REACH Edmonton

Growing up can be tough, but thanks to a local walk-in counselling program, Edmonton youth have somewhere they can turn when they need a helping hand. The Walk-In Counselling Society of Edmonton has offered these services locally for years, but thanks to funding from the City of Edmonton's Ounce of Prevention program in 2013, these services are being targeted at teens who need them. "We had proposed the creation of a kids team called Walk-In for Youth," explained Kim Knull, Executive Director of the Walk-In Counselling Society of Edmonton. "Our goal is to decrease the barriers to therapy." The organization aims to do this not only by offering a specialized team with a focus on youth, but by ensuring that counselling is available during evenings and weekends. Additionally, counselling services are offered on a sliding scale of payment. Clients are able to negotiate a fee that they are able to pay, which can slide all the way down to zero if necessary. The specialized team is trained to deal specifically with youth issues ranging from cutting and bullying to dealing with stress about parents and schools. The program has helped many youth since its start, and has been invaluable to youth accessing services at Youth Empowerment Support Services (YESS) which is located just down the road. "They've brought in many of their youth because they have no counselling services on site," said Knull. The program has seen many successes as youth take a moment of vulnerability and use it to make a change. One 15-year-old girl came into the drop-in program with her mother after cutting herself and dealing with bullying for many years. She came from a family that doesn't often discuss their emotions. The teen talked to a counsellor about the struggles she was dealing with and confessed that she was suicidal. "The team worked with her and another counsellor worked with her mother," said Knull. "We talked to the mom and gave them both some coping tools and resources in the community. When they left their first visit, they said they felt like they were going to be okay. It really made a difference in her life." Knull said the drop-in service is essential to helping teens make a change. "With youth, you find that when they're in a moment of distress, that's the most changeable time," she said. "If they don't get the help they need right away they might make bad choices. REACH Edmonton coordinates and supports the groups who access Ounce of Prevention funds from the City of Edmonton, bringing the safety and crime prevention lens to the program.