OISE alum Robert Roopa is a 2019 Ruth Berman Award winner for early career psychologists and a practicing psychotherapist and psychologist in Ontario and New Brunswick, respectively.
In both provinces, Robert opened two specialized obsessive compulsive disorder treatment facilities where he has been treating OCD and anxiety disorders for over 7 years.
With an advanced practice in cognitive behavioural therapy, he has helped many patients see success through their OCD treatment – and for his work in the community, Robert won two Consumers Choice Awards which recognize business excellence in Canada.
We recently heard from Robert about his career: From his experiences in the counselling psychology program at OISE to what it has been like opening his own practices and working in the mental health field during COVID-19.
It's sometimes good to start from the beginning. Who stands out when you look back at your time in the counselling psychology program at OISE?
Dr. Suzanne Stewart, an associate professor of Indigenous healing in counselling psychology at OISE, has been my inspiration since day one. She always inspired me to further my education and continue to give back to my community. I feel like she really helped me find myself. She encouraged me to study what I wanted to study within the counselling field, which ultimately led me to identify my passion and focus in helping those with OCD and anxiety disorders. I admired the way Dr. Stewart worked with students and how she represented herself within the community.
I also learned how important it was to give back to those in the community and how best to serve as a leader in reducing barriers of access to mental health services. She challenged me spiritually, intellectually and emotionally. I became a better person having her by my side.
With two private practices, what is most rewarding about your work? Any challenges or successes that have shaped this experience?
What is most rewarding is helping my patients find relief and happiness again. I find the most reward in helping those that have found limited success with other treatments. Psychology is a relatively new discipline, which leaves so much to be explored, researched and learned. I strongly believe in learning from others and contributing to bodies of knowledge that can help expand the learning and growth of the profession. I’m actively attending conferences and reading new material that help my patients and community continue to grow and heal. Whatever I learn, I make sure that it’s presented in a way that my patients can understand and find useful when presenting their concerns.
I think that I personally get consumed by my passions. I have to remind myself about the importance of creating balance. I sometimes find it difficult to devote my time to new projects because I love what I do. But I do remember to take on new challenges. I’ll get that message when I’m working with my patients and hearing myself offer those suggestions.
I believe my values revolve around finding pleasure without conscious. I think this is something I’ve learned through my OCD studies. What I cherish is recognizing that there will always be things to solve or think through, but it’s still a conscious choice to do so and at times it may be best to choose to stop solving.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many industries for better or worse. What has it been like connecting with patients during this time?
COVID-19 was a difficult transition. I had to move my practice virtually and be creative with the prescribed exercises I would have typically delivered in person. This posed some challenges, but after ongoing discussions with colleagues and feedback from clients we began seeing similar success as our in-patient groups.
I tend to have my patients do exposures in session based on their theme. This may be participating in imaginal exposures or performing a feared activity by having them tell me about what they fear most as if it was a story being played out. I’ve had patients who are agoraphobic speak to me while walking outside of their home and socially anxious people connect with others through social video meet-ups.
Do you think COVID-19 will change how you and your team conduct business in the future? Is there now greater interest in virtual appointments?
I’m seriously contemplating not going back to the office at all given the effectiveness of working online. So, I do think that things will change. I think this transition allows for greater access of care and could potentially entice people who have busier schedules to participate in counselling.
Through all of this, we’d love to hear how your OISE degree has played a role.
I highly value the training I received from OISE. I felt supported and encouraged throughout my journey and I plan to replicate that experience with the students that seek placement at our clinics.
I believe that my professors set the bar high in terms of what to expect from a quality educator. I expect no less of myself when working with patients and students.
WITH OISE I CAN...
"Continue to support future psychologists and contribute to the growth of our profession"