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  • About Deborah Birkett

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    Hello! I’m Deborah (pronouns: she/her).

    For me, figuring out my spiritual identity, and beating my own path toward God, has been a lifelong project. This culminated in my conversion to Islam many years ago, after a lengthy and complex period of study, reflection, and lived experience. My interest in questions of meaning, purpose, existence, and spirituality informed my religious explorations both before and after my conversion, but also inspired me to undertake degrees in religious studies and theology. While I loved my previous careers as a writer, editor, publisher, and researcher, I came to recognize that I could make my strongest contribution as a psychotherapist.

    I love working with adults who find themselves wrestling with spiritual and existential anxieties, who are struggling with life’s often unanswerable questions. I deeply understand what it is to agonize over these problems. I can’t give you answers on a silver platter—I wish I had them—but I can help you learn to love the questions. Together, we can find ways to respond to what feels unmanageable, to stand firm in the face of profound uncertainty, to find freedom from thoughts and beliefs that are making you suffer. Not everything can be fixed, but we can figure out how to carry what can’t be fixed.

    I absolutely thrive at the busy, complex intersection of my interests, experiences, and education. These include religion/spirituality, culture, psychotherapy, philosophy, and identity: the “spaghetti junction” of what I consider the most compelling human phenomena. I have become skilled at navigating these complicated routes and at supporting clients in charting their own courses.

    I am here, ready to listen generously to you.

    I imagine you’d like to know something about what sort of person I am, apart from being a therapist. Here are some of the activities I love doing:

    • reading (primarily nonfiction, and especially memoirs);
    • writing and editing (used to do it for a living);
    • researching (anything and everything that captures my attention);
    • swimming (as much as possible);
    • going to museums, art galleries, films, and bookshops; and
    • gardening (particularly obsessed with coleus, hostas, and pollinator plants).

    A few other miscellaneous facts about me:

    • Since 2008, I have been the co-facilitator of a women’s interfaith film group that meets monthly
    • I have a weakness for parenthetical comments and long sentences.
    • I am from Ontario and have lived my whole life here.
    • I am a perfectionist, in perpetual recovery.

    Background and education:

    My pursuit of understanding has resulted in:

    • An MA in Theology (Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy) from Martin Luther University College;
    • An MA in Religion and Culture from Wilfrid Laurier University; and
    • An Honours BA from the University of Waterloo in Religious Studies.

    I completed Trauma Certification through the Faculty of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University in early 2018. My internship was completed in the Spiritual Care Department at the Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario, where I spent the majority of my time in the Adult Mental Health Unit and the Withdrawal Management Unit. My internship involved supporting people who were coping with severe mental illness, addictions, and often multiple diagnoses.

    I also have training as a mediator; I hold an Advanced Certificate in Conflict Resolution for Faith Communities (2006) from Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo. I also have additional training in intercultural effectiveness. I am registered with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO).

    Prior to becoming a psychotherapist, I worked for many years as a freelance writer, editor, website publisher, and social science researcher. My research interests are extensive, and include Islam, Sufism/Islamic mysticism, gender, conversion (particularly conversion to Islam), religious identity, religious belonging, pluralism, popular culture, religious syncretism and hybridity, scrupulosity (religious and moral OCD), interfaith encounter/dialogue. I have written on all these topics.

    Selected additional psychotherapeutic training:

    Inference-Based CBT (I-CBT) for OCD Intensive (OCD Lived Experience Collective) 

    Intensive Workshop in Exposure and Ritual Prevention for OCD (Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety, Perelman School of Medicine | University of Pennsylvania)

    Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional training (PESI, in progress)

    CBT for OCD (ECHO Ontario/CAMH)

    OCD: Foundations for Primary Care Providers (ECHO Ontario/CAMH)

    CPT (Cognitive Processing Therapy) for PTSD (taught by CPT co-creator Kathleen Chard)

    Narrative Therapy Intensive (Hincks Dellcrest Institute)

    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Level 1 (Faculty of Social Work, Wilfrid Laurier University)

    “When you listen generously to people they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time.”
    – Rachel Naomi Remen