Kristina Schwalm-Bacquet comes to Darou Wellness with over ten years experience in clinical mental health. She is a therapist, supervisor and instructor in CBT and Mindfulness based therapies, both evidence-based and widely recognized as gold standards in psychotherapeutic treatment in vast areas of mental health.
What do you love most about your job?
Working one-to-one with people everyday is a true honour. There is nothing more valuable than being a part of that change and expansion that takes shape throughout the therapeutic process.
I am incredibly passionate about my clients and feel so grateful to be a part of this work.
What do you think are the 3 most important ingredients of a successful psychotherapist?
Intense focus and attention
Fostering change and growth
Why did you choose to become a therapist in the first place?
I always knew I wanted to work supporting people in emotional struggle. It is just so evident that psychological suffering is everywhere and that it is something most of us cannot overcome on our own. Since recognizing the tremendous impact of the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy intervention, I have been committed to using these tools to help people gain mental wellbeing.
After preparing for a career as a therapist, what caused you to begin a specialization in CBT?
Early on in my career I completed a degree in Philosophy – specifically epistemology and metaphysics that’s focused on the nature of perception and the nature of reality. I became focused on the role our perception plays in our response to external difficulties. The problem with stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, any mental health difficulty really, is that the lens through which we receive information becomes altered and unclear. I learned that we can train our brains to develop different patterns of perception and reactions, and as a result, develop an emotional state that allows for wellbeing and resilience, even in difficult circumstances. I saw this in my own life as well as my work with others, and I found that CBT offered a straight-forward and direct route to these enormous internal changes.
I got comfortable with most of the major therapeutic interventions and eventually centred my practice on CBT simply because of the incredible changes that are possible with this therapy. CBT doesn’t miss any of the impactful nuances of the other interventions, but provides the structure for direct and long term change.
What was it like for you early in your practice, and what sorts of lessons did you have to learn?
I think the initial challenge for any therapist is to learn how to effectively foster direction and therapeutic change with various different personalities. I’ve had many clients tell me that a previous therapist was “nice” but that they didn’t see enough significant change in their difficulties. I am committed to fostering a therapy room with enduring warmth and non-judgement, where needs for therapy are met. It is imperative that you trust me and lean on me indefinitely, and that you leave knowing there has been significant growth and change.
What clinical issues do you tend to see the most of, and why?
I tend to see a lot of depressive and anxiety symptoms, a lot of the time in people that don’t necessarily recognize they’ve been struggling with these issues. Sometimes people are going through a brief period where coping has become a difficulty. Other times people have been struggling to cope with low mood and fears their whole lives without necessarily labelling them as such. In these cases, often people have come to believe there is something wrong with them instead of recognizing that there are treatable symptoms that have potentially been causing a lot of undue pain. I likely see issues with low mood and anxiety most because they are so incredibly prevalent, but I work with a wide range of mental health difficulties.
Do you ever feel that an issue you see is too complex to deal with, if so, what do you do when this happens?
Nope. Even if I am confused at first, in my view, there is nothing that the two of us can’t find a way to untangle and work with together. I think that most of us are incredibly overwhelmed by our own difficulties and struggles. Once we can take a step back and observe the patterns of difficulty, then we can apply the appropriate tools to work through them.
What are some other things to know about you?
I am mainly from Toronto, but have lived all across Canada. I have a love for travel, observing new places, languages and customs but my favourite place in the world is Manitoulin Island, Ontario, particularly in the late summer, when the water in Georgian Bay is finally warm enough to swim in! I am an avid practitioner of mindful meditation, and I adore making pottery on the wheel.