Dr. Sarah Cockell

Where did you complete most of your training?
I completed my Masters and PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of British Columbia, and then went on to complete my residency in Health Psychology at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. My first clinical position was in the Eating Disorder Program (EDP) at St. Paul’s Hospital, where I coordinated and worked in a long-term treatment program for women with chronic, unrelenting anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Since 2005, I have been working in the Pacific Adult Congenital Heart (PACH) clinic, and have learned that many of the issues that I encountered in the EDP are similar to the ones in PACH. In fact, it doesn’t matter what kind of diagnosis a person has – be it cardiac, metabolic, or pain - any health issue is a source of stress, on top of the every day living experiences like managing relationships and paying bills!

What is your special area of interest?
During my graduate school training my research focused on perfectionism and motivation to change in anorexia nervosa. Since shifting my focus to Cardiology, I have become interested in evaluating the level of psychological distress among congenital heart patients, and what sorts of psychological interventions they find most helpful (e.g., face to face, phone, self-guided reading materials, internet based programs, etc).

What is the best thing about working in CHD?
I think I’m one of the most fortunate PACH team members because I get to know the CHD patients on an intimate level. I have the privilege of helping them through difficult times, offering them opportunities to expand their understanding of themselves and others, overcome difficulties, and then feel more confident and independent. I’m also grateful for the PACH team members, who are both dedicated and fun to work with.

What is one thing that you think that all patients with CHD should know?
I recently heard a congenital heart expert say that many of her CHD patients reported that they “wouldn’t give up their congenital heart disease” because it had shaped who they were, for the better. I think this is profound. It may seem strange to think about the “good” things about CHD but if you give it some thought, there certainly are.

If you weren’t a psychologist, what would you be?
I think I would obtain a similar level of satisfaction from being a family doctor, or nurse practitioner, because there is a balance of science and intimacy, which I like.

Do you have any interesting hobbies or talents or pets?
I have so many interests, but since having my son I haven’t had as much time to enjoy them all. Nevertheless, I make sure to spend a few hours of the week running, swimming and practicing yoga. I also love hosting social events, especially when it involves kids running about with squirting water toys :).