Toronto Team

Cara Samuel, M.Sc.

A long time ago, on my first day of training as a crisis counsellor, I was asked to write my most guarded secret on a piece of paper. I was then instructed to fold it up and give it to another trainee sitting next to me. The anxiety and shame I felt were overwhelming, my heart raced as they cradled my vulnerability in their hands, terrified that they would open it and read what I had written. We were told that in therapy, as in this exercise, we are trusting a complete stranger with our most sensitive wounds and insecurities, and this has never left me. I understand the complex and sometimes difficult emotions that can arise when taking the first step into therapy, from fear to curiosity to apathy, and how challenging it can be. I see therapy as space first and foremost for you – a warm and non-judgmental space to encourage discovery, connection and compassion. I’ve been honored to accompany many individuals and intimate partners on their journeys, and I look forward to learning how I may best accompany you.

In individual therapy, I have extensive experience with clients who have experienced a distressing or traumatic event (e.g. sexual assault, violence, emotional and childhood abuse), and difficulties with anger and emotion regulation. I support clients who find it difficult to trust others, fear abandonment or neglect, or feel taken advantage of. I work with clients who are experiencing multicultural issues: discrimination, fear of losing one’s culture, or feeling isolated. I also support clients experiencing challenges related to sexuality, sexual orientation, gender or relationship orientation. In therapy with intimate partners, we may work on relationship concerns such as feeling too disconnected or too close, sexual functioning, difficulties in communication or emotional expression, reoccurring patterns of conflict, or experiences of betrayal or infidelity. I welcome clients of all socio-cultural identities (e.g. race, sexual orientation, gender, ability, culture etc.). As a multi-racial woman who has worked for several years at the intersections of diversity and mental health, I am comfortable working with people from diverse backgrounds and consider how structural inequities impact our daily lives.

When we first begin therapy, it’s about getting to know each other. I will be open and honest with you about my therapeutic approach and clinical assessments and welcome your questions and feedback throughout so we can work together productively. Taking an integrative approach, I will pull from different therapies and theories in order to adapt my approach to you personally. This may involve focusing on the interactions between your thoughts, emotions and behaviors, or the patterns of how you relate and connect in your relationships. In other cases, we may work on awareness of your emotions and how they affect your experiences, or the process of learning more about what you want in life and what’s important to you. Or we may work on self-compassion, and how to lean into and learn from our emotions, for example. No matter the approach, our time together will be based in empathy, compassion, and authenticity, and I will share strategies for how to bring what you learn in therapy into your daily life. 

Over the last several years I provided mental health services to adults and intimate partners in various settings: Klinic Community Health’s mental health crisis, suicide, trauma therapy, and short-term therapy programs; and Vancouver Island Health Authority’s mental health and substance use programs. In addition to my position at CFIR, I am currently partnering with the Arctic Child & Youth Foundation in Nunavut to provide culturally-appropriate and trauma-informed services to families affected by violence. I am also a certified yoga instructor, with a focus on trauma healing and restorative practices; and a certified doula, supporting pregnant people and their partners. I also am involved with This is Table Talk, an initiative that uses community storytelling to promote mental wellness, and restorative justice. These roles teach me how to think outside the box in terms of what we consider “therapy”. This may include therapy that brings us more in touch with our bodies, our creativity, or our culture, and opens the door to exploring what exactly mental health and wellness, and consequently therapy, means to you.

I have published several papers in peer-reviewed journals and presented in many conferences. Some examples of my research include re-conceptualizing trauma-related symptoms such as dissociation, thought distortions and emotion dysregulation; decolonial and social justice frameworks in psychology; and addressing racism in psychotherapy through coping and community care. I’ve also led a number of community projects such as developing and coordinating a provincial crisis counselling line and multi-stakeholder response network for survivors of sexualized and gender-based violence in Manitoba; and facilitating trainings for counsellors at grassroots organizations. Here is a list of my recent academic contributions:

Samuel, C. & Ortiz, D. (2021). “Method and meaning”: Storytelling as decolonial praxis in the psychology of racialized peoples. New Ideas in Psychology, 62.

Samuel, C., Carpenter, M. & Hallgrimsdottir, H. (2020). Gender-based violence considerations in immigration and border enforcement. Victoria, BC: Canadian Border Services Agency.

Samuel, C. & Runtz, M. (May, 2019). Conceptualizing complex post-traumatic stress disorder: the role of dissociation and multidimensionality. Poster presented at the Canadian Psychological Association Convention, Halifax, Nova Scotia.