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Samara Carroll
By REBECA KUROPATWA

Living with allergies can add a lot of stress to everyday life. This is something Winnipeg-born and raised, Samara Carroll, had to learn from a very young age.

 

When Carroll was just two years old, she had an allergic reaction to peanuts. As she got older, she discovered there were many other foods that her body could not tolerate.
Carroll recently moved to Toronto to complete her Masters degree in Social Work at the University of Toronto.
“I had worked with kids a lot and had done lots of counseling in more of a community setting, but I decided to do private practice as I felt there was a need for support around anxiety – specifically related to food allergies,” said Carroll.
“Food is such a big part of your life. You have to figure out how to balance things and do the things in life you want to do, but also to be safe. So, I started thinking about that more and I felt there was a niche for it, because it didn’t seem like there were other people doing this kind of work.
“So, I worked on a business plan and developed a website with a friend who helped me make it, and I started meeting with different allergy doctors, allergy organizations, and some parents in the city. And, in June 2015, I launched my business.”


Today, Carroll gets referrals through allergy doctors and former patients. While allergy doctors want to help patients deal with the anxiety, they don’t have the time to counsel. So, they opt for the next best thing, which is to refer their patients to Carroll.
“They are there to diagnose the allergy, but they see the need for someone to do deeper counseling around it and help manage anxiety,” said Carroll. “Slowly but surely, in the last year and a half, it’s really picked up.”
While Carroll prefers face-to-face counselling, if that is not possible, she is open to doing sessions via video calling, and now has clients from across North America. The referral doesn’t need to be a medical professional and the majority of the e-mails Carroll receives are from parents.
“The majority of my clients are children and teenagers, but I’m also seeing an increase in parents who either have their own allergies or have anxiety about their kids’ allergies,” said Carroll. “So, I’ll get phone calls or e-mails just from people saying, ‘Hi. I have an eight-year-old boy.’ Usually, they reach out after the kid has had a scary anaphylactic reaction.
“In an e-mail, they’ll usually give me a little paragraph about what the main issue is or why they are reaching out right now, at the moment. Then, I’ll sometimes ask or sometimes they’ll ask about meeting to get counselling right away.
“In that case, I’ll tell them where I’m located, what my fee is, and all the logistics. I do 50-minute sessions. It’s $90 and is covered by private insurance.”
Carroll’s main objective is to help people manage their food-related anxiety and to help them recognize when they have a food anxiety issue, and help them accept that it’s okay to have some anxiety around it.
“It’s about finding a balance between having anxiety and living a normal life,” explained Carroll. “We do that through therapy techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy – working towards different goals by slowly exposing yourself to something.
“This is not the allergen itself, but, say, someone has been afraid to eat at a restaurant for two years, ever since they had a reaction. Then, their goal might be to eventually be able to eat at a restaurant. And they want to learn how to get to that point. It may be that the first step is to go with the family and sit in the restaurant together.
“Then, the next step could be getting a drink at the restaurant. You just work your way up in small steps to try to get there. That’s a big part of what we do.”
Carroll has different worksheets and arts activities that she uses and she also does role playing techniques to teach kids to advocate for themselves – to be able to ask about their allergy and plan ahead, so they don’t feel as anxious if and when an issue arises, as unexpected things will happen.
Typically, one can expect going for an average of six-to-eight sessions, but Carroll has some clients she has been seeing for two years. “Others, I’ll just see three times and they’re like, ‘Okay, thanks, I think I’m over it.’ The idea is to give the tools and people can deal with it on their own.”
For more information, visit http://www.carrollcounselling.com/.

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