March 20, 2019 10:00 am

Thinking about trying therapy? Here’s what Edmontonians need to know

A therapist awaits a client at The Family Centre

Courtesy: The Family Centre
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Reaching out for help can be an intimidating step but it’s even more daunting when you’re not sure what to expect from a counselling or therapy session.

In Edmonton there are numerous services available to suit your personal and financial needs, some of them operating outside of the typical “therapy session” that may come to mind.

Registered psychologist Kim Knull explained how things work at Momentum Walk in Counselling.

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“Momentum is a place where you can come with no appointment. It’s a lot like a walk-in doctor’s office. You don’t have to wait on a wait list or schedule around anything in your life,” Knull said.

“You can just come in when you feel you need help. You pay what you can afford for the services.”

The executive director said the average wait time is 15 minutes.

“When you walk in, our receptionist will ask you to fill out a brief intake form. Within a few minutes, a therapist will be assigned to you who has the most expertise on your issue,” Knull said. “Then, we will bring you into our counselling room and ask you to tell us about the thing that brought you in.”

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Knull said therapists talk with a client for about 30-40 minutes, then take a break.

“That’s an opportunity for the client and therapist to reflect on what has been said and to come up with some ideas about what would make the situation better. Then the therapist comes back and presents the options. Then you as a client can say: ‘That does or does not fit me.'”

Once the client goes home, they can think about the information provided and decide when they might need to come back.

The co-founder of the clinic said the company is working to normalize therapy.

“It’s a part of life. Everybody could use it from time to time. It’s normal for people to go and talk to somebody,” Knull said.

“I think sometimes people’s perceptions of what might happen [in therapy] sometimes keeps them away from accessing help.”

The business has been open for six years.

“People leave so happy at the end. They realize it wasn’t a session where we point out everything you’re doing wrong. It’s an opportunity to see that a lot of things are going right in your life —and how can we use that to help you move forward in your life,” said Knull. “It’s actually really helpful and not at all scary.”

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The Family Centre changed its counselling intake model last summer, offering a free drop-in appointment to help take the pressure off the individual.

“The client meets with a therapist who will do the first session with them,” explained mental health therapist Heather Andrew. “If they are interested in further therapy support services, they will continue to work with a therapist and work towards their therapeutic objective.”

The drop-in counseling session targets a single goal to accomplish, typically with an intern therapist pursuing a Master’s degree.

“The client can apply the strategies or tools discussed in the session to their life right away. It’s not targeted at ongoing counseling.”

Andrew said the range of topics discussed is extremely broad.

“[We cover] anything and everything. Any concern or challenge that a person is facing is fair game to talk about. There is no judgement and it’s a safe space,” said Andrew. “I think the drop-in is a nice option because it allows someone to walk through the door and be in control of what they want to bring to that session.”

Andrew said The Family Centre’s setup can also give patients a bit of privacy in the waiting room.

“We offer a number of different services within this building so that can be a bit of relief to clients. It’s not as if you are definitely here for therapy when you’re in the waiting room.

“Nobody is singled out.”

WATCH BELOW (Nov. 21, 2018): WellTrack is a self-help online tool and app that is helping University of Alberta students track and improve their mood, well-being and mental health. Emily Mertz explains.

There are also non-traditional options available in Edmonton for university students.

Kevin Friese is the assistant dean of Student Health and Wellness at the University of Alberta. He said the university offers a broad range of support to students.

“Counselling is only appropriate for a certain portion of our community. Others might benefit from other resources we have available,” said Friese.

“Our newest service is called ACCESS Outreach. It’s a program that’s intended to go out into the greater community. We’re taking the team to high-traffic locations where students are most often to check-in with them.”

Friese said it’s a good option for students who don’t feel comfortable going to an office they’ve never been to or talking to someone they aren’t familiar with.

READ MORE: University of Alberta students get in touch with well-being, mental health through WellTrack app

“Our ACCESS Outreach Team, being in its first pilot year, it’s still getting up off the ground, [we’re seeing students come in for tutoring help] and through that, students can connect with a social worker while they are there for a check-in in a very casual way.”

All three individuals agree it’s a great step for Edmonton to have more therapy options.

“I’m really hoping more people will use this as a maintenance,” Knull said. “It’s like getting an oil change. Then, the problem doesn’t get worse and your life doesn’t spiral.

“You’ve caught it in time, given it the right treatment and then you’re good to go.”

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