By Erica Pulling, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University
Jen Thompson is a Clinical Social Worker and yoga teacher. She combines her experience in the two areas in her practice at Exhale Therapy Services, located in London, Ontario.
Jen completed an undergraduate degree in social justice and peace studies at the University of Western Ontario, and her master’s degree in Social Work at Laurier University. Throughout her schooling, Jen stayed active in the yoga world, as both a student and through teacher trainings. After completing her master’s degree, Jen began working full-time in child welfare. While she enjoyed her work, she missed the therapeutic aspects of clinical counselling. Additionally, because of her yoga experience, she knew how well the two fields could work together and wanted to be able to combine them into a new form of therapy. However, leaving the comfort of a full-time job with benefits seemed like a scary leap!
After five years at child welfare, Jen began taking on clients part-time outside of work. She slowly transitioned into fewer days a week with the welfare department and more hours at her own practice. Finally, she gave notice and went full-time with her own practice.
According to Jen, a typical day now involves seeing four to five clients a day for an hour each, and teaching a yoga class at the Moksha studio. Treatment for each client is completely unique depending on what the client needs. With some clients therapy may involve a lot of one-on-one counselling, others may require activities like yoga or therapeutic art. Her favourite part of the job is when she can connect with a client and begin to see a transformation happen in their life.
In addition to seeing clients, there is also a lot of work done behind the scenes, such as doing consultations and replying to emails. The business component was something that was completely new to Jen when she started seeing clients, and she has had to learn a lot as a result. One important lesson she has learned is that you can’t do it all! Jen outsources different areas of her business to people who are trained to do them, such as accountants and website designers. She also has a lot of interactions with her peers for consults and referrals. Jen has also networked with other professionals in the community, such as an Art Therapist and Reiki Practitioner.
While Jen is currently the only person practicing this form of therapy, she has received a lot of interest in learning about it from other social workers. As a result, she is currently working on developing a curriculum on her therapeutic technique so that more people can learn it and it can become more available. Currently Jen’s practice has become so popular that she has a waitlist of patients waiting to receive treatment.