New Counselling Services for Youth

Aulneau Renewal Center’s CEO Sophia Ali and the chair of its board in 2017- 2018 Paul Rochon.

In 2017-2018, the Aulneau Renewal Centre ramped up efforts to better address unmet counselling and therapy needs. One such initiative involves serving a new youth clientele.

“We worked very closely with Healthy Child Manitoba and are now able to offer ten free anxiety or depression counselling sessions to children and youth under 18 years of age,” says Sophia Ali, Executive Director of the Aulneau Renewal Centre. “That represents some 280 hours of free counselling for this new client group, during the day and evenings. After the ten sessions, some of our young clients may also have access to an additional 12 sessions at the very affordable rate of $5 per session – subject to certain conditions.”

To more effectively meet the needs of younger children, the Aulneau Renewal Centre also has music therapists, play therapists, drama therapists and art therapists who are trained to offer innovative therapy that is fun and enjoyable for every child. This often proves more effective than talk therapy. In addition to counselling hours, in 2017-2018, the Aulneau Renewal Centre also launched the all-new Anger Management for Kids – Step Back & Breathe program in collaboration with University of Manitoba students. “This program was well received, with participants learning different ways to deal with their emotions and anger through mindfulness and self-awareness activities,” says Ali. Another new program, Sibshops Group for Children, consists of workshops for the brothers and sisters of children with special needs. “It’s important for these kids to be able to talk about their emotions and how they deal with their family situation,” says the executive director. “Many of them told us that they felt isolated when their special needs sibling received attention, and they were confused about those feelings.”

The Calm, Cool and Connected program, in collaboration with Healthy Together Now and presented by University of Manitoba occupational therapy students, targeted youth aged 12 to 15 suffering from anxiety. In six weeks, participants learned coping strategies for their anxiety, including how to prepare quick, affordable, healthy and nutritious meals, tips for enhancing their mental wellbeing, and managing their anxiety through gardening or stress through physical activity.

Thanks to funding from the Winnipeg Foundation, the Aulneau Renewal Centre was able to train parents’ assistants to offer support to families who need it right in their communities. Over and above its services for youth, this Community of Service wants to better meet the needs of all ages by extending its hours.

“In September 2018, we began offering counselling services on Saturdays,” says Sophia Ali. “Our current wait time is six weeks, which is the lowest in the province,” says Board Chair Paul Rochon. “That’s good. But it’s still too long when people are in crisis and need our help.” In 2017 – 2018, the Aulneau Renewal Centre also launched a new, one-of-a-kind website in Manitoba with a view to facilitating universal access to its services.

“It’s the first and only website in Manitoba that allows clients to register for counselling from the comfort of their own homes, 24/7,” says Sophia Ali. “People tend to be more in crisis and need help outside office hours, during the night or on weekends.” The site also provides an initial fee estimate for services, based on the information provided