I am the I in IWK Psychology Residents Catherine Thompson-Walsh, Tiffany Tsui, Michelle Rodrigues and Trisha-Lee Halamay

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“In this work families often share their most difficult challenges, discuss them in an effort to make sense of them, sit with painful emotions and work to change behaviours,” says clinical child psychology resident Michelle Rodrigues. “The courage and resiliency I witness from families, and the hope that things can be better, motivates me to do this work every single day.”

Rodrigues is one of four residents taking part in the Doctoral Residency in Clinical Psychology at the IWK. The residency provides training for doctoral students in the areas of pediatric health and child/adolescent clinical psychology. Over the course of a year, they receive extensive training and supervised experience in psychological assessment and intervention for a variety of patient populations and clinical needs in a pediatric setting.

As a resident at the IWK Rodrigues provides support to children and adolescents in both inpatient and outpatient settings, in the Community Mental Health and Addictions (CMHA) clinic in Dartmouth and the Preschool Pediatric Psychology Service. She also completes assessments with pre-school aged children to better understand cognitive and behavioural development, consulting with parents and teachers to implement home and school-based intervention programs. Rodrigues will soon join Adolescent Intensive Services.

“Psychology at the IWK is a large, dynamic discipline,” says Rodrigues. “I was excited to train at a hospital with extensive mental health services and collaborate with various other health care professionals to deliver high-quality care. I also wanted to work in a setting where parents and children are considered essential allies for understanding and supporting families along their mental health journey.”

Tiffany Tsui works in in the CMHA clinic in Sackville, helping children, adolescents, and their families with mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, and emotion regulation difficulties. She also works in the Neuropsychology Service, providing psychoeducational assessments for children and youth with neurological and medical conditions.

“After completing my residency, I would like to become a fully registered clinical psychologist and continue to help children, youth, and families live happier and healthier lives,” Tsui says. “I am passionate about working with children and youth because there is the opportunity to intervene early to improve difficulties and hopefully reduce the need for future services.”

Catherine Thompson-Walsh currently works with the Preschool Pediatric Psychology Service and in Adolescent Intensive Services. She will also soon join the CMHA service in the Dartmouth clinic.

From left to right: Catherine Thompson-Walsh, Tiffany Tsui, Michelle Rodrigues, Trisha-Lee Halamay

“The breadth and quality of psychology services offered, the collegial culture amongst psychologists, the multidisciplinary teams, and the excellent reputation of the IWK’s clinical psychology residency program were all part of why I wanted to train here,” says Thompson-Walsh. “I also have a special interest in working with children and youth who have experienced trauma, so I was excited by the opportunity to work within an organization that has prioritized trauma-informed practice.”

Trisha-Lee Halamay feels a genuine connection to working in a pediatric health setting and has spent time working in the IWK’s Pediatric Rehabilitation, Pediatric Health Psychology service, Neuropsychological Assessment, and CMHA.

“In addition to motivation from my own personal health experiences, I am inspired by opportunities to work with children, adolescents, and their families, who show incredible strength and vulnerability in the face of a variety of health and mental health challenges,” says Halamay. “While my role is to help families navigate these various challenges, I am always excited by what patients and their families inevitably also teach me about resilience and adversity.”

After early learning experiences at the IWK, returning for her residency felt like a natural fit.

“I have been able to see how passion to help patients and families translates into stronger health care,” she says. “It also translates into an environment that has made me feel valued and supported in developing as a professional.”

“Seeing how families and professionals are embracing the role that psychological support can play in improving health and well-being gives me a tremendous amount of hope that pediatric health is forward moving in its ability to comprehensively care for those facing a wide range of challenges,” says Halamay.

That bright future is echoed by her colleagues.

“The growing public discussion and knowledge regarding mental health needs and services makes me hopeful that in my lifetime I will see increasing funding and coverage for mental health research and services across Canada,” says Thompson-Walsh. “I am also hopeful that disciplines and systems involved in mental health will increasingly address individual and systemic racism within services and within education programs so that people of colour will have equal access to careers in mental health and to non-racist, culturally sensitive mental health services.”

“I think that the importance of mental health is becoming increasingly realized,” says Tsui. “I am hopeful that one day, it will be publicly funded so that everyone has access to mental health services.”