In her early thirties, Hannah Blackburn’s life has taken her on a difficult, and at times, painful journey. But Hannah is brave. She used her trauma to fuel her personal growth. She made her pain count.
That is where Hannah’s journey brought her three years ago when her marriage ended. After a childhood of never feeling her worth, Hannah didn’t recognize the extent of her abusive marriage. In the aftermath of divorce, she chose to heal. It was her renaissance, her rebirth. “I finally had to come to terms with what I was feeling about myself, about not being enough, not being seen, and feeling alone. If I was going to move forward into a new beginning, I had to discover my value and heal.”
If I was ever going to move forward into a new beginning, I had to discover my value and heal.
With her therapist, Hannah began to explore what she might want to do in this new era of her life. “My counsellor believed in me. She saw I wanted to help people and encouraged me to become a counsellor myself.” So often, the answer is right in front of you… you just need be willing to see it. Reflecting on her life, she always had a helping heart. Whether volunteering by supporting women in India or refugees in Edmonton, the drive to do good in the world was always there. “I love connecting with people, hearing their stories, and feeling like I have done something meaningful.”
She decided to take the leap and trust herself.
On the recommendation of her counsellor, Hannah enrolled in Stenberg College’s Counselling Therapist program. “My instructors were great and helped me build confidence. They answered my questions without judgement and supported me when I needed it.” It wasn’t just her instructors who Hannah found safety and community with. “Hearing my classmates’ stories and witnessing how resilient people are is beautiful. My experience in school was so much more than just academics. Seeing people make changes helped me understand parts of my own story.”
Confidence is something that is built slowly. “When I started the program, I had convinced myself that I was not going to do well. I thought, ‘What if I fail again?’ I put my all into what I was doing, and with every success, my confidence grew. I felt so encouraged. It was an incredibly healing experience.”
As a part of Stenberg’s Counselling Therapist program, students counsel clients at Moving Forward Family Services (MFFS). Hannah supported clients at both MFFS and Kitsilano Neighbourhood House. Applying her in-class learning to counselling practice reaffirmed that counselling was what she was meant to do. “I was fortunate to have a mix of short-term and long-term clients. I worked with some throughout the entirety of my program, and we built positive therapeutic relationships. Watching a client make a connection, find hope, or rediscover happiness is powerful to watch. It changed my life.”
It takes a village
Those who taught and supported Hannah on her journey to become a counsellor recognized how much she brought to the field. Gary Thandi, Founder and Executive Director of MFFS, says, “Hannah went above and beyond with her clients. She spent time outside her clinical sessions researching resources for them, whether that be YouTube videos, Ted Talks, or extra reading material. She often provided clients with post-session summaries and checked in on high-risk clients.”
Hannah’s passion to help others shone throughout the program. This, combined with a tenacious work ethic, led Hannah to achieve a remarkable 97% grade point average. Her instructor and former National President of the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association (CPCA), Rosemary Fromson, says, “Hannah goes the extra mile. She is curious and that is so important in the field of counselling. Her warmth, curiosity, and professionalism are key elements to be effective in this field.”
Today, Hannah is working towards opening a private practice in her home community of Chilliwack. She is a much different person than she was three years ago. “I will always be a work in progress, but today, I feel a lot more confident, a lot more at peace, and a lot more grateful.”