Applied Counselling for addiction, mental health
Extended Education programs respond to community needs
With increasing reports of the dangerous and erratic behavior of people using meth, Winnipeggers are reminded of the devastating effects of addiction and mental health issues.
That’s where Applied Counselling comes in. It’s just one of the many programs and courses provided by Extended Education at the University of Manitoba, responding to a real community need.
“Addictions and mental health issues are very common,” says Kathleen Keating-Toews, research education specialist, Addictions Foundation of Manitoba (AFM). “There’s always been a need there. As an agency, we have to know the latest trends and developments in terms of treatments. We have always seen people for alcohol use. Recently, we’ve seen an increase in meth use and an increase in IV drug use. We’ve added mandatory staff training in trauma-informed care. We work with clients with the expectation they have experienced trauma. Trauma, addiction, and mental health issues are often co-occuring.”
All Applied Counselling program students take three mandatory courses from AFM: Fundamentals of Addiction, Pharmacology, and Recovery-Oriented Practice. Students include working professionals who may already work in the field, but want to learn more. A number of AFM staff have taken Applied Counselling to complement their degrees with applied learning.
“It’s incredibly important right now to meet the needs of our community. We have to better equip people who work in this field and provide specialized knowledge in addiction issues. Applied Counselling courses provide a well-balanced education in this area,” says Keating-Toews.
She notes the stigma around addiction issues and how counselling is moving past the old and typical way of dealing with them, by moralizing.
“All professional development makes you a better helper in the end. In our courses, students have excellent motivation and knowledge, and they make excellent connections with each other. We are always excited to get the next crop of students.”
Extended Education and the AFM continue to adjust course content to respond to current situations and demands, she says. “We always get good feedback from people. Counselling definitely attracts people who feel a calling to do this work. They are special, empathetic people.”
Applied Counselling program graduates are making a difference in our communities.
For Bonnie Murray, counselling is more about offering support than providing advice. ‘You’re more of a listening ear and sometimes people need to know they are the experts on their own life and things they need to work through.”
Murray says the program helped her build her skills and her comfort level in helping others.
“It was very informative, very rewarding both personally and professionally, as far as skills I feel I can apply in my daily life and work. I have been using the skills already, being more helpful and supportive of those I work with,” she says.
She recommends the program. “Yes. It’s well worth it.”
As a peer support worker for the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society, Matt MacRae says the key to counselling is not to look down on people but rather to treat them as an equal, and to remain positive.
“It’s about coming down to a level playing field. You’re treating them like a human being, not just a number,” says MacRae.
Finding a way
MacRae has lived with Schizophrenia and was in a severe motor vehicle accident suffering a head injury and paralysis on his left side. Doctors told him he might not ever walk again, but he did it. “I was told I would never be able to graduate, never be able to have a family or anything like that, and I proved them all wrong,” he says. “There’s something to be said for the human spirit and believing in yourself, you know, even when everybody else is telling you no, you’ll find a way because you are strong.”
He especially appreciated when one of his instructors asked his opinion and advice.
“It’s a great community of teachers and students and I’ve met some friends here, friendships I will cherish my entire life. I learned so much in this program. I use the information that I learned every day.”
McRae recommends others keep learning. “If I had once choice in my life and I had unlimited money I would just spend my entire life as a student, just learning. Do it. It’s one of the greatest things you’ll do in your life.”
Learn more about all of Extended Education’s programs and courses to help you keep learning.
Published in the December 2019 Winnipeg Free Press Education Guide.