February is Psychology Month. To celebrate, we spoke with some of Kinark’s psychologists as they shared insights into their career journeys and the motivations that fuel their commitment to serving others as compassionate leaders. Psychologists play a crucial role in supporting individuals’ mental health and well-being, and understanding their perspectives can offer valuable insights into the challenges and rewards of the profession.
We spoke to Dr. Burek, a Staff Psychologist at Kinark Child and Family Services, to learn more about her journey in the field of psychology and its rewards and challenges.
What made you decide to pursue a career in psychology?
Like others who pursue helping professions, I came to psychology with some lived experience and a natural inclination towards offering a listening ear to others. I love people – learning about people, caring for people, talking with people, and supporting people to feel more empowered. Wanting to become a psychologist and actually getting the chance to become a psychologist are different. I have a lot of privilege that made it easier for me to become a psychologist than other folks experience. I take that seriously when considering how to spend my privilege as a psychologist now.
What is the biggest challenge that you face in your line of work?
Children, youth, and families live within a bigger context that really impacts their well-being. Working in community mental health, we get to empower families to make meaningful changes in their own lives, which is important. We have also gotten better at recognizing the social determinants of health, understanding their impact on people’s lives, and finding ways to lessen their impact through collaborations. The big challenge is finding sustainable and effective ways to directly address social determinants of health to support folks’ wellbeing and mental health. Big challenges require people and systems that are persistent, hopeful, creative, and collaborative for the long haul to make change.
What is the most rewarding aspect of the current work that you do?
Working alongside families and colleagues who are hopeful for change, collaborative, curious, hard-working, and resilient in the face of it all. I am grateful for the opportunity to share space and energy and time and emotions and learning with lots of other people in the work that I do.
What has been your most memorable day in your career as a psychologist?
It’s usually the extremes of emotional experience that get lodged in our memories. I think of moments of big fear as I went through my training, sitting in sadness with people who’ve lost something important to them, and times where emotions were so big and jumbled up and overwhelming that it all felt out of control. What I love calling to mind are perfectly silly things that kids have said to me and the warm wave of relief in caregivers when they feel understood and able to help their kids.
Why is Psychology Month important to you?
Psychology month is important because it gives us a time to reflect on our profession and the ways that psychology as a discipline has gotten things right and wrong over time and renew our commitment to continuous growth in our work. The exact numbers of Black and other racialized psychologists in Ontario or Canada is not formally tracked, but the consensus is that there are far fewer than are representative of our diverse communities (Ofosu, 2023). It is very hard for Black and racialized people to access a Black or racialized Psychologist if they want to and that can impact their mental health care. Increasing inclusion and reducing barriers for Black, Indigenous, and other racialized folks in the field of psychology is something we need to work harder at, especially by rethinking our policies and systems (see Faber et a., 2023 for recommendations for change). The Black Psychology section of the Canadian Psychological Association has a mission to promote and advance practitioners, educators, students, and scientists of psychology who identify as Black and who are concerned about psychology-related issues that impact Black people, and I encourage folks to check out their IGNITE newsletter.
What advice would you give to the next generation of psychologists?
Connect with your peers and colleagues, both within the profession of psychology and outside. Care for yourself and each other and our planet. I can’t wait to meet you!
Kinark Child and Family Services offers a doctoral residency program in child clinical psychology, supporting psychology students with clinical training using a science-practitioner model. To learn more about this program and to discover other opportunities to grow your career at Kinark, go to https://www.kinark.on.ca/join-the-kinark-team/.