With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life allergen-free.

04 September 2016

Food Allergies & Extending Your Support Network: Q & A with Samara Carroll

We often read about the challenges of managing food allergies but there is relatively little written about the helpful role therapy or counseling can play, or how a therapist or counselor can be an important team member of your food allergy support network. Samara Carroll--a registered social worker and experienced counselor--shared with us how a therapist or counselor might help.
FAB: What is your background/training?
 Samara: I have my Masters in Social Work from The University of Toronto. My training is in individual and family counseling. I have over 10 years of experience working with children, teens and their parents in a number of clinical and community settings.

FAB: How long have you been in practice? 

Samara: I started my food allergy practice a year ago when I recognized a need for support and guidance for those dealing with food allergies. Since I was 2 years old, I have had anaphylactic allergies to peanuts and shellfish and I have experienced first-hand the anxieties and barriers that come with food allergies.

FAB: How can a therapist help someone managing food allergies? 

Samara: In my practice, I work with individuals, couples and families to identify the ways in which food allergies affect various facets of their life. I work with them to devise strategies and coping techniques to deal with their allergies and the anxiety that comes with allergies. I do brief and long term counseling depending on the needs of the client relating to a number of issues including:

Family dynamics
Life-cycle events
Social Support

FAB: Denial can be an obstacle to people seeking help when they need it. How can a person recognize when their anxiety about food allergies has exceeded what is “healthy” or “appropriate” anxiety? 

Samara: I think it is quite natural to have a certain level of anxiety when dealing with food allergies. However, my goal is to work with clients to find a balance between remaining vigilant and enjoying life. I think when it comes to a point when people are no longer participating in daily life activities or are struggling to communicate their needs, it would be helpful for them to seek counseling.

FAB: Can you provide some tips or suggest books or recordings that may help people manage their day-to-day anxiety? 
Samara: Counseling the individual and/or family is very useful in identifying the main issues and applying relevant strategies and approaches.

Additionally, communicating clearly is important. This means notifying restaurants, family members and friends about your allergies and ensuring that they understand the severity of your allergies.

This also means meeting in advance with daycare workers, teachers, camp counsellors and others and ensuring they have a solid understanding of your food allergies.

On a day-to-day basis, always have your own safe snacks for unexpected situations and, of course, always carry your epipens.

My favourite book is The Girl Who Cannot Eat Peanut Butter (full disclosure – my Mom wrote the book about me www.allergypicturebook.com ). I am also a fan of Sloane Miller’s Allergic Girl Website (www.allergicgirl.com) and Allergic Living Magazine (www.allergicliving.com) .

FAB: What are some tips for finding a good therapist for someone experiencing difficulty managing anxiety related to food allergies?Samara: Personally, I would look for a therapist, like myself, who has had life-long food allergies and can relate to similar issues.

I would also look for a therapist who has had experience working with both children and parents and who is empathetic and easy to talk to.

FAB: What are your thoughts about Dr. Sakina Bajowala’s recent article, “Flipping the Lid on Food Allergies” (http://www.allergyasthmanetwork.org/flipping-the-lid-food-allergies/)? Samara: I think that Dr. Bajowala raises some important points. It is important that the medical community finds ways to lessen the overall panic and fear of families affected by food allergies. At the same time, I know personally that having food allergies takes an emotional toll. While the potential of anaphylaxis is an ongoing threat, the allergies also affect every realm of daily life and one’s sense of security and well being.
FAB: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Samara: I am passionate about helping families deal with food allergy anxieties. I am based in Toronto, Canada and am available for in-person and cyber-counseling. I can be reached at www.carrollcounselling.com and Samara@CarrollCounselling.com

Food Allergy Buzz extends a big thanks to Samara for sharing information with Food Allergy Buzz readers about how extending one's support network with therapy or counseling can be a help to individuals and families managing food allergies.
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