Monique Peats has always had a passion for helping people, and her resume proves it; she’s an awarded clinician, entrepreneur, co-author, international presenter and health tech innovator. Recognizing the challenge of stigma, shame and accessibility had long plagued those seeking support, she co-founded Life Recovery Program (LRP): Inward Strong — an award-winning, simple and practical online program for people coping with addiction, anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues. Based in Waterloo, she also maintains a private psychotherapy practice.
My first job ever was… delivering a small local paper, the Waterloo Chronicle, at the age of 12, as well as babysitting. I remember a neighbour hired me to look after her 3-month-old, and I knew nothing about babies. I laugh now, because I have no idea what she was thinking when she decided to leave her newborn with a 12-year-old (it may have had something to do with the fact that I lived two doors down and my mom was at home during the day so able to help at any time). Upon reflection, that’s who I am — curious and open — so even if I don’t fully know how to do something, I’ll try my best and allow myself to experience what often ends up being a growth-full moment.
I decided to go into psychotherapy because… I simply wanted to help people, to try to make a difference. This desire to help people was quite strong even at a young age. I tossed around several possibilities: lawyer, doctor, pastor, teacher, then clinician. During my studies at a private college, I stumbled on “systems thinking” and family therapy and became intrigued, and my passion and desire to help individuals and families navigate life evolved from there.
My proudest accomplishment is… I’m extremely proud of my ability to be present and in the moment, even when it’s scary or painful. My dad passed away unexpectedly on May 21, 2020, and a few days later, I found a letter I wrote to him several years ago for Father’s Day expressing how amazing he was and how much I love him. Being present and in the moment causes me to give freely, express, share and process my thoughts and feelings without hindrances. We’ve all been impacted by the pandemic and the residual painful impact spotlighted in the media of injustice, inequality, disparity, pain and grief — and yet, I choose to feel it all, including the joy and gratitude of the gift of my life and all that it entails.
I navigate my challenges by… As an entrepreneur, founder of an awarded online wellness program, who also juggles a private practice, being authentic with myself and others is imperative. I believe this perspective enables me to navigate some of the most challenging times and experiences both personally and professionally. It’s not always easy, yet authenticity of self enables me to acknowledge, reset, move through and adjust accordingly.
My boldest move to date was… choosing to leave a salaried, secure job to work for myself as a clinician in private practice, to fully lean into my desire to be present with hurting people as they navigate some of life’s toughest journeys, and to take the leap to become a founder of a company that addresses the most stigmatized issues, mental health and addiction/behavioural. Our company has experienced stigma because of the issues we’re trying to help resolve, yet it’s worth the bold effort because people are receiving help, one by one.
I surprise people when I tell them… that I co-hosted a late-night talk show and sang back-up for a friend who was a guest on City TV.
My partner and I started an online wellness program because… we both have clinical backgrounds and recognized that there aren’t enough qualified people to help all of the hurting souls who deserve access to mental health and behavioural health resources. We were saddened by the many stories and stats of people losing hope, suicides, broken relationships, and that so many experience blocks to access.
“Don’t lose your passion, don’t forget why you decided to do it in the first place, rest, laugh and have fun.”
My best advice to people starting out as an entrepreneur is… don’t lose your passion, don’t forget why you decided to do it in the first place, rest, laugh and have fun — if you believe and have passion, surround yourself with people who balance out your skills, focus on gratitude and choose to not take it personally, you’ll experience the satisfaction of knowing that you made a difference, whatever that means to you.
My biggest setback… occurred a few years ago when we finally received funding, had an amazing new team member, and focused on what seemed to be the right vertical to target our sales. Everything seemed so promising, we predicted the best financial targets to date, based on all of the opportunities and positive leads. Then it all fell apart — our targeted ‘perfect’ vertical that all of the market research validated had high need, high stigma (both mental health/addiction/behavioural issues etc..) and high desire for our self-directed anonymous solution, ended up having a low response to technology, meaning they weren’t open to utilizing an online solution. We were gutted. The role of stigma and shame was not accounted for in the market research. On top of it all, a key member of our team experienced a personal trauma. The ripple effect was that we had to cut back and go back to a skeleton team. It was a devastating blow and we were all exhausted.
I overcame it by… choosing to not lose hope, resiliently recharge, refocus and rebuild. Remembering why we started all this, which is our desire to help meet a need that continues to devastate lives and families, has enabled us to focus on new verticals and opportunities that expanded our vision. We are now exploring opportunities in both Canada and the US.
The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… maintain a healthy balance consistently and rest to recharge. The only time I take a break and experience true reconnection with myself is when my husband ‘forces’ me to book a holiday someplace far away, which often involves hiking a mountain, exploring a new country or city. Rather a tricky undertaking during a pandemic. I juggle my private practice, our company, and a personal life, which means that I am tired and exhausted a lot of the time — yet I love what I do and I am so grateful for it all and the amazing impact our online Inward Strong program is having on the lives of so many. I am a passionate person by nature, yet my goal is to be more passionate or compassionate towards myself, be more attentive and more mindful to notice when I need a break — so that I can chat with friends, read a book, take a course or whatever it may be that sparks my curiosity.
If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… spend time with friends and family, and then complete the four workshops and courses that are waiting in my inbox before they expire.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I took a course in hang gliding, sat on various boards, use to be involved in church ministry, sang in several vocal groups, performed in numerous musicals as well as performed and travelled as a soloist in a variety of venues across Canada and the US, and co-chaired and co-hosted the first Bell “Let’s Talk” event in the Waterloo region.
I stay inspired by… holding on to hope and faith. I know that there is a need, I know we have an awesome solution, and many have shared the power of our program and how it has made a positive difference in their lives. Inward Strong works — sometimes it’s easy to forget when you’re in the trenches that it really does work! — and for that I am grateful.
The future excites me because… Covid-19 has caused the tide to change in so many ways, and I believe the diversity that is now being highlighted across the board will become the new complexion of our world, it will become the norm rather than the novelty, at least that is my hope.
My next step is… to choose to stand in hope for a better future for all of us, that diversity on all counts will become the new normal and to become a stronger voice that leads others towards hope, help and healing in whatever way I can, including and especially through our online resource.