There’s a new private counselling clinic on main street in Invermere: Invermere Counselling. The owner-operators are longtime locals Sue Bradley and Alana Cotterall. Both went to graduate school for mental health and are provincially and nationally registered counsellors. They share decades worth of varying work experience in counselling. Alana’s is more clinical-trauma informed, Sue’s has a more social-emotional perspective. Sue for several recent years worked in Rocky Mountain School district six. Before, she worked in Canmore private practice. Alana has worked as a mental health clinician and has also done employee and family assistance counselling for several years.
Invermere Counselling is the only private clinic in town. Demand outstrips counselling supply in the Columbia Valley. “[We] noticed a gap existing in the community in terms of not enough resources to fill the needs of potential clients,” said Bradley. “Lots of Columbia Valley community resources have wait lists and so people have had to leave to go to Cranbrook, Kimberley or Alberta for care.”
The elephant in the room is COVID-19. The pandemic has been an undeniable added stressor for most, if not all, in the Columbia Valley. “Despite there not being many cases in the valley, the overall impact is that there are so many additional stressors,” said Bradley. “Families working from home, doing school from home, financial stress, isolation, lack of outlets, social and emotional issues, and lack of connection.”
There’s been an impact on our collective psychology and our way of life. The virus has brought mental health to the forefront. “We’ve seen clients with pre-existing issues exacerbated. High functioning people are also struggling. It comes down a lot of the time to the simple fact of coping with an enormous degree of uncertainty.”
There doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. People feel stuck, trapped. “For some, standby stress relievers that worked in the past no longer are working,” said Bradley. “When someone gets in that scenario it’s difficult to move forward.” Moving forward. A key phrase that came up more than once interviewing Bradley.
Considering a visit? Bradley said most people in fact have coverage for counselling when they may assume otherwise. And there are simple, healthy home remedies to try outside of professional help. To name a few, Sue recommends: “Movement/exercise; a change in environment (indoors to out); expression – creative, or through simple communication; eating and sleeping well, time off and space; breathing and mindfulness exercises.”
But seeing a professional can make a big difference. “ There’s somewhat of a stigma around counselling/mental health in general,” said Bradley. “Some have the mistaken impression that to see a counsellor is a sign of weakness. For anyone with those thoughts, remember, it takes strength to ask for help.” With children, it’s important for them to know their parents sometimes also need help. “It’s okay to talk, emotional expression can be difficult but it works.”
Change is uncomfortable. Dislodging one’s self from the inertia of poor mental habits takes work. “Often, it gets worse before it gets better. A new mindset and strategies takes energy, and can mean a change in relationship dynamics,” said Bradley. “We are not the fixers but we can provide resources and support.”
Invermere Counselling has pivoted well to accommodate social distancing needs. “It’s surprised us that some people prefer over the phone or online counselling sessions. We’ve done lots of that this summer and will continue to.” Virtual counselling also enables Invermere Counselling to accommodate clients not located in the valley. “What was critical for us was to use Zoom with added privacy and security measures.” People need not be concerned that their session will be Zoom bombed.
You are not alone. Move, just keep moving. To learn more about the clinic, which opened this summer at 1006 7th Avenue, right beside LordCo, or to make a booking, visit www.invermerecounselling.com.