Our People in Profile: Pictou County clinical psychologist Tammy Lynn Kontuk believes everyone should learn mental wellness strategies

Pictou County clinical psychologist Tammy Lynn Kontuk (NSHA).
Pictou County clinical psychologist Tammy Lynn Kontuk (NSHA).

Clinical psychologist Tammy Lynn Kontuk teaches clients quick, easy-to-use strategies they can use to feel better, less stressed and lonely, and to end a little bit of their emotional suffering each day. She believes everyone should learn these basic mental health tips to help themselves and others.

“We teach people what to do in the event of a stroke and how to keep people from dying from a heart attack,” she said, “but we don’t have a good public education campaign on how to manage mental health problems for common situations, like a person having a panic attack or how depression doesn’t need more rest, it needs activity, not sleep.”
Kontuk feels strongly about this because of her work experience and her desire to solve puzzles.

“I’m fascinated by puzzles and people are like puzzles much of the time. I like to figure out the most effective way to help them live their lives well and to reduce their suffering.”

Her drive to solve puzzles led her to becoming a clinical psychologist for adult services in Pictou County’s community mental health and addictions services.

In her role, she conducts individual as well as group therapy using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), an evidence-based approach that is helpful in treating people with mental health issues.

Being a big believer in CBT and other evidence-based approaches, Kontuk also teaches and trains many mental health and addictions professionals across Nova Scotia Health Authority’s northern zone.
When asked what the best part of her job is, she said, “honestly, it’s a toss-up between the people I work with and seeing the successful journey clients have.”

Kontuk gushes about the sense of togetherness and team work that she is a part of at her job. She said seeing clients that are in states of hopelessness very measurably improve their lives and reduce their own suffering is inspiring and rewarding. 

It doesn’t take much for their lives to improve, Kontuk said.

In addition to the CBT techniques she teaches, she’s also a strong believer in brief and effective approaches that clients can learn and use after one or two sessions that will make them feel better.

She has a strong interest in developing these brief and effective interventions in her workplace and expanding their use across the health system.

“Working for a big health system can be a challenge because of the focus on data collection and measurements,” Kontuk said. “Sometimes things don’t work because they don’t fit into a box.”

But she points out that with a little bit of flexibility and creativity, things can go a long way.

That is why she hopes to see the future of mental health focused on developing education campaigns to teach some of these quick, brief interventions to the public so everyone can benefit, much like how people learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or what to do in the event of a stroke.

“Loneliness and social isolation are not unique to Pictou County, but with a stronger grassroots movement, we can provide tangible solutions to social isolation and loneliness, not just for older people, but for everyone.”