Psychotherapist Mary Charron did something about one month ago that she often encourages her clients to do: push yourself to do something that scares you.
After 17 years working for others in Canada and the United Kingdom as a clinical social worker and therapist, Charron took “a scary jump” and launched her own private practice at a downtown Newmarket collective known as York Wellness.
“I feel if you’re not doing scary things, you’re not growing and developing as a person,” Charron said during an interview in a cozy, second-floor therapy room at her new 78 Main St. S. digs. “You have to push yourself to do things scared. If that’s the kind of thing I’m encouraging my clients to do, then I should be practising what I’m preaching.”
Charron specializes in working with children, youth and families on issues related to mental health, family conflict, parenting support, trauma, depression and anxiety, mood disorders, self-harm and life transitions. She also has experience supporting the families of loved ones with psychotic disorders.
It is a field she gravitated toward after working at a homeless shelter in Hamilton as part of a high school co-op program when she was 17.
“That was it for me and I just knew right there, I adored it, and from there I just kept going,” she said.
The member of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers earned a social services worker diploma, and a bachelor and master of social work degrees from Dalhousie University. Charron plans to follow up that education with a PhD in the future, she said.
One of the striking differences in working with clients in a private practice is the flexibility to break out of silos and provide therapy and support for a family as a whole, Charron said.
“Trauma is a big one. I work with a lot of kids who’ve experienced trauma and different forms of abuse. And I support children with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and anxiety,” she said.
“Sometimes the parents need to see me separately because they’ve got a lot going on. In order for them to be the best caregivers possible for their children, I may need to work them on their past, their history of trauma. Otherwise, you can get this intergenerational trauma that occurs and we can sometimes pass these things on to our children unwittingly. Some parents need support for that.”
The mom of two young children, who moved to Newmarket two years ago for its small-town feel and big-city amenities, said she is particularly interested in the research that is being done in the field around trauma.
“I think all the trauma research and how it can affect the brain and be connected to mental health concerns, and different kinds of triggers, is a huge part of that mental health piece that we’re working with,” said Charron.
As a therapist with almost two decades of experience, Charron has noticed changes and trends that include children coming into therapy at a young age.
“I see more younger kids now than I did even five years ago,” she said. “I see children and youth presenting with complex problems, family issues, drug addictions, ADHD and autism. There’s a lot more of that.
"I don’t think it’s because children are getting these things more frequently, but the more the general public is aware, the more we’re allowing people to get help early, and early intervention is critical with children and youth because their brains are still developing.”
For children with anxiety, for example, heading back to school can cause a little more than the jitters, Charron said.
“One of the things that can help children is the planning,” she said. “Get them into a routine before school starts. Sometimes it can be as simple as if they feel concerned about where their class is, take them to school before the first day, or try to arrange with another parent to meet up with their child so they have a buddy at the door.”
Those kinds of fears are real for a child and parents shouldn’t brush those feelings by saying things such as “don’t worry, don’t be silly, it’ll be fine”, Charron said.
“We want to approach things with empathy and compassion. Let them talk through those anxieties. Problem-solve with them if they’re worried they won’t have anyone to sit with at lunch to help eliminate the fear of the unknown,” she added.
When a child’s fear interferes with daily life, however, and is ongoing with him or her withdrawing, crying or losing interest in activities, parents may consider reaching out to a professional.
“I’m not here to tell people what to do. I’m here to guide you,” Charron said.
York Wellness was founded by Victoria Freeman and Joanna Anderson as a collective of clinicians who provide compassionate mental health services, including treatment, group support and workshops.
Mary Charron Therapy offers clients individualized treatment plans tailored to needs and goals. Modalities include cognitive behavioural therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy, brief solution-focused therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and therapeutic approaches including mindfulness, therapeutic arts, and play therapy with children.