For Connie with the Heart of a Lion

The Mane Intent

Connie Oates has the heart of a lion. Because of that, I am grateful. Lions are natural leaders, encouraging us to be bold, be wise and be brave. Sometimes we need the strength and support of a lion to provide direction and to support our growth. Connie is that person for me.

Connie is a Clinical Psychologist at Peterborough Regional Health Centre with over 20 years of experience. Almost a year ago, Connie stepped up, offering me a practicum at Peterborough Regional Health Centre beginning in January, 2021. As my supervisor, she provided me with an opportunity to support families and youth served by the Pediatric Outpatient Clinic and the Family and Youth Clinic. I needed to complete this eight-month practicum to finish my Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology (which I completed in August)! This was a memorable experience, shaping who I am as a psychotherapist.

Connie is committed to providing a safe therapeutic place for children, youth and families to learn and practice new skills, strengthen relationships and connections, and explore new perspectives and insights. Her approach is strengths-based and informed by mindfulness, family systems, cognitive behaviour therapy, and developmental approaches. Connie and I also share a love and appreciation for horses.

My practicum experience has gifted me with a greater appreciation for the complexity of therapy and the therapeutic relationship and for the student and supervisor relationship. The student and supervisor relationship is very different from any other professional exchange I have experienced to date in my career.  I have great respect for Connie and her wisdom and experience generously shared through my practicum.

Young (2017) notes that a student-supervisor relationship is characterized by a mutual respect, a sense of teamwork, safety and trust to allow honest feedback and disclosure, and a sense of shared purpose. All of these factors were present in my relationship with Connie. I am grateful that she had the courage and leadership to advocate for my practicum in the midst of a pandemic when many organizations were no longer supporting students.

When I put out a public call for help in securing a practicum, she displayed natural leadership and stepped up to take me on as a student.  In the absence of office space, she offered up the use her office on Wednesdays to see my clients in clinic. I am incredibly grateful for this generous act of service to support my education. Much like the experience of therapy, this practicum invited me to be vulnerable, open to possibility and to experience humility.

I appreciated that Connie created a safe space for me to challenge and to be challenged, to be vulnerable, and to learn without feeling shame for the tears that were part of the discomfort of learning at this age and stage of my career. This experience heightened my understanding of the need for and value of supervision as a therapist at any stage of development.

Connie was generous with her feedback and this recognition and encouragement supported the development of my confidence as a therapist. In my opinion, the experience of connecting with a caring, validating and regulated supervisor will have a long term ripple effect for my work as a therapist. Thank you Connie — for being a lion for me.

Reference: Young, M. (2017). Learning the art of helping: Building blocks and techniques (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

About the Author: Jennifer Garland is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) and the Owner/Program Director at The Mane Intent, offering individual psychotherapy,  equine-assisted therapy, teambuilding and leadership development, and health and wellness workshops. Jennifer’s intent is to bring horses and humans together in nature to explore new possibilities and find new meaning in lived experience.