Psychologists Off Duty: Interview with Dr. Beverley Kort & Dr. Marilyn Chotem

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1) After a stressful day, what do you do to unwind?

BK: I work part time (14 hours/week from Tuesday to Thursday) and never see more than 4-5 people a day- so I do not feel really stressed out. This is how I deal with my own mental health- working the amount of time that keeps me enjoying my job and having 4 day breaks- hard to complain about that!

I walk my dog, spend time with friends, bike, read, do Tai Chi, go to movies or watch my PVRed shows later in the evening.

MC: My unwinding happens on my bicycle ride home from work. The 40-minute, mostly uphill cycle home helps me unwind and put things in perspective. I also take a 20-minute deep relaxation break every afternoon which restores my energy and focus and helps me centre.


2) With such an emotionally stressful job, how do you separate your work and private life?

BK: I have lots of separation from my work and my private life because of the amount of time I work and the 4 day break in between. I think our job is not always emotionally stressful- sometimes it is very exhilarating and interesting and challenging and fun.

My clients are from a fairly high functioning demographic- referrals from family doctors who practice on the west side of Vancouver. So most people are struggling with anxiety, depression, marital problems, stress and work; not poverty, low income and serious mental illness.

MC: Most of the time I don’t actually find psychotherapy emotionally stressful. Sometimes, though, I do get unsettled by a difficult session. I may be preoccupied for a while which can intrude on my private life until I am able to make sense of my feelings, resolve my own issues, and let it go. My private life is pretty full, which balances my work life. And, that is intentional.


3) How do you take care of your own mental health?

BK: See above as well I have another psychologist friend and we do supervision with each other.

MC: To sustain a caring career, practicing good self-care is a must. For me that means balancing personal and professional activities. As above, I get an hour or more of cardiovascular exercise every day, and I do a 20-minute deep relaxation/meditation every afternoon. I also make sure I stay connected with friends and family, and my dog. I eat healthy foods and enjoy my meals. Walks or hikes through the woods or along creeks nurture me. I am also very attuned to my body and emotions and listening for what I need and proactively taking care of those needs. Spirituality is also an important component of my self-care and mental wellness, as is creativity.


4) How has your career changed the way you interact with people? (ex. family, friends, etc.) 

BK: One thing I know I do because of “what” I do- I never dive in to tell people what to do or go out of my way to do casual therapy. I also am less judgmental about how people lead their lives as I see so much variation. When there are problems that people are having and I am not asked for my two cents- I don’t volunteer it without an invitation. On the other hand- I am always the person that is called when there is some mental health crisis in family or friends’ lives- sometimes for advice and other times for referrals.

MC: On the one hand, my psychologist role stays at the office. However, my training in listening, and diagnosing means that I am more aware of “between the lines” communications, as well as, psychopathology. Being aware of these things may inform or influence how I relate to someone, but I am not in a helping role outside of work. In fact, I am not in a role in my personal relationships, so in that sense, it has not changed how I interact with friends and family.


Dr. Kort obtained her graduate degree in Humanistic Psychology from the State University of West Georgia, Carrollton, Georgia in 1976. She has been a Registered Psychologist in BC since 1981 and in private practice since 1986.

Dr. Chotem has been a Registered Psychologist in BC since 1980.  She has worked in drug and alcohol treatment programs, provincial mental health centres, employee and family assistance programs, and she has had a private practice in North and West Vancouver since 1992.  She has worked with individuals, couples and families providing brief and long-term psychotherapy.  She works collaboratively with clients to meet their goals of therapy.


[Interviewer]  Joy Chang is a student at McGill University studying psychology and sociology. Currently, she is interning at The British Columbia Psychological Association and is writing for the Piece of Mind blog. She is interested in how art and psychological health are intertwined.

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