Wilmington 40 Under 40: Jessica Canavan


Jessica Canavan, Associate Director of Community Family Services at Coastal Horizons, in the nonprofit boardroom in Wilmington, NC on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. Canavan is one of the StarNews 40 Under winners 40 for 2021.[[[[

Age: 32

Place of birth: Massachusetts

Employer: Coastal Horizons Center Inc.

Profession: Assistant Director of Community Family Services

Family: Husband, two children, a dog and a fish

Education: Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Neuroscience from Northeastern University, Boston (2010); Master of Social Work from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (2014)

What community and professional groups are you affiliated with? I am a licensed clinical social worker, licensed in North Carolina through the North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensing Board. I am a registered provider of parent-child psychotherapy, a treatment and prevention modality for infant and young child mental health, as well as trained as a child-first clinician. I also plan to continue my approval in Infant and Young Child Mental Health, but it’s still ongoing!

What are your guiding principles? Connection, honesty, empathy and perspective. I have worked in the field of behavioral and mental health for the past 11 years in various direct care roles. After completing my MSW and obtaining my Bachelor of Clinical Social Work, I provided mental health counseling / psychotherapy to a wide range of children, adults and families, and learned that a connection of quality is an integral part of socio-emotional health and general well-being. As a provider specializing in mental health care for infants, young children and mothers, I know the importance of connection begins before birth. Our relationship to ourselves and our environment (other relationships) is often influenced by our first relationships. As we grow older, our ability to be honest with ourselves, with each other, to deal with even difficult relationships is also important. Practicing compassion and kindness both to ourselves and to others is also crucial. Finally, our ability to take a step back, to see the point of view of others and to be open to new ideas, fosters connection and dialogue between individuals and communities.

How do you volunteer your time in the community? Currently, I am one of the co-chairs of the New Hanover Local Interagency Coordinating Council (LICC) and chair the Brunswick County LICC. LICC groups are local groups linked to the State Interagency Coordinating Council (NC ICC) and Be Early legislation. Overall, these collaborative groups focus on improving access to care and support for children with disabilities and developmental delays, and their families. One of my favorite past volunteer opportunities was providing mental health care at the Cape Fear Clinic on Wednesday evenings. The Cape Fear Clinic is dedicated to increasing access to mental health care for the uninsured and underinsured.

Who has helped you be successful in your life and career? I have been fortunate to have had the support of my family, friends, colleagues and supervisors over the years. I realize that not everyone has this experience, and I know my successes are a tapestry of their teaching, their dedication and even their love. My mother is an important role model for me and always has been. Sometimes my childhood was a stressful or scary place, but it was always there. She is unwavering in her commitment to her family. At Northeastern University, I had a group of neuroscience professors who demonstrated the connections that all walks of life share, and at UNCW my team of professors gave me the structure and tools to make the connection happen. practice so that I can support the growth of my clients. and collaborate with my colleagues. Mentors included clinical and professional supervisors including Ryan Estes, MSW, MBA, LCSW, LCAS (who challenged me to think critically about supporting ‘the whole person’ and supported my growth in supervising other mental health care providers as well), Diane Britz, MSW, LCSW (who helped me ‘wonder’), and Brandon Herscovitch, PhD, BCBA (who was the first to impress the importance of behavioral function).

What goal would you like to accomplish before you turn 40? I would love to travel more to various settings, both in the US and overseas. I think traveling and immersing myself in other cultures and communities would be a privilege, and I have not yet taken full advantage of this opportunity.

What’s your favorite book ? Difficult for me to choose only one! I often like serial books so that I can delve into the details of a world of history and all of its characters. I love Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, as well as JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Another all-time favorite that stands out is “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, as well as “Siddartha” by Herman Hesse.

What are your hobbies? I love spending time with my family and we love activities like going to the beach or to the local parks. I am also an avid market gardener and have several raised beds where we grow tomatoes, peppers, herbs and more!

What is your most precious possession? I have my father’s original copy of JRR Tolkien’s Hobbit. We read this book together when I was about 9 or 10 years old. The story itself was a fantastic adventure, but the quality time with my dad is one of my fondest memories. I hope to build the same types of memories with my own children as they grow older.

If you had a theme song for your life, what would it be? Cashmere by Led Zeppelin. The song itself has long been a favorite of mine and it is to this that I have turned at various turns in my life. It’s normal that a song on a trip has joined me on so many of mine.


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