Meet Joanne Schwartz, Instructor, Counselling Skills.
2. How long have you been teaching at VCC?
I have been teaching since February 2012.
3. What do you love about teaching?
I love the students! Teaching adults with diverse backgrounds and experiences makes for wonderful discussions and debates. I learn a great deal from my students and feel sad to say goodbye at the end of the term.
4. What is your current career?
I have a private counselling practice where I focus primarily on online video counselling and groups. I work with people from all walks of life who are looking to work through challenges and learn to cope better in their lives. I also work part-time as a social worker at St. Paul's hospital.
5. Can you share an interesting thing (or two) about your journey to reach this moment?
I was born in South Africa during the Apartheid era. From a young age, I recognized the injustice and pain that racism and hate can cause; the experience taught me to value social justice and want to make a difference in the world. I became a Social Worker to help people who were less-fortunate, and eventually I wound up working in strictly a counselling role. About ten years ago, my family started a fund-raising organization to support women with HIV in South Africa, and that experience sparked my interest in working in Vancouver to support people with HIV and addiction. I discovered that I was passionate about counselling and helping people make changes in their life. My enjoyment of that work led me to want to teach and inspire others to work in this field.
6. What is your best piece advice for someone starting out in this industry?
To be a good counsellor, you must strive to take good care of yourself. I find that when people do not have good self-care strategies, they can get compassion fatigue or become overwhelmed by all of the sadness they witness. No matter how busy I am, I try to remember to care for my own mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health.
7. What is the biggest lesson you have learned through counselling people?
I have learned that people have the capacity to change despite all kinds of adversity. I have seen people overcome terrible addictions and trauma and ultimately become counsellors themselves. It is very inspiring.
8. How do you personally define success?
I define success by feeling as if I am making a difference in the world. If I can even help just one person each day, it is a success. Sometimes just being present for a client and hearing their story can give them the strength they need to move forward, which is what counselling is all about.