Montreal Diary: Wise women share their stories and resources

Adam Kovac Adam Kovac, Special to Montreal Gazette

Lisa Brookman is used to answering difficult questions.

Brookman is a psychotherapist and co-director of the West Island Therapy Centre in Pierrefonds, where she often deals with issues of anxiety, depression and marital strife. However, it was her clients’ more mundane questions that led to the creation of Wise Women Montreal, a blog and passion project she co-founded a year and a half ago.

“They would say to me, ‘I’d love to find a great trainer’ or ‘Can you recommend a hairdresser?’ ” said Brookman. “This was kind of toward the end of their treatment with me, and I was constantly on my phone, and I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had this online Montreal resource where women could go and find information?’ “

Seeking a partner to help launch her endeavour, Brookman turned to lifelong friend and fellow Dollard-des-Ormeaux resident Liz Wiener, who is an educational consultant at the therapy centre as well as a stylist. With Wiener on board, what started as a Yellow Pages-type website listing resources for women quickly evolved into something else.

“We’ve always enjoyed the idea of giving back,” said Brookman. “We both enjoy volunteerism, we’ve been involved with different projects and we had the idea of using our blog as a platform to promote events that are happening in Montreal.”

The two, who are both in their early 40s, discovered that among Montreal women, there is a hunger for information about how to help make the community a better place.

“One organization that we’ve supported is called Kerry’s Kitchen, and they supply meals to needy cancer patients,” Wiener explained. “It launched a West Island division and they’ve tripled the meals that they’ve delivered in the last year because of our publicity. That prompted a new direction for us.”

The two women also learned about the power of sharing personal experiences that resonate. For instance, Wiener says her post about her battle with depression has garnered 25,000 hits thus far.

It started like a sisterhood, all these women coming together, learning from each other and listening to each other.
“The posts are relatable,” said Brookman. “People read (about) someone else’s struggle or hardship or excitement, and they can relate to that.”

“You can finally feel like there’s someone out there who gets what I’m going through,” Wiener added.

Now, Wise Women Montreal is home to roughly 20 regular bloggers, who write about various subjects with a local focus. That diversity of experiences and stories has been a key factor in the success of Wise Women.

“We didn’t just want to have our voice, it was very important for us to give a voice to other people in the community,” said Brookman. “It started like a sisterhood, all these women coming together, learning from each other and listening to each other.”

The site’s Facebook page has more than 3,000 likes, and Wise Women is successful enough that Brookman and Wiener have become regular commentators on Montreal’s CJAD radio, talking about women’s issues.

Now, ensuring that nobody feels left out, the two recently launched a new part of the site: Wise Men, which features posts about fatherhood, relationships and sex from a male perspective. The stories, such as one man’s experience getting a vasectomy, have resonated beyond just people with a Y chromosome.

“We’re finding that women are enjoying reading the men’s perspective,” said Brookman. “Everyone’s linking their husband or their brother or their father to read the blog. It’s not only geared toward male readership, necessarily.”

For now, Wise Women remains a part-time gig for Brookman and Wiener. But as they gain readers, that could change.

“This was just supposed to be a small project we were thinking of doing because it makes us feel good to give back, we had a little bit of extra spare time,” said Brookman. “I would like to keep my psychotherapy practice, it’s important to me, but it’s the hope that we can become a household name.”

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