I am a registered social worker, adult educator, and counsellor in private practice. I moved from the Lower Mainland of B.C. to Whitehorse in 2006 when I married a long-time Yukoner. We both love the Yukon and consider this to be our true home.
Throughout my professional life I have provided a range of services to individuals and families facing difficult life challenges. I have practiced in a variety of settings, primarily as part of an interdisciplinary team, and often with those who have complex needs.
Since moving to the Yukon I have primarily worked with a long-stay residential treatment home for “high risk” adolescent males with intellectual disabilities. My role has been that of clinical and program consultant to management, staff trainer, and from 2013 to 2015, as one of the program’s therapists. I have since opened a part-time private counselling practice in Whitehorse. I have also thoroughly enjoyed being a sessional instructor with the Bachelor of Social Work Program, at Yukon College.
I started working in the field of developmental disabilities in the mid-1980s, first as a front-line home support worker, then as a Special Education Assistant, and later as a community support worker. From the mid-1990s I began providing social work services to typical parents with children who had special needs, as well as to adults labelled with intellectual disabilities and/or mental health issues. I also have extensive experience as a medical social worker, counselling individuals and families in need of end-of-life and bereavement support, as well as to those struggling to adapt to health-related challenges.
I feel blessed to be living in this beautiful territory and by being part of community life here in Whitehorse. If you would like to be in touch please see the contact page.
Guidebook Grief Support for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities
In the pithy words of an old friend, “everything starts with a thought”. The idea for this guidebook arose out of a conversation with a social work colleague. We were both working at Surrey Hospice Society at the time. She was the Bereavement Counsellor, while I assisted volunteers in developing and sustaining supportive relationships with hospice clients and their families.
In addition to our other personal and professional experiences with end-of-life care, both of us had worked for many years with people labeled as having an intellectual disability. It was painfully evident to us both that people with intellectual disabilities often face significant barriers in accessing timely and appropriate bereavement support. My colleague and I reviewed the literature, shared our findings, and collaborated to create a series of workshops that we eventually co-presented. These included presentations at the B.C. Hospice and Palliative Care Association conference in 2007 and at conferences for the B.C. Association for Community Living, 2008 & 2009.
This guidebook is a brief overview of what we had gleaned from research at the time, learned through clinical practice, and through personal experiences. This guidebook may be of particular interest to service providers in residential settings, as well as to family members, social workers, counsellors, and others wishing to be a supportive presence to adults with intellectual disabilities who are living with loss.
There is no charge for this Guidebook. Instead, I ask that you please consider making a donation to an agency or an organization that provides supports to people with disabilities and their families.
To download this Guidebook simply click “Guidebook Grief Support…” at the start of this page.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
Yvette Lepage, M.S.W., R.S.W.
“By making a place for wholeness within our relationships, we offer others the opportunity to be whole without shame and become a place of refuge from everything in them and around them that is not genuine. We enable people to remember who they are.”
~ Rachel Naomi Remen
Over the course of my professional career I have been privileged to companion many individuals and families, often through some of the most challenging times in their lives. I view counselling as a collaborative effort, a relationship that invites all that we are and have been, with the aim of addressing current barriers to wellbeing. For instance, spending time exploring some of the history and nature of presenting concerns may help us clarify what is needed to move forward and how best to proceed. For more information, see this Information Sheet.
In working with me you can expect genuineness, integrity, strict confidentiality, and the benefit of more than 20 years of practice experience.
I work with “typical” adults, as well as those who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. While not limited to these, my primary interests and areas of specialty are:
- Managing transitions and significant life events
- Counselling for individuals struggling to adapt to health-related change
- Anticipatory grief and issues related to end-of-life care
- Consultation and/or training for service providers and caregivers companioning people with disabilities who are living with loss.
I understand loss as a shared human experience, one that can have a profound effect on our sense of self, our capacity for peace, and on our hope for the future. For individuals living with loss, including those who are challenged by health-related change, my approach is to foster resilience in the face of change through practical support for grieving in a healthful way and by exploring the possibilities for growth through adversity.
Grief Support and People with Disabilities:
Many people with disabilities recover from loss without professional bereavement support. There is also evidence that even with supportive care, people with disabilities are more likely than their non-disabled peers to suffer disenfranchised grief (i.e., a disregard for an individual’s need and/or capacity to grieve), and diagnostic overshadowing (i.e., “behavioural problems” or emotional distress attributed exclusively to the disability itself). The consequences of serial loss can also have a significant effect on an individual’s psychological and emotional well-being. Unresolved loss in particular is associated with the development of mental health and other health-related disorders.
In addition to working directly with self-advocates, I am also available to service providers and caregivers who are involved in developing individualized grief support plans for individuals with FASD and other disabilities. My aim is to facilitate their capacity to:
- Recognize unmet grief needs in those we support
- Identify the conditions that facilitate or impede grief work
- Employ a range of multi-sensory, multimodal approaches for processing grief in a healthful way.
My orientation in practice for all people has always been to assist individuals and families to maximize their potential for social and emotional well-being. As an advocate for and with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities I am further committed to foster and support each individual’s:
- Opportunities to maximize their unique potential
- Community participation and deepening of relationships
- Capacity for self-determination, agency, and self-advocacy.
Over the years I have developed and facilitated staff training and professional workshops on a variety of topics, including:
- The impacts of trauma on child and adult development
- The therapeutic role of youth workers
- Grief support for adults with intellectual disabilities
- Managing vicarious trauma in bereavement support
- Responding to challenging behaviour in residential care
- Fostering attachment in “hard to reach” youth
- Complicated grief
- Managing health-related change
- Transition planning for youth in care
- Self-care for hospice and palliative care staff
If you are interested in any of the above, or if you have ideas for developing a workshop on a related topic, please get in touch through my contact page.
Mailing address: P.O. Box 31270, Whitehorse, Yukon, Y1A 5P7