New low-cost counselling centre proves popular with clients working through difficult emotions
At $50 a session, client working through 'pretty serious' anxiety calls Hard Feelings a lifeline
A new Toronto counselling centre is proving to be popular because it is based on the idea that working through difficult emotions shouldn't bankrupt clients who need a little help.
Hard Feelings, which calls itself a non-profit social enterprise, offers short-term counselling, or 10 to 12 sessions, at a low cost. It opened its doors on Bloor Street, east of Ossington Street, about 10 months ago.
The centre sells books as one way to generate revenue, and from the outside, it looks like a bookstore.
"We are growing so fast," Kate Scowen, founder and president of Hard Feelings, told CBC Toronto. "Demand is huge for this project."
The centre started with eight counsellors in September and now has 23. There's also a wait list of counsellors who want to join the practice, according to Scowen.
Scowen, who has a masters degree in social work from the University of Toronto and has worked as a counsellor, program manager, writer and consultant for community organizations, said she founded the centre because the cost of mental health services can be out of reach for people who need emotional support.
"There's a real gap in service for people who can't afford counselling, and the wait times for free counselling are really long."
She said she also wanted to work in a private practice, at low cost, in a welcoming space within a community. Scowen said she is working with other people to try to remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
"To house that all in one space just felt like a good idea," she said.
The centre says on its website that it aims "to reduce barriers and increase access" to services in what it calls an "innovative" practice or model of service. Clients pay $50 to $80 for one session with a social worker. The majority of counsellors at the centre are graduate-level registered social workers.
For a 25-year-old university graduate, who didn't want his name used out of fear it could affect his job prospects, the service has been a lifeline. The graduate said when he finished university, he had "pretty serious" anxiety about job prospects and obsessive thoughts about death.
Counselling services, he said, seemed out of range of his budget. But then he found the centre.
"This is 50 bucks per session, which was way more doable for me," he said.
The graduate said the short-term counselling helped to put him back on track. He said he needed a place to sort out his thoughts and knew he needed a professional who could see him more than once.
"With Hard Feelings, that was the first two sessions of me kind of just like blurting out everything that was going on, and then after that, it was like, okay, we need to actually work on this and figure out how to get better."
He said the counselling sessions have helped him to focus, cope and be productive at work.
"I think it's a really wonderful place. I wish there were more options like it," he added. "Going there made me feel a lot less alone."
With files from Lorenda Reddekopp