Aurora therapy affordable, open to all

·3 min read

Abdikheir Ahmed wants more people throughout the West End and West Broadway to know about the services offered at Aurora Family Therapy Centre (Aurora), located on the edge of both neighbourhoods.

Ahmed, Aurora's executive director, also wants them to pick up the phone.

"Make that call to our office...you may have your problems resolved, but first make the call to our office. We don't turn away anybody," says Ahmed.

A philosophy of not turning anybody away is helped along by affordable, sliding-scale rates based on income—as low as $13 per hour of therapy.

"We also have a fund available for people who cannot afford $13 which allows us to charge just $5 for an hour of therapy," says Ahmed.

Some therapy is even more affordable than that—as in, free. The province funds therapy for newcomers who have experienced moderate to severe trauma, as well as all persons journeying through homicide bereavement or unresolved loss. Group therapy programming is also free.

Located in the Rice Centre next to the University of Winnipeg, Aurora has seven therapists on staff and 50 forth-year students in the U of W Masters of Marriage & Family Therapy program at any given time who each provide 500 clinical hours of therapy services to Aurora clients.

Although the therapy is for all people in all circumstances—individuals, couples and families—several Aurora programs are geared towards newcomers. Ahmed says newcomers can need extra encouragement to seek help for mental health.

"Many new Canadians have stigma around mental health, and it's very difficult for them to disclose to a mental health professional what they're going through."

Group programming helps people build relationships, as well as a rapport and trust, so they can open up about their challenges. Youth group programming also helps to build belonging and positive connections in school and the community.

A Newcomer Community Development Program, which they delivered to almost 300 groups last year, also helps newcomers build trust while learning about the "challenges of settling in a new country, including social isolation, trauma, languages and navigating complex systems," Ahmed says.

Through the Dove of Peace program, also known as the Psycho Social Settlement Needs Assessment Program, government-sponsored refugees are helped to identify and meet their mental, emotional and physical needs.

Aurora is also working to strengthen newcomer service providers through their Vicarious Trauma Initiative. The program trains staff at newcomer-serving agencies how to take care of their own mental health as they work with trauma-affected clients.

The pandemic increased demand for therapy and created some wait lists for Aurora's services, Ahmed says, but those wait lists are shrinking now. The Family Therapy Program is the only one with a wait list at this time, but Ahmed hopes that does not discourage anyone from reaching out.

"I want to get people help, you know? I want people to get help, to get to our programs so they can get the support that they need."

Contact Aurora at 204-786-9251 or find them online at aurorafamilytherapy.com

Sean Ledwich, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf

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