“I wake up every day so excited to work,” said registered counselling psychotherapist and Yorkville University Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology alumnus Christine Hakkola (nee Lee). “It’s pretty great. I can live in the middle of nowhere, and have access to clients all across the country. Once or twice a month I am either hosting international workshops or attending them. All my clients are amazing. The online world opens up a whole world of potential. ”
Back in 2013, Hakkola had just moved to Australia to begin a desirable one-year Yoga teaching position at a prominent studio. Her career as a life-coach, consultant and Yoga instructor was by most accounts, thriving.
Just days before signing the teaching contract, however, Hakkola attended a psychology workshop. At the event, she witnessed the workshop facilitator, a psychotherapist, use their skill in inquiry with such power and insight, that the shift among workshop participants was palpable. “The way I saw him work with people, specifically one couple…it just touched my heart so profoundly,” she said. “I was sobbing watching him, and at that moment I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Leading up to this experience, despite her apparent success in the world of Yoga and consulting, Hakkola had a sense that something was missing. ”I reached a point in the Yoga teaching and life coaching, where I recognized that for me and so many of my students, there were blocks in the psychological realm.”
Hakkola’s intuition was telling her to change her focus. “The day after that workshop, I told [the Yoga studio in Australia] I wasn’t staying. Within four weeks I had applied to Yorkville University. I was accepted two weeks later, and I started two weeks after that,” she said.
Originally from Ontario, Hakkola returned to Canada and dedicated herself to her MACP studies with determination and the goal of beginning a private practice as soon as she received her qualification. With so many complementary skills already in place, including a background in business, she was well-positioned to fulfil her dream.”[Yorkville University] taught me about how to build a therapeutic alliance, how to structure client sessions, ethics, and gave me a really good introduction to the field of counselling in general. Yorkville definitely gave me practical skills,” she said.
Indeed, Hakkola established her private practice in 2015, immediately prior to her graduation from the MACP. Initially, she was working with clients in-person as well as online. ”I had an office where I was seeing people in-person, so it was probably half in person and half online, at first,” she said. “But as of August 2016, my entire practice is online. My clients live all across Canada, and some are in the US.”
Hakkola’s focus as a therapist is on helping those who experience depression, anxiety, panic attacks, childhood trauma, and developmental or incidental trauma, in addition to couple’s therapy—and she would be the first to admit that there are challenges to working through these issues online.
“There is a little bit that you miss out on because we’re not in person, especially with respect to being able to attune to someone’s energy…and if I do have a client who has a bad internet connection or that rare technical glitch, it just doesn’t work. But I’m pretty clear when someone sits down to work with me that you have to have a good internet connection,” said Hakkola. Nonetheless, she asserts that the drawbacks are outweighed by the immense benefits, for both client and therapist.
“The pluses are tremendous. I’ve had a ton of positive feedback from my clients. The positives for me definitely include not having to have an office space. This saves me a lot of money,” she said.
Hakkola loves to travel and has arranged her career to facilitate a peripatetic lifestyle. “The ease of working from home is great,” said Hakkola. ”This winter , I will be running two retreats. The first is a Yoga, wellness and somatic therapy retreat in Nicaragua, and the other is a couples’ retreat in Costa Rica, with a focus on the Emotionally Focused Therapy approach. ”
Hakkola has also developed a mastermind program, designed for recent counselling psychology graduates, in which she coaches new therapists through the process of setting up a thriving practice (with a new session beginning in September 2017).
Along with a commitment to career/life balance and self-care, Hakkola knows the importance of working with the right people, which ensures that she can direct her skills and passion with maximum effectiveness towards helping others. “Most of my clients are spiritually inclined or have a background in yoga, meditation or mindfulness,” she said. “I can be very selective. When people reach out to me I get a vibe of the kind of person they are…Ultimately, I live my life leading with my heart and my intuition.”