Welcome, Emily Pollak, Social Worker!

I am excited to introduce Emily Pollak, private practice Social Worker focusing on maternal mental health and family counselling in Niagara.

I had the pleasure of getting a call from Emily a few months ago, welcoming me to Niagara, and letting me know how excited she was to see another health care professional who worked within a framework of family-centred attachment-based support.  After chatting for a bit, it was clear I’d found an amazing new connection in Niagara, and it came at a time when I was beginning to feel quite alone professionally, and had begun wondering whether there were any professionals in Niagara who had this paradigm.

Emily’s work is exciting to me: she focuses most of her practice on mothers of young children and offers outdoor workshops, walk-and-talk sessions with clients, and a strong message of connection and nurturing one’s children and oneself.  She’s a real innovator in how she supports clients.

I asked Emily the three questions I’ve been asking each person when doing a profile on Nurture Squared, and she included a beautiful background about her journey to the point she is at now.

I’m so glad Emily reached out in the winter. It has also been wonderful to get to know her even better through her story.

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As I think about these questions I naturally find myself reflecting on my life and the journey I have been on.  There are a few words that come to my mind: motherhood, determination and drive.

Ever since I was a young girl I have had an innate drive to be a mother. My little brother would tell you that I always mothered him to his disdain. I dreamed of being a mom and having my own children. My mom would remind me to enjoy being a kid and not to wish my life away. Those words still resonate with me to this day.

When I was 10, I decided that I wanted to volunteer at a local nursing home. I contacted the volunteer coordinator on my own and requested a volunteer assignment. The coordinator was surprised by my age and said that they did not have any volunteers my age. My determination remained strong and I insisted on an interview which she kindly granted. I prepared a resume, which I wish my mom had kept because I wonder what I had put on it. I remember dressing up in what I considered interview attire  and brought  a clip board with my pre-planned questions.. At the end of the interview the coordinator offered me a position being a friendly visitor with two residents. Success! If I had taken no for an answer that opportunity would not have happened.

It’s funny to think about what your life will be and then what it becomes.

I was in my final year in the Masters of Social Work program when I unexpectedly met my husband on vacation. I lived in the States and he was in Canada. We fell in love. At the completion of my MSW, I found a job and moved to Canada. This was not what I had planned when I thought of my life. I was away from my family, friends, supports, and community. If you know me, I like safety and security, and here I was going outside of my comfort zone.  I took a job at an agency doing a role that I said I would NEVER do.

What did I learn in this? I discovered my resiliency to go outside of my comfort zone in pursuing something that was meaningful to me. I learned that life happens.

Fast forward to my journey into motherhood.  I have two beautiful boys, almost 2 and 4.

As I mentioned, my maternal instinct has always been strong. Naturally, I dreamed of being a mom. What I thought being a mother would be and what it is- is difficult to explain. I had views on how I would parent such as my baby would sleep in a crib and I would “never” do this… but then when I became a mom, I went against what I thought being a mother was supposed to be and did what felt innate to me. This felt like a deep internal struggle,  as society has these socially constructed norms, and how I was parenting was going against what I had been exposed to. I was terrified of SIDS and I wanted my baby to be safe, but to me that meant being with me. I spent so much time researching information, as the public health agenda did not provide me with the tools for informed decision making. It took me several months to move out of the fear and into feeling empowered by my parenting choices.

As we settled into parenthood, we also  went through difficulties including a miscarriage and then a horrible pregnancy. My pregnancy  was traumatic due to health complications related to hyperemisis gradivium. I was anxious, depressed and felt so very alone. It is from this experience that I decided I needed to do something about the gap in services for Maternal Mental Health.

Once again I found myself taking a risk. My  family of four relocated to the Niagara Region. We put down our roots. I opened my private practice in December 2017 with a clinical speciality of maternal and family counselling.

What has been (or is) a big hurdle for you, personally, in developing your business, and what has helped?

It was a huge risk  being a new clinician to the Region and opening my private practice. I think in life it’s important to recognize our own strengths and limitations as well as our life experiences and how they have shaped us. When it comes to developing my business, I am still as determined as I was at 10. I am a  woman who is breaking through barriers and building my way.  This includes my advocacy work related to maternal mental health.

What has been (or is) a big accomplishment for you, personally in your business?

I think my accomplishment is being true to myself.  I have pursued a career path that aligns with who I am and what I believe in. I am doing my “soul” work.

It’s imperative to me that women feel safe being their authentic self when they come to therapy. I value parents and believe  they are expert of their family. My office is a judgement free zone.  I am proud of that.

What has been the single most helpful shift you’ve made to continue to feel your life at home still reflects your values and priorities?

As a mom of two young children and balancing the demands of being a business owner, I am learning my own boundaries. I am setting limits which means prioritizing what I can take on. I have had to say “no” which is not always easy. The time with my children is precious to me. This moment in time passes by in the blink of an eye.  I do not want to look back on my life with regrets. As my mom has said don’t rush your life away- so I am trying to just be in the moment.

 

Emily’s website is emilypollak.ca and she has an office in St. Catharine’s.

 

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