Connecting to a community: Why this clinical therapist moved from big city Toronto to small town Pictou

Clinical therapist Theresa Fraser in Pictou.
Clinical therapist Theresa Fraser in Pictou.

They say home is where the heart is.

For Theresa Fraser, home was Toronto, Ont., for 32 years.

Her heart, on the other hand, was tied to Nova Scotia, a place she dreamt of moving to once she retired.

That dream came true quicker than expected when Fraser accepted a job as a clinical therapist with the mental health and addiction’s SchoolsPlus program in May 2018 – when the beautiful town of Pictou, N.S. became her forever home.

“My brother was a paramedic in Tatamagouche but lived in Pictou,” Fraser said. “My family and I had visited him for the first time 18 years ago and I knew right away that we would live here someday.”

Since that initial visit, Fraser made an effort to come back every summer with her family – soaking up every bit of fresh salty air and gorgeous ocean views, along with all the maritime hospitality she could fit in, at least until the next trip.

While the people and scenery had Fraser coming back year after year, it was her son who finally convinced Fraser and the rest of her family to make the move.

“Our son asked us what we were waiting for,” Fraser recalled. “He said if it makes you happy, you should do it. So, we started looking for jobs immediately.”

Fraser and her family now live in a charming Victorian home in Pictou, where as a clinical therapist she travels from school to school working with children who have complex needs and their families.

Much different from working in a larger city and system with competing demands, Fraser believes it’s the smaller community structure and strong support system from her manager and team that allow her to do her job more efficiently while still making a positive impact.

“How we work together, hold our selves accountable, communicate, manage our time and provide information and services to our clients is at the core of everything we do here,” Fraser said. “If I’m concerned about one of my clients, I put a referral in and I know when it’s coming. This means I can go back to the family and tell them when they will be seen. As a clinician, that is an amazing and empowering feeling.”

If a child is in need of services and their parents or guardians are unable to be at the school or clinic, Fraser is able to include parents and support systems after hours through phone or other forms of communication.

“Being able to work with a child in a space in which they’re comfortable helps with additional stress,” Fraser said. “I love being creative when it comes to meeting my client’s needs. I have the ability to go where I’m needed and I think they really appreciate that.”

As a newcomer to Nova Scotia, it is Fraser’s experience that no matter where she goes, the genuine connection between people and community can be found just about anywhere.

“Whether it is in one of my weekly team meetings or just being out in our town, there is a real sense that people care about each other – and it feels really good to be part of that.

“The change in pace and lifestyle has been amazing for our family. Nova Scotia is Canada’s best kept secret and we are just so happy to finally be here.”