Christine Lee, MSW, RSW
My name is Christine Lee, a licensed clinical Social Worker practicing in Oakville, Ontario. I have been a therapist providing counselling and psychotherapy to individuals and couples for over ten years in English and Korean.
During my own journey getting to where I am today, I have gained beneficial life experience and lived through personal transformation. I understand changes that life inevitably brings, having worked through difficult times at a personal as well as at a professional level. I am committed to passing along what I have learned to my clients.
I grew up in South Korea in a strongly rooted Buddhist family. At a young age, I learned how to meditate from monks at the temple where my mom regularly attended. I remember being fascinated as a 10-year-old girl sitting across from a senior monk as he was talking with my mom – How can he sit still and meditate for hours every day? He only has two sets of clothing but how can he seem so happy? I played with Barbie dolls and read books such as Little Women (translated in Korean of course) but I was also interested in books on life and death by diverse religious and spiritual authors. I was intrigued with questions such as – Where did I come from and where will I go when I die? In hindsight it seems odd questions for a 10-year-old to ponder over.
When I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to study psychology; I wanted to learn about how people’s minds work and why they behave the way they do. I would listen to my peers’ problems and try to give them the best advice I could think of. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to pursue my studies at that time, due to various life circumstances.
When I turned 22, I came to Canada as an ESL (English as a Second Language) student to study English and experience North American culture (perhaps my real reason was to get away from my strict parents who had many rules!).
I wanted to live my life my way instead of living to please my parents. It has been more than 20 years since I left South Korea, but I can still picture me looking out of the window as the small plane I was flying in landed at the Kamloops, B.C. airport. “Are we at the North Pole? Where did all this snow come from?” That was the beginning of my life in Canada.
When I finished my ESL program, I decided to pursue my undergraduate degree in Canada. Instead of psychology however, I chose accounting because accounting seemed like the safest choice for an international student who wanted to find a job after graduation.
After I graduated, I was hired as a financial analyst at a large insurance company in Toronto. Although I was not excited about my job (I was also studying to get my accounting designation), it gave me job security and good income. “
“Who really enjoys their job anyway? As long as it pays well it was the right choice, the best choice for me”. That was what I thought.
It was a cold snowy day in December 2000. I was writing my last accounting exam (in Taxation) with hundreds of other aspiring accountants when suddenly I realized that this couldn’t be my life for the next forty years – punching numbers, reconciling balance sheets and income statements.
A hundred pairs of eyes followed me (or so I thought!) as I walked out…
I don’t know what came over me. I closed my exam booklet, packed my stuff, and walked over to the examiner’s desk. I handed in my empty answer sheet and walked out of the exam room.
I could feel the stares on the back of my head and hear their inner voices “she gave up. She failed.”
As I was walking into the cold fresh air, it felt like a huge burden was lifted off my shoulder. I felt like a million bucks!
Soon, the initial relief turned into fear and confusion. What had I just done? What do I do now? I felt lost and confused.
A good friend of mine suggested career counselling and so I did. It felt good talking to someone who seemed interested in my concerns and wanted to help. I felt heard and truly understood in that counselling room.
I could see myself in her chair doing what she was doing and helping others. It felt natural and real.
So I asked “What do I have to study to do what you do?” She told me she held an MSW (Masters in Social Work). “What? You didn’t go to medical school for psychology?” She explained the difference between a counsellor and a psychiatrist and the training needed to become a Counsellor. I was intrigued with this new information!
The counsellor strongly suggested that I complete a questionnaire (career assessment) she provided to find out which profession would suit me best. The results arrived a week later, and I was pleased to see “Counsellor” “Social Worker” as recommended top career choices for me. That night, I found a BSW (Bachelors in Social Work) program at York University and sent a request for an application.
Over the next years, I completed my BSW and MSW (from University of Toronto) and also obtained training on various therapy models including CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy), MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy), DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), MI (Motivational Interviewing) and Solution Focused Therapy. I have a commitment to professional development to become a better therapist (in English and Korean). I use various learning pathways (courses, workshops, training seminars and conferences) to improve my knowledge and counselling skills in order to develop suitable interventions for clients with unique issues/situations.
I have held various positions both in medical (hospital) and academic settings providing counselling to individuals with various mental health challenges in and around Oakville. I was a social worker in an Intensive Care Unit at one of biggest hospitals in Toronto for over a decade and helped patients and families deal with death of loved ones and the grief they experienced.
Here I am. Many years later.
Many things in my life have changed and others have not.
I continue to meditate.
I continue to ponder over life and death.
I am no longer a Buddhist but
an enthusiastic follower of Jesus Christ.