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DYNAMIC BALANCE: Where play is work and work is play


Dynamic Balance provides services to First Nations clients through Jordan’s Principle.
Dynamic Balance provides services to First Nations clients through Jordan’s Principle. - Contributed

On first sight, Dynamic Balance doesn’t look like a place where children and their families come for counselling and occupational therapy. In fact, the open space clients first step into looks like a miniature play park full of brightly coloured mats, swings, and balls.

It looks fun.

The building where all the magic happens sits on a small hill overlooking the Northwest Road in Blockhouse, Nova Scotia. It looks like your average modern bungalow, except for the joyful red siding and colourful circles on the business sign.

Something very different happens here.

“We put a lot of thought and care into creating a space that doesn’t feel clinical,” says Jan Cressman. “We want people to feel comfortable here.”

The dynamic team is made up of Kathie Brown, occupational therapist, and Jan Cressman, psychotherapist. The two are a team in every sense of the word—partners in business as well as life.

The two entrepreneurs wanted the space to be special for families. They founded Dynamic Balance Centre for Occupational Therapy and Counselling four years ago after finding the open-concept bungalow, once a private residence. They needed a place that could be wheelchair accessible. They needed a high open space for the giant swing frame that suspends a variety of therapeutic swings. This was the place.

Their approach to wellness is unique.

First, the environment at Dynamic Balance is supportive and homelike. Children often look forward to their appointments. The summer gardens invite children to pick flowers, herbs, or veggies to take home. The full kitchen can be used for cooking activities. Individual adult clients and couples enjoy the tranquil space of Jan’s therapy room, and often start off with a cup of tea.

Jan has worked as a counselling psychotherapist for over 30 years. She offers a full slate of services to individuals and couples as well as support for people in the helping professions. Her overall approach, contemplative counselling, is based on the view that “all of us are fundamentally healthy, with a capacity for clarity, compassion, mindfulness, and awareness.” Jan is best known for her ability to connect with teenagers and young adults, but enjoys working with people of all ages, including elders.

A paediatric occupational therapist for more than 20 years, Kathie works with children of all ages and abilities. She is trained in Neuro-Developmental Treatment, Sensory Integration, and as a Somatic Movement Educator.

“Sometimes it’s easy to look and see a child’s negative behaviours or challenges, but really, if we look more deeply there may be motor-planning issues or sensory issues that can be addressed through play-based therapy and simple changes,” says Kathie.

The main occupation of all children is play, so that’s the springboard of Kathie’s approach. Children need a “just right challenge,” says Kathie. This happens when activities are meaningful, motivating, and fun. “This is the sweet spot where learning and integration are happening. It’s going to be different for every child.”

At what age can occupational therapy start? Kathie works with babies as young as newborn including babies born prematurely, babies with neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy, and little ones who are starting to show signs of developmental delays. Parents and caregivers are invited to take part in these sessions.

Anyone is welcome to refer themselves or their clients to Dynamic Balance. Recommendations often come through family and friends. While services are not covered by provincial health care, many insurance plans provide funding for occupational therapy. Dynamic Balance provides services to First Nations clients through Jordan’s Principle.

Julie Veinot is the Director of the Sexual Health Centre Lunenburg County, a member of Sexual Health Nova Scotia. Visit her online at www.sexualhealthlunenburg.com.

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