Natalie with her daughter
Natalie with her daughter, Laura, and son, Michael. She looks forward to spending more time with family during her retirement. (Photo: Courtesy Natalie Cournoyea)

Natalie Cournoyea retires June 30 from her role as a Senior Clinical Director at Toronto Rehab to focus on her second career as a psychotherapist.

Natalie began her career as a registered nurse in 1976 and later moved into clinical leadership positions.

"I always knew I wanted to be a leader," she says. "I wanted to make a difference in more places."

Natalie joined Toronto Rehab from acute care in April 2009 as the Executive Director, Spinal Cord Rehab and Cardiac Rehab, and moved to her current role leading Geriatric Rehab, MSK Rehab and Cardiac Rehab in 2011.

"In a way, my first career led me to my second career," she says. "As Director, I make a difference in people's careers through my leadership and mentorship – coaching has been a love of mine which is an overlap with my psychotherapy work."

Elaine Murphy, Manager, MSK Rehab, who reports to Natalie, has benefited from her commitment to mentorship.

"Natalie takes a personal interest in the mentorship relationship – she sees mentoring as a key function of her role not as a bonus, per se," Elaine says. "She has supported me with always looking for the good in others and distributing opportunities for learning and growth amongst all staff – not just a few."

Natalie recognized she was strong at counselling people in their careers and dealing with patient and family concerns in her leadership role at the hospital. But it wasn't until her own mentor recommended psychology as a good fit for her that she enrolled in a part-time Masters of Counselling & Psychology. After graduating in 2002, she began practicing psychotherapy outside of her work hours.

"I feel like I'm in my zone when I'm practicing psychotherapy," said Natalie. "I love seeing my patient's 'aha' moment and watching them get better from there."

Natalie with her partner, Wayne
Natalie with her partner, Wayne, while on vacation at the Grand Canyon. (Photo: Courtesy Natalie Cournoyea)

Upon reflection of her time at Toronto Rehab, Natalie shares a few accomplishments that stand out.

"I'm most proud of leading the move of our MSK group from Hillcrest Centre to University Centre; how the Geriatric program has grown, especially in terms of its role in research," she says. "It went from one to two research projects, to now more than 20 research projects on the go.

"I'm also proud that I could help secure funding for Chronic Pain Program, Assess and Restore, ACCELERATION, Cardiac College and ECHO."

Natalie retires from Toronto Rehab this week and will continue her part-time psychotherapy practice. She also has summer plans to travel Barcelona with her 30-year old daughter, Laura, and, overall, looks forward to spending more time with her family – especially her partner, Wayne, her kids and father, who is 91.

But Toronto Rehab won't be far from her thoughts.

"I'll miss helping the vulnerable populations here at Toronto Rehab – and helping the team care for them," she says.​

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