviting a client to get more curious about what it feels like to talk about something that happened in your life, rather than focus so much on the content itself. My master’s degree in music therapy, as well as my year-long training in Gestalt therapy, were all highly humanistic.
- Justice-oriented: I strongly believe that individual wellness is inseparable from community justice. In this late-capitalist era of climate collapse and ongoing colonization, much about our everyday lives are inherently traumatizing. I try to work critically with the therapy tools I have been taught, exploring with my clients where they can heal and help and where these tools may be complicit in further marginalizing them. I believe that activism can play an essential role in mental health, and that ethical mental healthcare must look always explore the wider systems of oppression that contribute to individual mental health struggles. Paying reparations to communities harmed by social work and psychotherapy practices, especially Indigenous communities, is an important part of how I manage the financial side of my business. Therapy is political. There is a fine line between being supported through, and being criminalized for, life’s struggles. Race, class and gender will almost always play a role in where that line gets drawn. As a white settler I am on a committed and imperfect path to towards anti-racism and Indigenous allyship.
About my practice
I work with individuals 18 years and over, and sometimes with couples. I welcome folks of any gender, and have experience working with people in a variety of consensual relationship styles. Since the pandemic, I have been seeing the majority of clients online or by phone (with the helpful support of my two cats!), but in-person sessions are available in Uptown Waterloo.
Some common reasons people seek therapy with me are: relationship struggles, existential distress, depression, anxiety, grief and loss, low self-esteem, trauma (including complex childhood trauma), surviving gender-based violence, or generally feeling stuck in life. Usually after a first session, I can give you a sense of where we may be able to go with our therapy together. I will tell you if I feel there are resources that may benefit you that I can’t offer, and support you to find what you think works for you.
I have been working as a therapist since 2013, and I have been in private practice since 2017, seeing individual clients and couples for psychotherapy. I was also a music therapist at Grand River Hospital from 2013-2021. While I don’t really use music therapy techniques anymore in my private practice, I am still informed by the many powerful experiences of being embodied, creative, and in relationship though music, which are experiences that still inform my counselling today.
I intentionally keep my private practice small enough that it can remain flexible and focused on maintaining strong relationships with clients. I don’t hire associates or have plans for how to “scale.” I keep overhead low and choose to invest profits back into in my own professional development. My greatest teachers by far are my clients, and I am regularly blown away by the courage and strength of the people I work with.
I live on the Haldimand Tract on the traditional Territories of the Anishnaabe, Haudenoshaune and the Neutral Peoples. My home is in Downtown Kitchener, though I grew up in the beautiful city of Montreal. My pronouns are she/her (though I don’t mind “they”). I like to read, make music, do a variety of movement and sporty stuff, swim in lakes, plan events, tend to my plants, and drink all the coffee. I love a good Netflix binge and a good thrift-store haul. My favourite books that I read in 2021 were: Station Eleven, Heavy, and The Great Believers.
I have a master’s degree in Music Therapy, a graduate diploma in Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy, and I am a doctoral candidate in Social Work. In addition to that, I have over 600 hours of continuing education and professional development as a psychotherapist beyond my post-secondary education. I really enjoy being able to see a few clients a day and then plug away at my doctoral research, which is examining the impact of gender-based violence in professional music communities – it honestly feels like the perfect balance and I am extremely grateful for this.
To me, being a psychotherapist is an art as much as it is a trade, and my learning is lifelong. I engage in regular continuing education and professional development, as well as clinical supervision and peer supervision.
While I deeply love this work, I also strongly believe that therapy is not the only way for people to heal. In fact, I believe that often therapy leaned on far too much to “fix people” rather than fix systemic problems. Still, having good individual support is an important part of creating just societies, just as just societies generally produce healthier people.
Reaching out for therapy
To get in touch, inquire about booking a session, or just learn more, please visit my contact page.