Having supported one another through their own personal journeys with fertility issues, miscarriage, pregnancy struggles and adjusting to life post pregnancy, close friends Sam Dudek and Stephanie O’Brien combined their 20 years of experience in mental health education, psychology and counselling to create Kōwhai Therapeutic Services. They want to get the message out to women that asking for help is never a sign of weakness; it’s one of the bravest things you can do. For many women, the pregnancy journey is not easy, and Sam and Stephanie are there at every stage to develop a pathway through counselling that meets the needs of the individual and their families. Here they talk to The Natural Parent Magazine about the inspiration behind what they do, how they balance work and family life, and the challenges they have overcome along the way.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
We worked together for five years before we decided to start our counselling practice. During this time, we supported each other through fertility issues, pregnancy difficulties, miscarriages and post-pregnancy adjustments. We realised how important it is to talk through what is considered a natural experience, portrayed by social media as effortless. Although parenthood is full of beautiful, emotional highs, it can also be accompanied by stress, anxiety, self-doubt and sleepless nights. We both realised having someone to support you during this period can prevent you from feeling isolated and alone. Most importantly, talking to someone can help you see through the difficult parts and the fog of parenting. Our parenting experiences have inspired us to support others the way we have been supported.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Our private practice started as a dream shared over coffee during our break times. We both are passionate about mental health education and supporting others to be the best versions of themselves. What initially seemed a daunting task moving from teaching psychology to full-time counselling was made easier by slowly moving between the two careers rather than jumping straight into the change. Over four years, we both had children, juggled our working life and planned our dream.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
Our biggest breakthrough was finding someone else who shared our dreams and had the same work ethic and drive. Not many people are lucky enough to find a friend to make the big leap into private practice with, to have someone you could completely rely on to have your back and weather the stressful moments of starting a new business. We had already worked with each other in a very emotionally demanding job, building trust and understanding around how we both work in a complimentary way.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
For us, counselling provides the ability to balance work and family; it was the reason for our move. Our working days are shaped around our families and time for our self-care. Why not have our weekly business meeting in a nail salon, during a walk or in a coffee shop? Steph has recently had a baby – our office is based in her home to allow for extra moments with her little one, and Sam gets baby cuddles, so it is a win-win all around.