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A Pandemic Update from Adrienne Carter

Updated: Nov 28, 2020

Adrienne Carter, VICCIR Director of Services

Hello dear friends,

Warm greetings to all of you.

We managed to get through a challenging eight months of the pandemic and are continuing in a strong position with our services.

COVID-19 is having a negative effect on people’s mental health with many seeing their stress levels double. People are struggling with fear and uncertainty about their own health and that of their loved ones. There are additional concerns about employment, finances and social isolation that comes from necessary public health measures.

Our clients, the newcomers, refugees and immigrants are especially vulnerable to the stresses presented by COVID.

For these reasons, it was not a question whether we could continue our counselling services, but how we were going to continue and provide ongoing support to our clients. Our offices closed to the public in mid-March, but we managed to take our services online within a day or so. It was very quick learning, but all the counsellors and interpreters learned to work online quickly and often our clients were even faster to adapt to the new way of counselling. It was challenging to provide art and play therapy services to the children, but we have some amazing art therapists who managed to do that online.

Due to the ongoing stresses our client numbers increased. Several new clients self-referred and some of our former clients asked to return for additional therapy and support.

We also hired Abeer Smadi, our former Arabic-speaking interpreter who now took on the full-time position of Social and Community Services worker to assist the counsellors with additional practical services needed. These services included finding additional resources such as transition houses, detox centres and legal resources. We also had a group of volunteers coming to offer their services. Abeer also took on the responsibility of volunteer coordinator. These volunteers were each connected to one or more of our clients where they provided regular weekly support, friendship, assistance with English language and cultural discussions. The isolation was extremely difficult for most of our clients especially since the majority could not understand the language.

At the same time, we began the second series of our pilot parenting programs. This program was provided for those parents who could do the program in English. Following this series of eight weekly sessions we will begin a new parenting series in Arabic, Spanish and possibly other languages. Here we have the assistance of Dr Alison Miller a clinical psychologist who created all the parenting materials and regularly provides the weekly presentations to the group of parents.

We also hired several more registered clinical counsellors so we can continue to serve our clients in a timely manner. At present we have 22 part time counsellors including two practicum students and 12 interpreters. Each group is receiving regular ongoing training and supervision. The interpreters are being trained and supervised long distance by Jasmin Gerwien from Edmonton.

We have been very fortunate to have Dr Jaswant Guzder, a child psychiatrist and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. Dr Guzder is also a multicultural expert who provides ongoing monthly trainings to all of us at VICCIR and also assists with assessment and consultation in cases of challenging family situations.

Wishing you all the best during these challenging times.

Adrienne Carter

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