Jess Holtslander


Jess Holtslander

Photo courtesy of Jess Holtslander

alumni UBC’s afterwords is a digital conversation series that shares the stories of some of UBC Okanagan’s extraordinary alumni.

Meet Jess Holtslander

1. What is your current profession?

I own a private practice called Sun & Clouds Counselling as a Registered Social Worker, Registered Clinical Counsellor, and Grief Recovery Specialist. You can find me at or on Facebook/Instagram at @sunandcloudscounselling.

2. What education did you receive at UBC?

Bachelor of Science in Psychology (2017) & Master of Clinical Social Work (2022).

3. What do you think makes UBC Okanagan great?

The community feel on campus is always what first comes to mind when I think of UBCO. I felt like I could trust my fellow students, which made a world of difference for me, especially in the first few years. I also enjoyed finding quiet spots to study around campus in addition to taking in the plants, flowers, greenery, and views. It’s beautiful no matter what time of year it is!

4. If you could start university again, would you do anything differently?

Definitely! In my first year at UBCO, I would find a therapist that I trust and see them on a regular basis. I would also start to practice mindfulness and learn to be less self-critical.

5. What was your first official job after graduation?

I was a Specialized Learning Instructor. I provided one-on-one learning support for students of all ages with learning differences and disabilities in reading, spelling, math, writing, and comprehension.

6. What is the best part of your current job?

I love seeing a difference in the lives of my clients as they’re given the space to share their story; the time to acknowledge their pain and loss while discovering new ways of moving through their grief; the tools to help them see their experiences and relationships in a new way; and the support to find hope, purpose, meaning, and joy in life again.

7. What are some of the challenges you have faced in your career?

I am still learning how to balance work with rest, how to give myself grace when business is slow, and how best to spread the word about my private practice.

8. What would you like to share with current students who will be graduating in the coming years who have concerns with the current work climate?

Have confidence in yourself! You should be treated with respect and fairness wherever you work, no matter what, and if you find that you are in a workplace that doesn’t see your value, take action. You are worth it!

9. What’s the best advice you can give to help plan a career?

You can’t plan for everything, so make the most of each opportunity as it comes your way. Just go for it, one step at a time.

10. Do you have a mentor? How have they influenced you?

Through all of the ups and downs in my life, my parents have been the ones that I have gone to for guidance, coaching, and advice. All of their experience and encouragement have helped me get to this point of having a business in grief and loss therapy. They have been a constant support in my academic and vocational pursuits.

11. What is something you continually find yourself saying?

I can do this. It’s going to work out. It’ll be okay — it is okay.

12. How do you balance your work and home life?

I schedule as much work time as I can, as well as my workouts, while my son is at daycare and my partner is at work so that I can be present with them when they’re home. To feel more balanced, I also make sure to spend weekends with family that live nearby and most weekday evenings relaxing at home.

13. Where do you volunteer, or how do you give back to your community?

I prefer to give back to my community by supporting small, local businesses. A few of my favourites are Chickpeace Zero Waste Refillery, FILL - Kelowna’s Refill Store, Pioneer’s Plate, and Sorella Vegan Eats. Living as sustainably as possible is incredibly important to me, and that involves being conscious of what I’m purchasing, what I’m eating, and where those products are coming from.

14. Do you have any books that you would suggest are a must read?

I feel like I have a million books on my “to-read” list, and I haven’t read very many of them (yet). Two that I’m looking forward to reading are It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine and Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief by David Kessler.

15. Who is one UBC Okanagan alum you would like to nominate for afterwords?

Josée Kreese. We completed the Clinical MSW program together and both of us have a strong passion for serving our Okanagan community. On top of working with the Child Advocacy Centre in Kelowna, Josée teaches trauma-informed yoga to other yoga instructors and students.