Our column, “Let’s talk with the Rostie Group”, features this week, Dr. Micheline Savard.
What do you do?
I am a psychologist. I work with couples, adults, and older teenagers. I use a combination of approaches depending on what the person needs and what is compatible for that person. I have been doing this for fifteen years.
What do you find exciting about your work?
The laughter that comes after the tears. The moment of insight; the changes; noticing the changes where somebody is very dissatisfied with their life to feeling lighter and more able to enjoy life and relationships. And for couples the changes from “It is the other person’s fault.” to “we” and enjoying the “we”; the understanding of each other more deeply and savoring and rediscovering what brought them together in the first place and appreciating what they have to offer to each other.
What got you interested in psychology?
There are so many different moments, some funny. I was always more of a listener than a talker. So that was one aspect. But I have this one funny anecdote. I was thirteen and I was at a friend’s cottage. In those days the phone lines were shared; that was very common in cottage country. I picked up the phone and I heard this couple arguing. And there was this moment of silence between them and I said, “I love you.” Their tone changed and both said, “I love you, too.” I often joke that that was my first intervention. Another moment was in my early 20s at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I stood in front of a painting for a long time. I felt so good. I was thinking, “I want to help people feel good about themselves.” I used to be a systems analyst. I studied computer science because it was easier to get a job even though I always wanted to study psychology. Then I studied painting because I wanted to help people feel good. And I realized through the education process to skip the painting and work with people more directly. I think these were the reasons. Even when I am on a beach I read psychology. It is what I love. It is a passion.
View of the Waterfront
What do people misunderstand about psychologists?
Very often when people outside the counseling relationship find out you are a psychologist they think, “She is going to know all my neurosis”. The process of becoming a psychologist is a process of moving away from judgment. The more you understand the less you judge. They also think because you are a psychologist, you are better than others. We are all human beings; we are not perfect. We [psychologists] are just good at helping people understand what gets in the way, understand themselves better. Outside that we are just like everybody else. We have not all figured it out for ourselves. That is a life long project for everybody.
It is not very common for psychologists to work in business centers. What are the pros and cons?
I chose this place because I want to walk to my office. I feel like I am having a nature walk when I come to work. If you live in this area in a condo, this is the only option. I cannot have a home office because it is not allowed. My office here is not as big as I want it to be. The price would be prohibitive.
But I don’t have to worry about cleaning or safety. Washroom supplies, kitchen are there; nice staff that receives the people I see; nice sitting area; there is the PATH; there is the food court and the bank. It is very convenient. It looks professional. I like that aspect. We are not allowed to have a dual relationship with people we work with [fellow tenants] so that people don’t lose the sense of confidentiality. People on this floor cannot be my clients.
What don’t most people know about you?
Most people don’t know how much I savor [life] from an artistic perspective. I will give you an example. I live near the Harbourfront Centre and I go for walks when it is quiet. I see the most special moments. I remember seeing a woman playing fiddle once. It was a foggy day; I could hear music and see nature in front of us. It was a peaceful moment. Another time, the geese were washing themselves. It looked like they were wearing a skirt with different layers of feather. It was endearing, very unforgettable moment. I also saw a play recently at the Soulpepper. It was a performance entitled Spoon River. It is a celebration of life which says that if your soul is alive, live your life while you are dying. It was beautifully done. It was a lovely piece of performance. I am an artist at heart; a great appreciator of it, too.
Dr. Savard’s Cottage in Quebec
What things do you do for fun?
I like getting together in small groups. I like to have friends over for afternoon teas. It is very special: small portions, cups, very beautiful tables, nice special teas. We sit around a table and we talk. It is fun. I don’t come from that tradition but I like it. I want to create the tradition in my building. I also like to do things that are artful like going to performances. I am a movie buff, too. I like the VIP at Don Mills Cinema. It is a nice luxury experience; it is fun.
What book are you currently reading for pleasure?
When I am not reading psychology books, I read biographies. I love the story of people; what makes them happy what makes them unhappy. It is my own sneaky way of getting psychology. I am reading the biography of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt currently. It tells you about a time in history.
Is there any particular place you go to for vacation repeatedly?
My cottage in Quebec. That is because there is a lot of good food in Quebec. People love eating and there are a lot of small places that are gourmet. My cottage is an hour drive from Quebec City, south east of it. It is on a lake. My grandfather used to own a lot of the land there and a lot of my families on my mother’s side have cottages. It is a place where you can hear the eerie sound of the loon. I stay there for a month every year.
If you could choose one place to live where would it be?
Where I am right now because I have nature in front of me! It is unbelievable the view I have from my place near the Harbourfront Center. Why would I want to be elsewhere? I am surrounded by beauty here. I live in a great city where there is so much happening, where there is nature. That is why I want to be here; because it has everything I need.
What advise do you give people on work-life balance?
Be aware of yourself and increase your awareness through meditation practice. When you listen to your body you know when you are tired. When you are connected to your body you are more grounded and you have better capacity to listen to yourself and others. Find out why your life is out of balance, if you know why, then you will know what you need to do.
Check out Dr. Savard’s website at www.drmichelinesavard.com.