CARP – With mental health taking a priority in people’s lives, never more apparent then during the current pandemic, Carp’s Dr. Helen Pigeon says the stigma associated with mental health is loosening and people are more open than ever to getting help with good mental health.
Pigeon is a child psychologist who re-located her practice to Carp last February then pivoted her practice to teletherapy as a precaution in the age of COVID-19.
“I moved to Carp because I enjoy the small village atmosphere,” Pigeon told West Carleton Online. “I went to Earl of March, so I went to a lot of parties in Carp and have a lot of friends in the area. Finally, I just decided I just wanted to have oy own spot in a community I know.”
Her office is located in a historic home at the intersection of Langstaff Road and Donald B. Munro Drive. The brick building is a home with a separate office attached that was one of Carp’s first dentist offices. It has also hosted a doctor and a lawyer in the past. The home was originally built in 1875.
“There’s always been a professional here,” Pigeon said. “I haven’t had the chance to see a lot of people in my office because COVID-19 broke out. This office offers so much more of a relaxing, homey atmosphere. Some parents are pretty ragged by the time I meet them so they can just sit outside in my backyard, under the umbrella and relax.”
Pigeon has been a practicing child psychologist for more than 27 years. She specializes in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of children and adolescents experiencing mood disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders (OCD, school refusal,
generalized anxiety), adjustment to separation and divorce and adjustment to traumatic brain injury.
Her primary approach to therapy is based on the principals of cognitive behaviour therapy with contributions from mindfulness and dialectical behaviour therapy.
Pigeon received her doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Ottawa. She completed pre-doctoral internships at The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre. Pigeon has held positions in various clinical settings including a behavioural unit for school aged children and community clinic for sexually abused children. Prior to establishing her private practice, she was a principal psychologist in a large, community-based private practice in Ottawa. Pigeon is a member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario, the Canadian Psychological Association and is licensed to practice within the province of Ontario.
Along with her private practice, Pigeon spends three days a week working at the Greenbelt Family Health Team, virtually of course. These days, most of her work is virtual – or teletherapy.
“It’s really amazing,” Pigeon said. “Virtual therapy with kids. I didn’t know how that would go. I thought the business was really going to slow down. It did at first. I took seminars on how to do virtual therapy for two weeks.”
Pigeon says the onset of COVID-19 was actually a good thing for kids in a way.
“Kids are over-scheduled,” she said. “It’s go, go, go. When people were forced to stop, initially it was good. Kids were able to relax. Have dinners together. It allowed people to catch their breath and not feel badly about it.”
But time and the pandemic eventually took its toll.
“But then parents had to become teachers,” Pigeon said. “Kids were missing their friends. They needed the structure in-school provided. There were new stressors and less support. Parents couldn’t take their kids to the grandparents. The problems came to a head. That sense they should be doing more with their kids. No one is evaluating you on how you deal with your kids.”
Although, Pigeon says today’s obsession with social media sure makes it feel like you are being constantly evaluated.
Pigeon said her practice started getting busy again last May. She works with youth from the age of zero to 18 and her approach is different based on age (as well as many other factors).
“Therapy often involves working with the parents, especially with the young kids,” she said. “I get to know the parents fairly well. Less so with the older kids. But they appreciate that and it’s harder to build that trust if they think you are going back to the parents. If they think that, they are going to share very little.”
Pigeon says the old stigma of mental health issues being a ‘sign of weakness’ is fading in today’s youth thanks to education and awareness such as Bell’s Let’s Talk Day for mental health.
“I think most people who come here are aware of what a psychologist can do,” Pigeon said. “They know we have a high degree of education and training. When parents are concerned, they have real concerns and want to help. They are the experts on their kids, and they know when they need help. I work with kids that are really struggling.”
And people view that struggle more openly now, more than ever.
“Anxiety and depression doesn’t mean your crazy,” Pigeon said. “It means you need help. How do you look at the problem differently? Changing how you feel with your thoughts and your feelings. We’re looking at their difficulties in a problem-solving way, that will help them change their thinking.”
With the stigma loosening, Pigeon says friends are just as likely to refer patients to her as parents.
“Kids are referring other kids,” Pigeon said. “Teens are more comfortable coming to see a therapist with their problems. I don’t see the same resistance I used to. Kids are coming in more and more because they want to, not because their parents want them to.”
Pigeon says educators are also more aware of the importance of mental health these days.
“I think teachers deserve more credit than they get,” Pigeon said. “We have a community that’s more aware about mental health.”
Virtually, or in person, Pigeon is happy to be helping in Carp.
“Growing my business is important, but helping people in the community where I live is also very important,” she said. “I love Carp and I really hope to get know the families of Carp.”
For more information on Dr. Helen Pigeon’s practice, visit her website here.