Dedicated to delivering service excellence in community-based mental health care – Faculty of Education


Delivering benefits for clients, students, and the community

Clients see their counsellor trainee for an average of 10 sessions, with staff focusing on delivering specialized and individualized care to each person who walks through the door. This many sessions is truly unique when it comes to free counselling services, and is invaluable for people living with chronic, trauma-related and/or systemic related challenges. For Dr. Nitkin, the impact of the centre’s work on both clients and students is clear.

“Clients effectively have a team of up to about eight or nine people—including seasoned mental health professionals, counsellor trainees and staff, all of whom are really rooting for you,” she says. “They are thinking about you. They are looking for resources and good counselling interventions. They want to do good by you.”

Another benefit for clients stems from the importance of feeling that life has purpose and meaning. “Clients know they are also helping to train future counsellors, who can help other people in their community,” says Dr. Nitkin. “Clients often appreciate being a part of something and contributing to the learning experience, at the same time as accessing the support they need.”

From the students’ perspective, the centre provides an irreplaceable opportunity to practice their skills and learn how to be counsellors with actual clients, as well as being able to observe their fellow students with their clients.

“Surrey is a very culturally and ethnically diverse area in British Columbia,” says Dr. Nitkin. “There is a great opportunity for students to see people of all different ages from a huge spread of different cultures and backgrounds, including immigrants and refugees.”

The new location provides new opportunities. For example, the centre now accepts referrals to the SFU Safe Program, which works to keep children and youth out of gangs while building positive life skills and increasing connections with family, school and community.

For Dr. Nitkin, it’s also important to remember the centre’s roots in L.A. Matheson Secondary School. “We kept as much as we could from the old centre, including artwork and furniture that was donated, and incorporated it into the new one so there is continuity and a real appreciation for its history,” she says. “My keys to the centre even still have “Keats” [Patrice Keats, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education and the centre’s first Clinical Professor Director] on the label. We wanted to bring the excellence and character of the original location, and make it even more safe, accessible, beneficial and welcoming for clients.”

Ultimately, the centre is a place for growth and personal development for all—students, clients, and staff.


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