About Anna Cegielka, MSW
In some ways I stumbled into becoming a therapist. I was the kid who brought home stray animals and tried to mother orphaned baby birds. The driving force (which drove my parents crazy) was the desire to rescue and help those creatures I considered forsaken and doomed. As I cared for these struggling animals, I saw the same feelings of loneliness and loss in many of the people around me. This led to an interest in the study of societal forces that leave all too many people feeling like they are on the outskirts of mainstream life – struggling to fit in, to fully develop their potential, to build meaningful connections with others. I decided that it was my life’s mission to do something about it. So I enrolled in the social work program at Ryerson University in Toronto, with the goal of learning the ropes of community work and policy development to fight poverty and injustice.
Then something unexpected happened. I was in the 4th year of my Bachelor of Social Work program when a course was cancelled due to a professor’s illness. The faculty got a last minute replacement: a family therapist who put together a course on family assessment and treatment. The shift in my perspective was quick and profound. Suddenly I realized that the fiercest struggles and the deepest wounds were happening behind closed doors of family homes. And, while those intimate relationships were often the source of lasting unhappiness and trauma, they also held the potential for healing and growth. With this awareness, I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life. Two years after taking the family therapy course I graduated from the University of Toronto with a Master of Social Work degree, specializing in practice with children and families.
My Journey as a Psychotherapist
I started my career as a family therapist at the Dellcrest Children’s Centre in Toronto. I worked with families struggling with common problems of childhood and adolescence – behaviour problems, learning problems, bullying, parent/child conflict, divorce and adjustment to loss or change. During my tenure there I completed a certificate program in Strategic Family Therapy. My interest in helping children and adolescents inevitably led me to working with couples, as I discovered that relationship difficulties were often preventing parents from working effectively as a team. I learned that one of the greatest gifts parents can offer their children is the gift of their own solid relationship as a couple. This realization led me to pursue extensive training in the field of couples counselling including Emotion Focused Therapy and Imago Relationship Therapy.
After moving to Montreal I worked for 15 years at Pavillon Foster Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre. During this time I broadened my expertise in working with mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, anger and impulsivity, which often are at the core of addictions. I continued my professional development, acquiring expertise in many treatment modalities including: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT), Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), Schema Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Solution Focused Therapy. These approaches and techniques are wonderful, scientifically validated tools, but they are just that – tools. I adapt my approach and selectively pull from each modality to meet the unique needs of each client.
More recently, I have had the opportunity to help families living in the aftermath of a high-conflict divorce. Since 2011 I have worked for the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, performing child custody evaluations, helping parents resolve their disputes and creating parenting plans that work for their children.
Where I Am Today
These days I divide my time between my private practice and child custody work. I am a licensed psychotherapist with the Ordre des Psychologues du Quebec and a member of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.
My treatment philosophy is best summarized by the words of Elisabeth Kubler Ross:
“Beautiful people don’t just happen. The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths.”
The main task of therapy is to approach those issues that are causing discomfort or pain (the very issues we would just as well like to avoid) with courage so that they may be healed or let go. This could be a journey you make solo, or you may want to partner up with a skilled, knowledgeable, caring and respectful guide who will work with you on accomplishing your goals. In my work with you I will be integrating traditional psychotherapy methods with new, research-validated approaches to offer resources, guidance and support.
Our connections with others provide a foundation to a life well lived, giving us opportunities to heal and to grow. In psychotherapy and my Montreal West Island office you will find a special kind of relationship in which you will be accepted fully as you are so that you may explore the changes you wish to make in your life.
For more than 20 years I have been helping adults, teens, couples and families find pathways to more satisfying lives. I will listen to you with compassion and help you see possibilities for recovery and growth where you see none. Together, we can quickly but systematically discover and remove obstacles that are holding you back from living the life you were meant to live.