Shalem’s Congregational Assistance Plan (CAP) is experiencing rapid growth this year. In fact, it has had the highest number of new contracts in one year to date. This exponential growth is no doubt a reflection of how great the need is for mental health support within churches and faith communities, and demonstrates the desire these communities have to meet the need for their members during this pandemic.
There are now 89 churches, schools, or ministry groups making free counselling available to their parishioners and students through CAP and Counselling Assistance Plan For Students (CAPS). Given that the program started 15 years ago with only 5 churches, this rapid growth is an indicator of the need for accessible Christian counselling services. The model has been found to be an effective way for church, school and ministry leaders and communities to address the emotional, relational and mental health needs of those in their care.
CAP and CAPS have been able to accommodate a wide range of church and school sizes – the smallest contract being 32 congregants and the largest being 516 congregants. We are also piloting the program with a number of additional ministry groups, expanding beyond our original focus on churches and schools.
Like so many other services, our CAP therapists have scrambled to set up virtual supports so that therapy could continue to be provided despite the pandemic-related restrictions on meeting in person. We are encouraged to find that clients are becoming comfortable with receiving therapy though secure on-line platforms. And we are grateful for research that shows that on-line therapy has a similar rate of effectiveness for most clients compared to in-person therapy.
As COVID has continued over the months, it has provided an opportunity for us to solidify virtual support practices in such a way that they are no longer an exception but a regular means for counselling to be provided. We expect to be able to continue to offer on-line therapy to clients post-COVID, allowing for a broader access to more service providers, and a practical way to access therapy, particularly for those who would otherwise have to travel to see a therapist.
We are pleased that the program is filling a need for so many ministries, and we look forward to continuing to offer this essential service in creative and responsive ways.