The University of Calgary is offering free mental health supports to Albertans who are struggling with the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Its Werklund School of Education has three programs offering virtual counselling to Albertans looking for support:
The Strong Mind, Strong Me program offers counselling to children and youth who have been impacted by the pandemic.
The Becoming Strong Adults: Transitioning to Adulthood program is being offered to support emerging adults ages 18 to 25 living in Alberta.
The Strong Parents Strong Kids program works with a family unit to help parents learn how to support their child better.
Pandemic highlighted need
"The need for these programs was highlighted significantly over the last couple of years with the pandemic," said Jennifer Turner, director of integrated services at the Werklund School of Education.
"We already know that children, youth and families experience challenges accessing mental health support, and we recognize that this is a really important role that we can play within the community."
Twelve counselling psychology masters students are providing the counselling, under the supervision of PhD level students and instructors like clinical supervisor Dr. Gabriel Zamudio.
"We aim to have two or three clients each for each one of our students. So around anywhere from 20 to 30 families can receive some support," he said.
According to Turner, clients are coming to them with increased anxiety and worry.
"Historically, those are kinds of things that families and youth experience regularly," she said.
"But the pandemic has increased up and has resulted in a greater number of individuals recognizing that talking with somebody and exploring coping mechanisms and strategies to support their own mental health and well-being would be really beneficial and really valuable."
Zamudio says all clients are informed that the clinic is a teaching clinic. Supervision takes place live during the sessions, with instructors listening in to make sure students are providing clients with the best support possible.
"[Our students] have had plenty of work and practice, and some of them have a lot of experience already from giving community support. But this is the first kind of a structured approach to helping clients out," he said.
"So this is very important for them to develop their own skill, find their own voice and, of course, develop more of a clinical mindset in terms of when dealing with people."
There are still spots available in each program. Participants are eligible for 10 45-minute sessions until the end of the semester.
Families interested in these services can apply online.