South West Self-Management reflects on joining TVFHT

South West Self-Management Team: (from left) Darren Robbins, Andrea Martin, Heather Smith.

Learning self-management skills and tools for your own health condition boosts your autonomy and ability to advocate for yourself when meeting with healthcare professionals. These skills are taught in programs offered by South West Self-Management (SWSM), and are skills that the SWSM Team possesses themselves.

South West Self-Management joined the Thames Valley Family Health Team (TVFHT) in April 2023, after being managed by Ontario Health, and began a strong collaborative relationship.

“Working with TVFHT has brought a whole new group of people that can support us,” shares Darren Robbins, SWSM Regional Program Lead. “We’re reaching a larger audience through clinicians and TVFHT’s communication tools. Organizations are also calling on us because they’ve heard good experiences through word of mouth.”

Darren is one of three people on the SWSM team, which also includes fellow Regional Program Lead Andrea Martin, and Program Coordinator and Workshop Specialist Heather Smith. This small and mighty trio maintained the same number of workshops and participants as the previous year while adjusting to this shift in home organizations.

The change came at the perfect time. More people were ready to return to in-person programming after years of hosting groups over Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic altered how we did things,” says Martin. “We lost a number of our peer leaders because we weren’t able to use them. But coming to TVFHT, we were able to ramp up training for peer leaders. Now we have a larger number of volunteers.”

Peer Leader Jean Whitred

SWSM Peer Leaders, like Jean Whitred, guide participants through each program while relying on their own experience living with a health condition or supporting someone with a specific health condition. Whitred, a retired nurse, has been volunteering since 2015. “I was doing this course the last two years before I retired, and I enjoyed it so much. I live my life according to the book. It’s been well-researched and it’s safe. That is important especially now with so much information online.”

She leads up to two groups a year, Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions and Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Pain. She says that each time she learns something new. “It refreshes me. Somebody always has a different opinion or a different tool they’re trying.”

She welcomes the return to in-person groups, which she feels helps build someone’s community. “People are in the same area, locally, and can talk about local events and supports.”

The team is currently planning for in-person groups in London, St. Thomas, and Owen Sound this year. They are also looking to partner with more organizations to offer programs to patients or staff. “Partnering with other organizations increases our capacity many times over”, says Smith. The booking process will also improve with a shift to online registration.

As more individuals access self-management skills, they will benefit from the resilience and growth mindset of the SWSM team, inspiring healthier lifestyles and unlocking individual potential.

To learn more about South West Self-Management, and register for one of their programs, visit

Scroll to Top