Natalie DeFreitas graduated from the Adler School of Professional Psychology Vancouver campus in 2010, with a master of arts in counselling psychology. Currently, she works a counsellor with international students at Douglas College in New Westminster, BC. Natalie also founded her own private practice in 2011, where she works as a consultant on justice related projects with government sectors, non-profit organizations, and schools. In addition, Natalie teaches at the Adler School’s Vancouver campus. Learn more about Natalie, her Adler School experience, and her career.
Q: Tell us more about your career.
Natalie: I have always worn many hats in terms of my career experiences. This is still the case after graduating from the Adler School. I am particularly thankful for my [master’s] degree in counselling psychology as it serves as a wonderful vehicle to support my diverse career involvements. Recently, I’ve also started to take on more advocacy opportunities through public speaking and media engagements, which allow me to share ideas I’m passionate about. I also serve as a board member for a couple of national non-profit organizations. I really enjoy each facet of my work and being involved in so many different things really speaks to my personality.
Q: What is your impact on the individuals or communities with whom you work?
Natalie: I really believe in the transformative power of conversations. I hope that in every encounter I have whether it’s with an organization or individual, I offer a supportive environment for that voice to be heard. I particularly feel empowered in my advocacy and speaking engagements through having the chance to speak about an issue that many people may not know about. To me, the greatest impact I could make is to spark curiosity and dialogue by bringing social justice back into our society’s vernacular. I hope to leave a legacy of being an active agent of social change.
Q: How did your Adler School experience affect where you are today?
Natalie: The Adler School affected me in so many ways. To be a part of an institution that emphasizes social justice in its mission, values and curriculum really fit with my personal and professional beliefs. From the beginning I felt supported as an individual. It is telling that my relationship with the Adler School has extended beyond my graduation and I continue to connect with faculty, staff and students on various projects. The Adler School cultivates a real sense of community, which is a rarity in a culture that often breeds isolation.
Q: Was there a particular Adler School faculty member or experience as a student that has most influenced you, and why?
Natalie: It is difficult to pin my positive experiences on the shoulders of a few people, since true to Adlerian theory, I really felt a sense of collective support through my time at the Adler School. I am continually grateful for Larry Axelrod’s mentorship and guidance through my career thus far. Deb Bailey’s warmth and authenticity continue to inspire my own teaching style. Kathleen Irvine has offered me copious support both as a student and now as a colleague. Dan Cooper and Elena Quintana at the Chicago campus are the most inspiring colleagues to work with and taught me the importance of collaborative partnerships. Together, we’ve created a thought-provoking piece of research that I hope will have an impact on justice practice in Canada and the USA. I’m very thankful all around.
Q: What career accomplishment have you found most fulfilling, or considered your greatest professional accomplishment?
Natalie: I was asked to deliver a TED talk at the TEDxVancouver conference in 2012. This opportunity was fulfilling in so many ways. I spoke about restorative justice, something I’m particularly passionate about, and it allowed me to bring light to some concerns about the direction our justice system is heading. It also taught me to utilize my speaking skills to connect with an audience that may not share the same beliefs. I think I delivered the message in a way that was thought-provoking rather than imposing, and invited viewers to challenge their biases and think critically about an issue they may have previously thought did not affect them. I also faced my own anxiety head on! There were a lot of deep breathing exercises happening before walking on the stage in front of 3,000 people!
Q: What is the single most important piece of career advice you can give someone in your field?
Natalie: Don’t feel confined by standard job descriptions. Be creative and open and curate a career you love based on what you are passionate about.
Q: What advice can you give a student just joining the Adler School?
Natalie: Connect with everyone around you: Your fellow students and staff are an amazing source of knowledge and inspiration. The workforce is competitive, so even as a student you should start creating your professional identity through your involvements, behaviour and attitude. Most of all, enjoy every minute of your time at the Adler School.