Report on individual therapeutic counselling and group program services

for year ending March 31, 2018

The Therapeutic Counselling program reached near 22 years of service at the end of the 2017/18 fiscal year. Over its history, the program has provided close to 30,000 individual client sessions serving 5600 clients, completed 640 group screening sessions, and facilitated 150 group programs offering over 700 group sessions to 1179 clients. Our program has developed into a comprehensive Tri-Phase Therapeutic Model, which is specific to addressing relational trauma impacts caused by sexualized violence. Our specialized counselling services are also informed by a socio-cultural anti-oppressive, feminist lens. We are proud that our program serves as a model for trauma informed and trauma specific sexual assault services within the Province and beyond, and we recognize the significant inspiration we have gained from our program users over the years.     

In 2017/18 Avalon signed a service agreement with the Nova Scotia Health Authority for continued funding for the therapeutic counselling program. The agreement included salaries and operational support for five sexual assault therapist positions. The agreement has provided a crucial cornerstone in achieving greater sustainability for the Therapeutic Counselling Program and the Centre as a whole.

Individual Counselling Services
The Therapeutic Counselling program currently serves female youth, women, transgender and non-binary individuals, 16 years and older. As well, information sessions are available to non-offending parents and to supportive partners of clients receiving our services.

The counselling services offered in the 2017/18 fiscal year by Avalon Centre included: counselling request calls; program information, referral and advocacy calls; phone consultation calls; initial consultation sessions; collateral contact calls; information sessions for non-offending parents and partners; Grounding and Mindfulness focused sessions; Trauma Processing focused sessions; wait-list bridging sessions; and follow-up counselling sessions.

In December 2017, Avalon directed one permanent staff member to Initial Response Sexual Assault Trauma part-time. This was in response to a further increase in overall intakes, including a higher demand involving recent assaults requiring quick access services.

We attempt to respond to new counselling requests within one to two weeks and to offer an initial consultation session to each new client within four to six weeks. Those who have experienced recent sexual assault (past 1-3 months) are prioritized and receive a call back within 24 business hours and an initial consultation within one week. We were able to meet these service standards due to the five therapy positions funded through Nova Scotia Health Authority. However, due to a further increase in counselling requests this fiscal year, we had to reinstate a waitlist for those seeking Grounding and Mindfulness sessions to address sexual assaults occurring four months ago or further in the past. The Trauma Processing waitlist, made up primarily of those who have experienced historical childhood sexual abuse, increased to a 12-month average.

• Total Counselling sessions reached the highest level on record this fiscal year.

• The total number of clients seen was the highest in the 22-year history of the Counselling Program reaching 443 individuals, (an increase of 52 clients above the 2016/17 fiscal year).

• The number of Grounding and Mindfulness sessions showed a significant increase of 87 additional sessions above the previous fiscal year.

• Trauma Processing sessions showed a significant increase of 82 sessions above the previous year and Waitlist Check-in sessions rose 37 additional sessions.

• Follow-up Sessions also rose 40 sessions above the previous fiscal year.

• Initial Consultation Sessions and Non-offending partner/Partner Information Sessions were on par with last year’s total.

• Adult sexual assault cases showed an increase of 23 clients above the previous fiscal year, while childhood sexual abuse cases were on par.

• Adult sexual assault cases were 71 clients above childhood sexual abuse cases.

• Please note that numbers add up greater than total requests as many clients present in more than one category.

• The age range 16-25 showed an increase of 19 clients above the previous fiscal year and the age range 26-40 showed an increase of 10 clients. The age range 41-55 rose 12 clients and the age range 56+ reduced 8 clients.

• For four years in a row, the 16-25 age range represents the highest request category followed by the 26-40 grouping.

• The total combined age ranges of our youngest two client populations totaled 64.5% of our total client base which strongly demonstrates an ongoing trend.

Our Returning Client and Friend/Family Member/Partner categories represented our highest referral sources. These categories were followed by our next highest request totals including: SANE; Outpatient Mental Health/Addictions, Private Community Counsellor, Victim Services/Police/Legal, and Family Doctor referrals. These leading referral categories are in keeping with previous fiscal years.

Group Program Services
The Group Program Services provided by Avalon Centre this fiscal year included four group programs and 51 pre-group screening meetings. A total of 20 clients completed group programs. The groups provided 22 sessions totaling 46.0 group session program hours and 334.5 client direct service hours.

• Two initial stage “Grounding through Mindfulness” group programs were offered. A total of 16 clients began these groups with 12 completing the sessions.

• A second-stage, “Honoring Our Chosen Identities” Group Program served 7 clients.

• A newly piloted group called “Restorative Embodied Mindfulness” served 7 clients. This program supports clients in exploring grounding through safe movement.

• Pre-group meetings were held in March for a second newly developed group called, “Heart Space Art Therapy Group”. This program was held in the spring of 2018 and will be reported on in the 2018/19 fiscal year.

We presently offer groups within three broad areas of focus including: “Safety Building Foundational Group Programs”, “Relational Healing Focused Group Programs” and “Living Fully in the Present Group Programs”. In a general sense, the safety building foundational programs help prepare for the relational trauma healing focused programs, which in turn help prepare for late stage, living fully in the present programs. All group programs are co-facilitated by Avalon Centre counselling team staff, which ensures a high standard of safety.

The Centre is very fortunate currently to have a counselling team who bring so much to the table in terms of complementary approaches to our therapeutic healing work, which are all compatible with our feminist philosophy, including Art Therapy, Sensorimotor Therapy, Trauma-Informed Yoga and other body-based therapeutic approaches related to mindfulness.

During the year Avalon invited key organizations to begin and further collaborative discussions. As we have been working to reduce barriers for our community’s most marginalized clients, we have been facing more requests that are beyond our mandate, expertise and/or current resources. Discussions with key referral organizations regarding our mandate and service parameters help provide marginalized individuals with clear and realistic expectations from the outset.

Program Coordination and Administration
This year we began to develop new trauma-specific outcome measures for evaluating client progress and program effectiveness. Our research included consultation with a trauma therapist specializing in work with women and transgender individuals, who provided us with various evidence-based outcome measurement tools as well as consultation with the executive director of an Ontario counselling centre who shared with us their comprehensive evaluation of client outcomes and service delivery. During the year, counsellors attended a variety of trainings, workshops and developmental opportunities. As well, a variety of networking and collaboration relationships were begun or furthered during the year.