By Emma Kushnir, WorkStory Ambassador
Lanie Schachter-Snipper’s adventure in life and academics has been vast and amazing. After finishing her undergraduate degree from McGill University in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, she took a huge break doing various jobs ranging from teaching first grade in Honduras to running a cultural art tour business in Cuba. She then went back to school at the City University of Seattle for a Master’s degree in Clinical Counselling and Psychology, and finally to Yale School of Medicine to complete a fellowship in the Forensic Drug Diversion Program.
Now settled with a family in Toronto, Lanie is working as a full time clinical counselor for Shepell.fgi providing assessment and crisis intervention for employee assistance. But her real baby is a non-profit organization Upfront Counselling and Management that she and a criminal defense lawyer founded in 2014. The organization provides psychological support for court-involved individuals who are charged with crimes involving aggression, with a primary focus on domestic abuse and substance abuse. Offenders are referred by their lawyer, and partake in individual or group counseling that is therapeutic in nature, which is different than other organizations that exist in Toronto.
When asked why she got into the profession of psychology especially after so much different work, she answered that “from a young age I was always interested in deviance, people who broke the law, and crime in general.” As for the making the decision to do a masters program in psychology, she divulged that she applied to many different types of masters and international programs because she knew she needed to do something and was interested in a lot. She explains “in my case it really worked out and my work is really rewarding. I can’t imagine doing anything else, but it is very challenging and draining, and can be overwhelming.”
Speaking about the many challenges that comes with the job, she explained that boundaries are hard, “I am fairly good at having a challenging work day and not spending a ton of time thinking about it, so having good self care and maintaining healthy boundaries is very important.” She also clarified that you must set realistic clinical expectations “you have to be realistic of what you can accomplish with people such as those who are living in poverty. One of the hardest things is knowing there are limits to which you can help people.”
Though with the challenging, comes the rewarding. She explained that “everyday I work, I get some feedback that the time I have spent talking to a client has been positive in some way. Whether there is an opportunity to vent or validating feelings, on a daily basis, even if it is subtle, I see the work I’m doing is meaningful to someone. There are moments today at the very least, this person isn’t going to kill themselves. Plus there is always new stuff coming up like new protocols and approaches, which makes it not the very least boring.”
As for people who are interested in this line of work her advice is: “you have to understand how complex people are, no matter how much learning you will do, every single person is unique and needs special attention. In this field you need a certain amount of stamina, energy, and a lot of compassion.” For others seeking out what to do, Lanie offered the advice: “Don’t rush. It can be easy to hurry into things because careers are appealing, but the importance of the in-between gets lost, and it’s an important time. I took so long to figure out what I wanted to do. Meet people travelling, work in different places and environments. Explore and be curious, and learn as much as you can about the wider world and your community. The more experiences you have, the better you will be in any job.”