What We Do

Our Services

VICCIR's principal activity is to provide mental health counselling to immigrants and refugees living on Vancouver Island.

We offer our services on a sliding fee scale, and for free when needed. We work with specially trained interpreters as required. In this way we seek to remove barriers to quality service and care for both individuals and families, whatever their economic or cultural context.

Counselling 

Our counselling services are grounded on the recognition that each individual is unique, and treatment plans are tailored accordingly. Cultural norms are respected as is the value of expressing oneself in one’s own language.

If a counsellor does not speak a client’s language, one of VICCIR’s interpreters serves as a bridge, both linguistic and cultural. 

VICCIR’s objectives for all clients are to:

  • Reduce the debilitating symptoms of trauma; 

  • Increase the personal resiliency and self-mastery required to improve quality of life; and 

  • Help them to find within themselves an eagerness to participate in the communities that welcome each of them.

    To find out more about counselling services at VICCIR, see our FAQs. 

 

 
Work in the Community

VICCIR’s work in the community is another important part of the overall mission. It is focused on how to welcome ‘the other’, to discover values that we share and to struggle with how we manage our differences. VICCIR’s work in the community has many different areas of focus: a telephone conversation with a frustrated teacher about a new student who is exhibiting aggressive behavior; presenting a regional daylong workshop to mental health and public health workers about trauma; providing consultation to a settlement agency; collaborating with police and community services concerned with domestic violence; meeting with academics to share our interests in participating in research projects.

 

Our counselling services are grounded on the recognition that each individual is unique, and treatment plans are tailored accordingly. Cultural norms are respected as is the value of expressing oneself in one’s own language.

The VICCIR Model 

VICCIR has developed a unique client-centred approach to therapy. The primary components of this model are:

  • A client-centred approach to treatment. Decisions are made based on the needs of the client and other family members rather what resources (counselling modalities, availability, time) are available at the time. 

  • Clients are matched with the counsellor who best suits their needs and may work with more than one counsellor. 

  • Trained clinical interpreters are available to enable the client to use their mother tongue if preferred. 

  • A team approach is taken, with a group of counsellors and interpreters often working with a whole family. Team members work in close communication with each other. 

  • Clients are seen as individuals, couples, with individual family members and as a whole family. This includes a significant number of children and teens who are referred to VICCIR from schools. 

  • Clients of all ages, genders and ethnicities are welcomed with no limitation placed upon them because of immigration status or length of time lived in Canada. 

  • Different therapeutic modalities are offered simultaneously to individuals, couples and families, according to their unique individual situations and needs. 

  • No limit is placed on the number of therapy sessions and clients are able to return or continue their therapy over an extended period of time. 

 

It is interesting to compare this model to the report entitled Supporting the Mental Health of Refugees to Canada issued by the Mental Health Commission of Canada in January 2016, which was intended ‘to provide organizations working towards a coordinated response for incoming refugees with evidence-informed information and best practices for a coordinated mental health response’. Here is just one section from the conclusion to this report which demonstrates how the VICCIR model aligns with best practices in the field:1 

"Strong evidence shows that successful interventions for treating mental health problems in refugees use a multidisciplinary approach, are culturally sensitive or adapted for specific groups, use trained paraprofessionals, and are linguistically appropriate."

 

The VICCIR model embodies a multidisciplinary, culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate approach, which in our case is delivered by trained professionals.

The benefits of the VICCIR model are illustrated in one example of the many complex and difficult family situations that the VICCIR team encountered in 2018. 

A family from Sudan, newly arrived in Canada, came for counselling at VICCIR, supported by their sponsorship group. The family was comprised of a single father, teenage daughter and two younger children. The father had been imprisoned and tortured. He was left as the sole parent shortly after arriving in Canada and had no experience of parenting. The children's biological mother has been abusive and remained back in Sudan. The family was traumatized and not able to begin their new life in Canada.

 

There was a long waitlist for the children to see a therapist at Child and Youth Mental Health, but at VICCIR the whole family could get therapy immediately. Each member of the family was assigned a counsellor and interpreter. The counselling team worked with the whole family, and also with the sponsoring group, who provided transport and invaluable help in other ways. The father and teenage daughter, who had been doing much of the parenting, were each assigned a counsellor. The younger children worked with the VICCIR Art Therapist. Sometimes the whole family did art therapy together. The interpreters made it possible for all of this to be done in their native language. 

The family described their weekly visits to VICCIR as the highlight of their week. After eight months, the children finally saw a therapist at Child and Youth Mental Health. They had one session after which the therapist said there was no need for any further involvement from them. The children are now all doing well at school. Life continues to be difficult for all of them, but they have learned resilience, coping skills and a way to process their trauma. They are now able to embark on their new life in Canada.

 

Our History 

VICCIR was founded in 2015 by Adrienne Carter and Linda McLagan. In more than fifteen years of service abroad as a psychotherapist, trainer and supervisor, Adrienne Carter witnessed the devastating effects of displacement and trauma on the human spirit. Upon return to her Victoria home, Carter was determined to create a safe haven for those immigrants and refugees on Vancouver Island who had lived similar experiences in their countries of origin and were suffering the impact of trauma. To that end, in the Spring 2015, she and Linda McLagan found support to shape a modest program of counselling to immigrants and refugees, a program to be operated under the umbrella of a settlement agency.

Carter and McLagan’s plans were altered by the Fall 2015 announcement of the arrival of a wave of Syrian refugees to communities in Victoria, the Saanich Peninsula, the Western Communities, Cowichan Valley and north to Nanaimo. There was little doubt that the modest program lacked capacity to provide adequate services to an increased population of children, women and men devastated by unimaginable horrors, including torture. 

This was the genesis of VICCIR, and the reason why counselling services are central to the organization’s activities. Over the course of VICCIR’s short history, the influence of the world’s refugee crisis and increased anti-immigrant sentiment has underscored our longer-term vision: for all citizens to contribute to communities that thrive on diversity of origin, culture, religion and interests, and are strengthened by shared common values. 

In the Fall 2015 and with surprisingly little recruitment, counsellors and interpreters came forward to offer their services pro bono to the immigrant and refugee population. Each counsellor has a graduate degree in psychology, social work, counselling, adult education, or child development; most have specialized training in a model or technique of therapy and are registered with professional bodies. All receive training in trauma counselling. The interpreters also receive training to enable them to become more professional as interpreters and also to work competently with counsellors.

VICCIR’s capacity has grown immeasurably since our founding in the Spring of 2015. Over 40 professional counsellors and skilled interpreters have answered the humanitarian call of those fortunate enough to have found shelter here on Vancouver Island from some of the world’s current disasters.

 

VICCIR is the sole service provider on Vancouver Island for immigrants and refugees who seek relief from the symptoms of trauma, the only centre that trains interpreters to work with informed counsellors.

In 2019, with funding from a number of government and other agencies, VICCIR was able to begin paying first its interpreters and then its counsellors. We are very grateful to these agencies for recognizing the need for our services and the quality of the work we do and providing resources to help us sustain and develop our mission.

 

We Need Your Support Today!

VICCIR

Contact us today to receive counselling support, or to work or volunteer with us or to donate. All are welcome.

Email: info@viccir.org

Phone: 778-404-1777

Fax: 778-404-1828

Registered Charity: 763343498 RR 0001

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