Karen Belfontaine portrait - Toronto Trauma Therapy located in downtown Toronto


I am a clinical social worker and have been in private practice for over 25 years. I began my career in health care as a psychiatric nurse and have found that experience to have been quite invaluable in my understanding of the acute stages of mental illness as well as the emotional and physical anguish caused by these disorders. 

I work with adult individuals to provide an integrated approach that is based on the client's needs. My practice is inclusive and diverse, consisting of clients who seek help with such difficult life experiences as grief, separation, relationship issues, family problems, depression, anxiety and traumatic stress.

My experience as a clinical social worker has led to a firm belief in the resilience of the human spirit as well as a profound respect for the adaptability of the human mind. I enjoy my work immensely and feel privileged to be working with the people who come to see me.

Why people consider therapy

I have found that my clients consider psychotherapy for a number of reasons, some emerging with more clarity as they begin the process of putting words to their experiences, emotions and sensations.

There is often a feeling of chronic unhappiness – a sense of never having fully engaged in their lives, but rather of "hovering" somehow above them. For others, the feeling may be one of always having lived on the edge of a precipice – waiting anxiously for the bad they are sure will befall them. Still others describe their lives as a roller-coaster ride of intense emotions that leave them feeling out of control and helpless.

I work collaboratively with the goal of fostering resilience and healing, thereby enabling my clients to engage the world and relationships in a healthier, happier and more complete manner, allowing them to be fully present in their lives.

Managing overwhelming feelings

One of the most exciting discoveries of the last twenty years has been that of neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. We now know that throughout our lifespanwe are always growing new nerve cells and establishing new neural pathways. And this is what we are doing in therapy – we are harnessing this ability by working with the brain/mind/body connection and are, in essence, rewiring the brain, using the brain's ability to grow new neurons (neurogenesis) and to develop new neural pathways (neuroplasticity) in order to bring about change.

Adding a body-oriented approach to therapy affords an understanding of the activation or arousal patterns in the body and a way to track and work with them. This has the effect of giving the person a "dimmer switch" that replaces the "on/off switch" that had previously moved back and forth indiscriminately. Thus, patterns of relating to oneself and the world can change from constricting, automatic and habituated responses to a renewed sense of openness, curiosity and engagement. Read more about the science behind the mind-body perspective in therapy.

Trauma Therapy

Trauma has been defined as a psychologically overwhelming event and people respond to it differently. Thus it can be more helpful to think of trauma as what is overwhelming to the individual.

My area of expertise lies in the treatment of trauma, whether that is relational (developmental) trauma, adult-onset trauma or medical trauma. I employ a trauma informed model in my work within which traumatic experiences are processed in a safe and manageable way. The focus of treatment is to address the neurobiological, emotional and relational underpinnings of trauma, and to this end, the theraputic approaches of EMDR, Somatic Experiencing® and Hypnosis are invaluable tools. Read more about Trauma therapy and Dissociation.

Read more about my approach to therapy and more about my background.