In 2012, Bethany Smith was doing health promotion and wellness coaching for Queen’s University, but she felt something was lacking.
“I wanted to go deeper into the mental and emotional and relationship side of things—to acquire more tools for my toolbox,” Smith said.
“I loved the flexibility of the Yorkville program—it allowed me to stay working, and it was counselling-specific. Other programs had elements of counselling in them, but Yorkville gave me a really solid foundation in core counselling skills. It also allowed us to customize the program, so we were able to develop a knowledge base in a strong area of focus,” she explained. “It gave us good groundwork, but we could also hone in on something we wanted to specialize in.”
Smith graduated in 2013, and since then, after having worked with many clients, she has developed some iconoclastic views on ‘work-life balance’–especially since she juggles not only her work at Queen’s University but a private counselling practice called “Unio Wellness”. She is also the mother of a new baby.
“I’ve actually moved away altogether from the idea of ‘work-life balance’”, she said, with quiet confidence.
“I think [that term] evokes the idea that there is life, and then there is work, and I don’t think that’s really the case—[instead], we’re taking about work-life integration.”
It isn’t just work and life that Smith sees as intertwined: she also believes self-love and being of service are inextricable. In her position as career counsellor at Queen’s University and yoga teacher, the Yorkville graduate passes this philosophy on to others.
“I work with a lot of people who have this idea that they need to berate and belittle themselves to be successful or motivated, but that couldn’t be further from the truth—when our inner critic is too loud, it can compromise everything,” she said.
“Helping people understand the notion of what self-compassion means and how it can be life changing to have a healthy sense of self and to cultivate a softer kinder inner voice is so important.”
Smith recognizes that self-care, especially as a counsellor herself, is impossible without firm boundaries.
“I really agree with the [idea] of filling up your own cup first so you can offer more to others”, she explained. “We can’t deplete ourselves, and I think that’s so important in this profession especially, that we prioritize ourselves. It’s not selfish, it’s so that we can have more to offer others.”
One of the highlights from her experience of completing Yorkville University’s Masters of Counselling Psychology was the unexpectedly close relationships she developed with other students.
“I found that connecting with other students was invaluable, and I would really advise students who are starting in the program to start doing that right away—build community with others in the program,” she said. “Most [of my fellow] students were working or had family responsibilities. We were all balancing multiple demands, so we could give each other a little bit of forgiveness, and allow ourselves to accept that [doing a Masters] is very challenging!”
Smith had looked at several different programs, but chose Yorkville University’s Masters of Counselling Psychology program. “I loved the flexibility of the Yorkville program—it allowed me to stay working, and it was counselling-specific. Other programs had elements of counselling in them, but Yorkville gave me a really solid foundation in core counselling skills. It also allowed us to customize the program, so we were able to develop a knowledge base in a strong area of focus,” she explained. “It gave us good groundwork, but we could also hone in on something we wanted to specialize in.”
Smith’s area of focus ended up being trauma work. “[My practicum at Yorkville University] was a really positive experience and I learned so much about working with different populations and especially work in trauma,” she said, referring in part to the work she has done with survivors of sexual assault.
Her dedication to a holistic approach to her own life and to the sharing of her gifts with her community is evident.
“It’s really about how I can make an impact, or how I can support others by helping them build a positive relationship with themselves, so they can achieve their goals,” Smith said. “It is very meaningful to me to be able to support others in pushing their boundaries personally and professionally and growing in ways they never thought possible.”