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UofGH alum Matt Henderson on his journey from documentary TV to psychotherapy

Being part of a university’s first cohort is a unique experience, which University of Guelph-Humber Media Studies alumnus Matt Henderson remembers fondly. Henderson, who now works as a mental health counsellor at the Guelph Family Health Team, recalls spending his first year at UofGH in portables in the adjacent parking lot before moving into the building in his second year. “It was a unique experience as far as being part of the history of the University of Guelph-Humber,” says Henderson, who graduated from UofGH in 2006. “It was great to be a part of it and to see the physical building being built.”

Henderson says the experience also brought his cohort closer together. “It was a funny experience - some of us joked about how it felt like going back to elementary school, because the class was so small and we stuck together all the time,” he remembers. “But because of that we became really close, and made some really incredible friendships. For a lot of reasons I'm really grateful to have been part of that class.” 

Creativity and collaboration

Henderson says he chose UofGH’s Media Studies program because of the creativity and variety it offered. “I felt like UofGH would give me the opportunity to be creative and to do a lot of different things – I could write for different media like newspaper and magazine, and also do photography and graphic design. It was an opportunity to be more hands-on than I would have been in a more traditional environment,” he says. “I loved it – it was really, really good. I had a good time here, and it was true to the experience I had hoped for.”

During his program, Henderson did his internship at NextFilm Productions, which led to a job there after graduation. “We worked on some very cool projects and I had some good opportunities, and that was a direct result of being at UofGH,” he says. “My internship with the school then led to a job where I was actually working on a movie about the Jonestown Massacre, which was an incredible experience.” After spending a couple of years at NextFilm Productions, he worked for the Discovery Channel as an associate producer and visual researcher, and then landed a job at Cineflix Media, where he researched stories for a crime documentary series.

Changing directions

After spending several years in the documentary television industry, however, Henderson was ready for a change. He had thought casually about a career in counselling and psychotherapy, and eventually decided to take the leap. Henderson says he wanted to use skills he had learned at UofGH and in his career, such as interviewing, listening to people’s stories, and collaboration, to help people. “I was able to see the parallels, especially in my last job - I was working on a crime show, and interviewing friends and family members of both the victims and perpetrators. It showed me that I was able to connect with them and hear their stories, and I realized I would rather be having those conversations to help them, instead of having them to make a show,” he says. “Going into this field started to make sense, and I thought it would be a good fit.” He went back to school and earned a Master’s degree in Clinical Counselling from Tyndale University.

In his current role with Guelph Family Health Team, Henderson works with an interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurse practitioners, and dieticians, who work together to help patients. “It’s really great because you work in concert with the other people on the team to take a more integrated approach to health,” says Henderson. “I think it's so helpful for clients to have their doctor, therapist, nurses, etc. all working together to help - it's easy to get pulled a million different directions when your support system is working in silos.” 

Henderson has also continued writing in his role as a Writing and Research Fellow for the Revolutionary Love Project – an advocacy group out of the University of Southern California, where he has assisted with research, writing, and helping the founder edit her book.

He says changing directions was a good move for him, and he’s enjoying his new field. “It's really rewarding to be able to help people reach goals or get through challenges, and witnessing the changes people are able to make,” he says. “There's always more to learn, and because every client's story is different and unique to them, it's crucial to build rapport and do my best to explore their story, and avoid making any assumptions or taking any shortcuts, which keeps me on my toes and makes the work really engaging.” 

However, he recommends seeking feedback and advice before making a career change. “I found it helpful to meet with a career counsellor, who helped me confirm that I was on the right track. I also got a lot of input from friends and family, who were all supportive of the idea and felt like it was a good fit. It's not a decision I would recommend making on your own,” he says. “But at a certain point, there's only so much information you can have before you kind of just have to go for it – which is always a gamble. I was really lucky to be in a position and a time in my life where I was able to do it without too much risk - a lot of things just came together to make it possible.” 

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