Feb 27, 2019
Heather Kent and Jaguar
Animal-Assisted Therapy
Animal-Assisted Therapy

I have worked within public and private secondary and post-secondary institutions as a Student Services Counsellor, and have also offered services as a Child and Family Therapist in Northern Ontario, where I provided individual, family, group, and couples’ therapy. I have also offered trauma-based counselling services to women who have been in abusive relationships. I have experience working with clients presenting with a wide variety of challenges, including anxiety, addictions, early psychosis, PTSD, eating disorders, depression, abuse, relationship issues, grief, discrimination, suicidal ideation, mood disorders, and academic challenges. I also have experience in working with complex cases of clients suffering from co morbid illness (e.g. alcohol use disorder and anxiety disorder, anorexia nervosa and obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and depression).

My counselling practice to date has provided me with opportunities to pursue further clinical training in cross-cultural and trauma-based approaches. I recently completed the Refugee Mental Health - Focus on Syrian Refugees course offered by the CAMH Refugee Mental Health Project, as well as the Trauma Assessment and Treatment certificate program through Safeguards Training for Children and Adult Services, which included a particular emphasis on sexual assault trauma in children and adolescents. Additionally, I completed previous trauma training in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Somatic Experiencing. These professional learning opportunities have provided me with a rich theoretical framework for understanding and addressing trauma physiology; they support mood regulation, the reworking of addictive patterns, and the prevention or resolution of PTSD.

Prior to my counselling training and graduate studies, I completed Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degrees from Queen’s University. I previously worked as a secondary school teacher and a college/university instructor in Nova Scotia and Northern Ontario for eleven years, which has provided me with an in-depth knowledge and understanding of child /adolescent / emerging adult development, as well as common mental health and substance use challenges among this population.

My Style & Approach to Therapy

First and foremost, my primary concern is to provide my clients with a space that is safe, welcoming, and open. Establishing a relationship of trust and collaboration is the foundation of my therapeutic approach, which is guided by a client-centred focus. Each of us experiences and interacts with the world differently, and we each have our own unique story to share. As such, I believe that my clients are their own best experts, and that each individual has the ability to create lasting positive change in their lives.

From a trauma-informed lens, I strive to be aware of the effects of power and privilege that may impact a client’s experience of events, and I am passionate about helping my clients to feel empowered and hopeful, as they discover their personal strengths and resilience within themselves. I also believe that the body is the most powerful resource that we have, and that we can learn much from the body by reading its signs and listening closely to what it is telling us.   

In a collaborative fashion, I hope to assist clients with an approach that is integrative and holistic, drawing largely from attachment, emotion-focused, narrative, body-centred and mindfulness-based philosophies, as well as some dialectical and cognitive-behavioural approaches, when needed.  I believe that each of us has the capacity within ourselves to achieve personal growth and lasting change.  From this perspective, I devote attention to building on existing strengths and personal resources, and incorporating specific client goals for change into therapy.

(*Note: I also practice Animal-Assisted Therapy with specific clients who would benefit from the presence of a professionally trained therapy dog. Jaguar is a black Labrador Retriever, and is often used as an adjunct to therapy in cases of trauma, anxiety, depression, and in assertiveness training work.)