There is a buzz this spring in the office. At our recent Annual General Meeting, we heard Mark VanderVennen’s review our agency’s growth in numbers. While our counselling staff have all noticed the boost in activity with many more phone calls, busy schedules and workshop invitations, the numbers Mark shared confirmed this.
Between 2013 and 2015, our counselling clinic really grew. We had an increase in sessions of 37% and an increase in new clients of 50%. This year to date, we’ve grown another 13% in our counselling hours from last year!
This growth has included some exciting milestones for us.
One milestone is that we offered our first “Hold Me Tight” couples’ retreats. In April, we hosted 10 couples and had to create a wait list for this event! Susan Winter Fledderus led the workshop and Bernadine Togeretz supported her and the couples present. It appears to have been a very dynamic and substantial retreat. In May, Bernadine led a second retreat in partnership with a local church. We’ve received strong feedback from couples attending both retreats that the sessions were well presented and very helpful in bringing about new insight and strategies for the participating couples.
Another milestone has been reached in Betty Brouwer’s continued work with attachment. She just completed her second attachment group with couples of adopted children. This program continues to bring interest from community partners and neighboring agencies, and we are busy planning and designing our next attachment groups to meet community needs for next year.
Another first for us is our new program called Restorative Families. A joint effort between our Restorative Practice program and our Hamilton Counselling Services, Restorative Families is a new venture that combines the benefits of both family counselling and restorative practice work. In this program, family work is informed by restorative tools. Whether it is the use of a talking stick to prevent conflict escalation, or the use of restorative questions to repair relationships, we are finding restorative tools add a very helpful structure to address challenging family conversations.
Some families have also participated in formal restorative circles as a portion of their clinical work to address issues in their extended family relationships.
Restorative Practice helps families move away from punitive consequences or shaming. It resists using vilifying language, and aims to find ways to ‘make it right’ and move forward. It has offered a safe framework very similar to Solution-Focused counselling work, and we are hearing from families that it is very helpful.
Anne Martin, Shalem’s Director of Restorative Practices and Jennifer Bowen, Shalem’s Clinical Director, will be travelling the International Institute for Restorative Practices’ Annual Conference in Pennsylvania this October to share what they are learning through this new Restorative Families program.
Also worth noting is that our counselling team is larger than it has been in recent years. We were very happy to welcome back Michelle DeBoer from her maternity leave in January. She is joining Matt Penman and Betty Brouwer in delivering service to children and youth at Shalem, and we’re thrilled to have such a wide variety of styles to offer to families in that area of service.
We also have 4 staff in Hamilton working with adults, couples and families. These counsellors are training intensively with Emotionally Focused Therapy, our preferred model for working with couples and families. Susan Winter Fledderus, Bernadine Togeretz, Shawn Groen and Jennifer Bowen have all completed Sue Johnson’s EFT Externship, and either have or will be completing her core skills training within the next year or two. We are having wonderful conversations with clients that are creating great change.
In the Durham Region, June Zwier continues to serve clients of all ages dealing with a very wide range of issues in her practice. She offers rich input into our clinical team supervision meetings.
As a clinical team, we love being able to offer attachment work across the lifespan, and we also love the influence of the attachment model on our work culture – collaborative, supportive and gracious. We feel blessed to be working in such a strong crew!
Jennifer Bowen, M.Div., RMFT, is our Clinical Director and a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist.