I have the wonderful opportunity to meet and photograph all kinds of amazing human beings.

While they are in studio, it is a privilege to learn about their businesses, or the work they do, their family, their interests, and hear a little bit about their story.


BTS of professional headshots with Colleen McLean

Colleen, is the Founder/Owner of Sound Youth Counselling (SYC)Colleen is a dedicated mental health professional with a deep understanding of the challenges faced during adolescence. With a Master of Social Work and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University, Colleen offers a compassionate and collaborative approach to therapy. Certified in various modalities including EMDR, Integrative Trauma and Attachment Treatment Model (ITATM), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Colleen provides inclusive support for individuals navigating anxiety, depression, identity exploration, and life transitions. Additionally, as an Instructor for Adults who Interact with Youth Mental Health First Aid and a Certified Trauma Integration Clinician (CTIC), Colleen is committed to empowering clients on their mental health journey. With a wealth of training and expertise, Colleen creates a safe space for clients to prioritize their mental wellness and regain control of their lives.

What inspired you to establish this counseling therapy service, and what is the overarching mission or vision that drives your work, particularly in the empowerment and growth of youth?

I was inspired to start Sound Youth Counselling (SYC) because I saw a need, there was a gap in service, and when I see something that I think needs to change or could be done better, I do it. I love youth. I have always, always, loved working with young people, particularly teenagers, and I think they deserve a counselling practiced focused on their demographic and needs. So much of what we do at SYC is to help young people recognize the strengths they already have and ways they can leverage them to change the things they want changed.

Sound youth counselling Parry Sound

How have your priorities changed from when you first started?

Hmm… yes, and no. My priority was, and has always been, to effectively support as many children and youth, and their families, as possible. However, I think the more I do this and the more I learn the more I realize the importance of operating from a systems perspective – the need to incorporate families and other supports, to build that full network around someone.

Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you were first starting out?

Yes, I would have started a not-for-profit branch of service right off the start to help address financial barriers to service. I might still do this… 😊

Collen McLean


What challenges did you have to overcome at the beginning of your journey?

For a long time, the biggest challenge was managing (balancing?) SYC (which was what I loved to do the most) with the full-time job I had elsewhere, and finding a way to be present as a mom and partner with a husband who does extended periods of time away on shift work. I took the leap and began full-time with SYC in the summer of 2022 and haven’t looked back since.

In what ways does your counseling service actively engage with the community to create awareness and involvement in promoting youth empowerment and mental health?

I hope community engagement is something people think of when they think of SYC. We try to stay involved with local events – we’re going to the upcoming Top Shelf for Mental Health, for example – and collaborate with other organizations. I put a lot of time into creating, building, maintaining relationships with others because I think it truly does take a village to support youth mental health. And of course, we have the first annual Mental Health Symposium coming up!

Mental Health Symposium - tell us a little bit about it.

The DOC ROB Fund and Sound Youth Counselling proudly present
the first annual mental health symposium in Parry Sound (May 4th, 2024)! This special event brings together incredible minds from across Ontario to help us all learn more about how to support ourselves and the young people in our lives. The program has been thoughtfully designed for caregivers, educators, other professionals, and community members.

Our goal is for attendees to feel  Empowered, Validated, Inspired, and More Knowledgeable, about mental health as we embrace the efforts this community is taking to become a beacon of mental health well-being in the North.

Read more about the Mental Health Symposium.

What do you perceive as the most significant challenges or obstacles in addressing the mental health needs of youth today, and how does your counseling service work to overcome them?

Financial barriers are a significant challenge that we face in delivering our service. Although we try to do what we can to help (sponsored counselling, sliding scale, Victim Quick Response Program, Non-Insured Health Benefits), counselling is still financially exclusive for many. Maybe our next role is government advocacy…!

How do you define success?

I define success in several ways, personally and professionally. Professionally, I think it probably comes down to the very first experience an individual has with us – whoever it is, whether it’s a caregiver, teacher, or community member reaching out for advice, or a young person starting counselling – if they can walk away feeling like we provided an open, warm, and helpful space, then we were successful.

What is keeping you up at night?

It’s probably thinking about where I want SYC to go and mapping out how we’re going to get there.

Describe some of your key routines or habits that you have to keep you going?

My routines and habits ebb and flow with the seasons and what I need at any given time. Spending time on Georgian Bay is my foundational go-to for destressing, regrouping, recharging, and grounding. So, spring, summer and fall (and even winter this year), you’ll find me swimming (or really quickly running in and out). I try to find quiet time to myself, whatever that looks like.

Do you, and/or, how do you find time to develop your creative process?

Despite coming from a family of artists (my sister, Meghan Irvine, is a legit artist). I have never really sought much of a traditional creative outlet. My creativity typically comes through in the ways I navigate challenges and obstacles, thinking outside the box to make things happen. Although, I also enjoy putting together social media posts for SYC, which uses creativity! (and Canva, thank goodness for Canva).

What are some hard choices that you had to make to get where you are?

Hmm… good question. At the risk of sounding standoffish, I don’t know that there have been really hard choices to make to get here. I become very uncomfortable when I feel like my time is not being spent in alignment with my values. I’m talking a deep, physical, whole-being discomfort, and starting SYC just made sense because it aligned everything for me. I am very privileged to be able to make some of the choices I have and to have a partner who supports me as much as he does (or knows by now not to get in my way…).

Can you describe a memorable success story or moment that reaffirmed your commitment to your business's mission?

Honestly, it would be hard to pick a moment because I think my reaffirmations come from multiple moments, all the time. For me, it’s hearing a young person share something and knowing that they’re sharing because I’ve been able to earn their respect and trust. Or, when they come back and tell me they’ve tried a strategy we talked about, and it made a positive change. Or hearing from a caregiver that they’re noticing positive changes in their kiddo. Those are very special to me. It’s such an honour and privilege to do what I do.

In the age of technology, how has your counseling service embraced or integrated innovative tools or digital platforms to reach and engage with the youth demographic?

This is a work in progress for us right now. To this point, SYC has primarily worked on platforms used by caregivers (Facebook and Instagram) as that demographic is typically the one who finds supports for their child(ren). However, a goal moving forward is that we start to explore TikTok (we do have an account but it’s not active) and other more youth-forward platforms.



series of headshots of colleen mclean sound youth counselling

What is your relationship with failure?

I feel like this is a trick question – is there such a thing as failure or are there only learning opportunities? I have been told I’m a perfectionist and have high standards (sorry, everyone I work with!) which is probably why I don’t like when things are done part way or with minimal effort. I don’t want to look back and ever say that I did something simply because that was the way it has always been done. Not recognizing passive decision-making would be a failure, I suppose. But anything that doesn’t work can be changed and adapted and done better. It’s all a starting point.

What book and/or podcast are you enjoying right now?

I love the RichRoll podcast and I’m currently reading “Mother Daughter Murder Night.” I read a lot, so the book-thing depends on the day you ask me.

What is one thing people would never guess about you?

I would describe myself as an introvert. I think most people think because I talk with people all day, I’m very extroverted, but I really need alone, quiet time to recharge my battery. And my first name is Sarah; that one always gets people, too!

What is one thing you wish people knew about you?

That’s a hard one because I’m a fairly private person in a lot of ways. I suppose I would want people to know just how much I love this community and how much I’m going to do to increase accessibility to mental health services for folks.

Anything else you want to add and/or share?

If I were to get stranded on an island and could only take one food, I would take peanut butter.

Black and White Image of Colleen McLean


 Some Awards/Recognition of Sound Youth Counselling

  • 2024 Parry Sound Founder's Circle Awards: Finalist
  • 2023 Business of the Year Award: Business Excellence Awards, Parry Sound Area of Commerce
  • 2022 Growth & Innovation Award: Business Excellence Awards, Parry Sound Area Chamber of Commerce
  • 2022 Best Marriage, Family & Individual Counselling: Readers' Choice Awards, Almaguin-Parry Sound
  • 2022 Parry Sound Founder's Circle Awards: Finalist

Where can you find Colleen:

  1. Website
  2. Instagram
  3. LinkedIn
  4. Facebook
  5. Parry Sound Area Founders Finalist Video


Peter Istvan

Peter Istvan Photography

Peter is a professional headshot photographer. Available in studio, or on location. Serving Parry SoundMuskokaSudburyNorth Bay, Barrie, Toronto, and surrounding areas. 

Would be happy to hear from you!