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About Me

I am a water loving woman who loves kayaking, sailing, swimming and is learning stand up paddle boarding (well mostly the standing up part!). I’ve been known to snowshoe through some wild back country, scramble climb/ hike through the mountains and walk Edmonton’s amazing river valley. I love adventure and exploring and am game to trying most things even when I fail epically! Thanks to my boys, I have tried more adventurous things then I ever thought possible and have ventured fairly far out of my comfort zone at times. And I’m still here, so that says something! 

I am also someone who feels things deeply, and is very perceptive to the subtleties in this life. It’s a gift and at times a real challenge. I can as easily be brought to tears by powerful music, art or dance, as I can laugh outrageously at a funny TV scene. I love power filled music and have been known to encourage people to make play lists that match different emotions for them.  I’ve learned a lot about myself along the way in this life so far, and if you’re someone who has been told you’re “too sensitive” or that your feelings are “too much” … I get you!  

 

I’ve come to learn that all emotions have a function (or a job) and once you figure out what they’re trying to tell you, you can choose what to do with that information. I’ve also learned that there are a ton of skills that most of us just haven’t learned along the way to know what we’re feeling, how to express that without making things worse for us, and that we can actually endure hard things without escaping.  It is actually possible…. I’m living proof!

 

I have worked in hospitals for a lot of years and health care people are some of my favourite people. Given this, as my first degree was in Chemistry, it’s likely not surprising to know that I was first thinking I would become a Physician.  My love for Psychology and therapy specifically, came just as my first degree was ending, and as my undergrad was winding down and many of my peers were looking at next steps, I decided to continue on with school and go back to pursue Psychology.

 

Four universities and three degrees later, and here I am.  I’ve also been on the patient side of the health care equation and I understand the ways illness can smack you in the face and toss around your idea of how you thought your life would be.  I know the ways it can seep into every aspect of your life and force you to confront things you'd like to keep hiding from, and I know the ways it can ‘other’ you when you’re least expecting it. The gift and the heartache of both sides of health care is part of the real and lived experience I bring in to my work. 

I know now that If I want to live authentically - which leaves me as a better me - I have to stop trying to "fix" and change myself to meet what the world says is acceptable.  I’m my better, at times even best self, when I’m in the present, living my life according to my values in a real (while still very very messy at times) way, and seeing the passion in the ordinary moments of my life. I’ve learned that understanding why I do some of the things that make my life messy helps me to better figure out how I can choose differently next time. And I’ve also learned that I can be a super stubborn learner who requires more then a few loops of understanding before I choose differently.

 

Perhaps one of my biggest practices in ongoing learning is that of self-compassion. I have been known to have quite a critical perfectionistic inner voice at times, and shockingly to me, it has not helped me in the long run. It’s a hard place to grow from … and it’s possible. 

In my office, you will be met in your humanness with empathy and authenticity.  Because we’re in a real relationship, I will share (when it makes sense) my humanness so that you know you’re not alone, and we’ll learn how to better do this life more effectively, together. I promise everyone I work with that when they decide to commit to therapy with me, I go “all in”. Even in the mess. Even in the “ick”. Even in the times where we both groan. And most importantly, even when you are most not wanting to be in the present & do the hard to create change in your life. 

Hello, I'm Dr. Joanna Bolster, Dr. B, Dr. J, Joanna, and I'm a Registered Psychologist.

 

I’m also a Mom to three boys who both delight and grow me daily, and have a golden retriever named Daisy who has an uncanny ability to source food from counters despite all human efforts to avoid this. Ask me someday about how my dog started a fire in our home by sourcing out cookies! 

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Education 

Ph.D. (2003)  
Counselling Psychology (APA/CPA Accredited Program), University of Alberta.
 

  • Pre-Doctoral Internship (APA/CPA Accredited) University of Alberta Hospital. Rotations included Pediatrics, Eating Disorders, Adult Mental Health & Infectious Disease. 

  • Post-Doctoral Internship: University of Alberta Hospital with Advanced Specializations in Pediatrics and Infectious Disease

  • Dissertation: Early Childhood Risk Factors that relate to Placement Breakdown for Children in Adoptive and Foster Placements. 

 

M.Ed. (1998)
Counselling Psychology, University of Manitoba. 

  • Thesis: A Journey from Survival to Survivor: A Descriptive Account of Women's Experiences of Coping with Abuse

B.Sc. (Chemistry & Special Student in Psychology) (1992, 1994)
University of Western Ontario

  • Honour's Thesis: Gender Differences and Expectancy Effects in Pain Perception

Training & Experience

I'm licensed in Alberta as a Registered Psychologist (#2515). I have a Doctoral degree in Counselling Psychology from the University of Alberta, a Master’s degree from the University of Manitoba and a Bachelor's degree in from the University of Western Ontario. Fun fact – my first degree was in Chemistry! Short version – I have 13 years of post-secondary education to learn the basics of the art and science of psychotherapy, research and supervision. The 20 years since graduation have been focused in fine tuning the learning … and I’m not finished yet!  I’m a member of the American and Canadian Psychological Associations and am licensed in Alberta with temporary licenses for Texas and Colorado.

I have practiced in Edmonton (and area) since licensing in 2000. My work has taken me from hospital settings (inpatient and outpatient), community agencies, child and family services, private practice and through teaching and supervision through the Faculty of Medicine at the U of A. My primary work now is in private practice where I offer individual & group therapy as well as consultation and teaching services. 

I work well with:

1) People who struggle with big (intense) and hard to control emotions,

2) People with eating disorders, disordered eating, and anyone who wishes to break free from body shame and transform their relationship with food and their bodies,

3) Health Care workers wrestling with quality of life, imposter syndrome, and/ or trauma

4) People who have experienced trauma including residential school survivors, and 5) People who struggle with chronic illness and life-altering medical conditions

I am trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), Psychodynamic and Attachment Based Therapies, as well as evidence-based interventions such as Trauma therapy, EMDR, Behavioural Activation, Somatic Experiencing and Mindfulness. 

My clinical work is grounded in an Integrative therapy frame. In our first few sessions together and I work towards gaining a really good sense of your particular problem(s) and what it means to be you in your life; the struggles and the successes. I then select the techniques from different therapeutic orientations so that I can best tailor our therapy process to you. By tailoring the process to you and your unique needs and ways of being, I hope to help you create the most significant changes and effects for you in your life. All while using and sharing with you techniques and interventions that are anchored in science with strong evidence for good outcome over time and across people. 

Not sure what Integrative Therapy is? Read more here.

My work is also informed by self-compassion theory, shame resilience theory, feminist theory, intuitive and mindful eating teachings, family systems theory, emotion focused theories, mindfulness-based approaches as well as internal family systems teachings. 

For those wanting a more formal listing of my training and experience, please click here for my CV.

Check out the Frequently Asked Questions.

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