Mother to Tessa, 4 // Registered Psychologist

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

Sarah Talebizadeh is a registered psychologist who has a practice in York Region. After working as a counsellor at Seneca College for a few years after graduating, she decided to venture out on her own and registered her business in 2010. Since then she has operated out of her own space in Richmond Hill where she sees clients for college and university-related issues as well as medical and legal assessments. Sarah has a four year old daughter, Tessa, who was the main reason for building up an entrepreneurial business of her own. We spent time with Sarah and felt hers was an important story to tell during this often hectic time of the year – she shared her strategies on how to refocus and get inspired with us. Read on to learn more!

How did your business come to life?

I did not initially plan to start a business. I was working at Seneca College while attending school, and I continued to work there for some time after completing my studies. However, I found it difficult to do what I actually wanted to do and I felt that I was not fully using my training and skill set. I did not really think of it as starting a business at first but simply thought that I would have more freedom in private practice, both clinically to pursue what interested me within my skill set, and in my personal life because I would be scheduling my own time. Once I was fully immersed in my practice, reality hit home and I realized that I was not just a clinician anymore, practicing what I had learned in school, but I was also running a business; a small business, but a business nevertheless. Given my lack of business training, I quickly learned to ask for help. Fortunately, I had support in my family and friends and have learned over the years the essential skills that I need to keep my private practice running.  

Where did you seek outside help with the business?

My brother is a CPA and helped a lot with accounting questions that I had. My husband is a huge support also, someone that I regularly bounce ideas off. It’s interesting that when we train as psychologists at school, even with the understanding that many of us will open our own practices after, there is little in the way of business training. 

Where does your inspiration come from?

There are times, not just professionally but also in my personal life, when I feel lost and disillusioned. I have to admit that it is not a comfortable feeling to experience, but I often find that it helps if I can sit with the discomfort rather than dismiss it or escape it. I spent a lot of time reflecting on where I am in life and where I want to go and how to get there when feeling this way.  It was only after going through this process that I find my inspiration.  When it finally happened and the fog had lifted, I saw a clear vision and road ahead and felt confident in pursuing it. It was as if I needed to get lost before I could find my way out of it and I needed to feel the discomfort and disillusionment before I felt confident and sure of my decision. The journey has helped me grow through the years and I have learned to accept and even embrace the discomfort, knowing that there is light at the end of it.  

Having a young daughter, how do you typically structure your days? 

Initially after I had my daughter I took 4-5 weeks of maternity leave but was right back in it – when you have patients who are relying on you for care, it is hard to take more time away. As she has grown up a bit, I make her my first priority – always. I love to be around for drop off and pick up – it is really important to me. It’s very convenient because my clinic is close to home and her school. I have great family support between my husband and my mom – we all share responsibility and I feel very lucky in this way. 

Usually we wake up and have breakfast and get ready for our day. Then before we leave the house, I always spend around 10 minutes just playing with my daughter. It’s a great way to start the day and connect with her, and we’re lucky to live close to her school and close to my work. 

Once I’m at work, it’s go go go. I work in a shared office space which is great because I have community around me but I also have the freedom to shut the door and get work done. 

How do you carve out time for yourself?

Over the years, I have found it challenging to take time for myself, especially when it is very busy. However, I also find that I am not at my best professionally or personally and certainly not as a wife or mother when I demand too much from myself. Consequently, I have learned to take time to de-stress. I enjoy walking in the summertime, and yoga or some form of exercise in the winter seems to do the trick. It is always a struggle to keep at it and to be consistent when I am busy, but keeping a routine seems to help. I also find that loving connections and interactions with my circle of friends and family are helpful and grounding. For me, it is the little things that make a big difference.  

How do you stay organized?

Organization comes so naturally to me that it is effortless. In fact, I need to stay organized in order to reduce my overall stress. I find that decluttering is the best way to stay organized. I use decluttering at home and at work, and I also use it with not just my environment but also in my life. For instance, if I feel pulled in many directions, I know that I need to look at that and prioritize and only commit, or even recommit, to what I can accomplish. I usually start my week with a vision in mind of what I would like to (realistically) accomplish by the end of the week, then I map out a plan, make a to-do list, and schedule accordingly. However, there are always unforeseen circumstances that steer me away from this plan or force me to re-plan. Unexpected changes or demands is a given in life, but It always takes me a minute to adjust and I feel that I do need to take that time to regroup.  I hardly ever lightly or spontaneously make decisions that would impact me personally or professionally and I usually think them over. Coming back to the basics and getting organized again in my schedule, space, and life keeps me on track. Usually when I get rid of things that I do not need, I can make room for things that I do need, which then helps me to stay focused on my goals and tasks.

What are the challenges you face being both a parent and entrepreneur?

Most of the time, it is a juggling act trying to meet my responsibilities as a parent and in my practice, as is true for all the working parents out there. For me, my family, and particularly my daughter, comes first and foremost. Although I have dedicated years and much energy to my business, building and establishing something that I am proud of, my practice took a backseat to my personal life when I had my daughter four years ago. I had to adjust my work hours around my daughter, and her needs and wellbeing. So given that I have limited time in the day to tackle things at work, I find that I need to be creative, and most of all, efficient with my time. I have had to put things on hold and commit myself only to projects, assignments and activities that I have time for. However, I am fortunate to have family support that allows me to keep all the balls in the air.        

Are you someone who usually has New Year’s Resolutions?

No. I make sure to regularly check in with myself, like those times I’m lacking direction or inspiration – so I make regular goal setting a priority versus doing it at a certain time of the year. And decluttering, in all senses of the word, works on so many levels in life.  

Do you have a dream for the future for your business?

Yes I would love to open a wellness centre. I strongly believe in a holistic approach to wellness – so having a centre that includes the physical aspects of wellness (chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, etc.) along with life coaching and psychology treatments.

For us, the biggest takeaway from this inspiring conversation was to make sure to regularly check in with ourselves – especially in those times of frustration when you feel like you’re lacking direction or inspiration. Sarah had some great insights into why this is so important and how it’s helped her grow as a business owner and a parent. To learn more about her practice, check her website here. You can also find Sarah on LinkedIn over here.