Portait of Dr. Vivian Polak

About Dr. Vivian Polak

Dr. Polak is a psychiatrist with subspecialty training in reproductive psychiatry - the field of psychiatry that focusses on women with mental health disorders during the reproductive cycle. Her main focus is on those with disorders during pregnancy and the first year post-partum. She treats individuals, couples, and groups by telemedicine (video/audio). She also provides eConsults (written consultation between primary care providers and specialists); teaches medical trainees, therapists and physicians; and is on clinical faculty at McMaster University.

Dr. Polak co-founded World Maternal Mental Health Day with a group of other practitioners in late 2015, with the first day being celebrated in May 2016. In 2016, she also co-founded the Canadian Alliance for Maternal Mental Health (mmh-smm.ca).

After completing medical school at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Dr. Polak then did her Psychiatry Residency training at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She went on to do subspecialty training in Reproductive Psychiatry at the Reproductive Mental Health Program at BC Children's and Women's Hospital (BC's provincial program) in Vancouver BC. After working for five years at the Reproductive Mental Health Program, as well as opening a satellite clinic in neighbouring Burnaby, she moved to Ontario.

Dr. Polak saw great benefit from the psychotherapies during her training, and she developed a keen interest in learning various techniques to help her patients, as follows:

  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), the most validated first-line therapy in the perinatal population
  • CBT for depression - studied with Dr. Christine Padesky
  • Exposure and Response Prevention - CBT for obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (IS-TDP) - studied with Dr. Habib Davanloo
  • Motivational Interviewing - a valuable technique for behavioural change, such as for substance use disorders
  • Mindfulness - a beneficial practice for mental and physical illnesses in general
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) - studied with Dr. Marsha Linehan

Dr. Polak aims to educate and inform patients and referring practitioners about psychiatric illnesses and how to help each person achieve remission and overall wellness. It is not just about treating symptoms, and certainly not just about medicating. In addition to experiencing remission from psychiatric disorders, she aims to help those interested to fully recover their true selves, to realise satisfying relationships, to overcome self-defeating patterns, and to achieve optimal physical and mental health while minimising the risk of future illness. Dr. Polak promotes a constellation of evidence-based lifestyle modifications around sleep, exercise, nutrition (a whole foods plant based diet), and mindfulness, in addition to judicious medication use in some patients.

In addition to English, she sees patients in French, Spanish, and Italian.

Contact Us