Heather has no idea where to turn. Her mother died last month, her oldest teen is in trouble with the law, and her landlord is evicting her. Jason’s wife walked out on him to be with another man. Full of despair, Jason is having thoughts of suicide. Marty has a 25-year-old secret. He’s never told anyone what his mom’s boyfriend did to him. Now he’s bursting to tell someone. Jessica has her own family of four to look after, but now she is burning out because she is looking after her mom who has Alzheimer’s. Jessica herself is becoming forgetful. Is it because of the stress or is she, too, cursed with the same disease?
These are the kinds of gut-wrenching life challenges that people have been bringing to the Peer Counselling Program at Cowichan Family Life Association for the last 49 years.
Getting the right kind of help is not always easy. Many social agencies have narrowly defined criteria. One agency might help only with addictions. Another only deals with abuse. CFLA helps with a broad range of problems and that is one of its strengths. It is also inexpensive. A private therapist costs at least $120 a session but seeing a counsellor at CFLA is a tiny fraction of that.
A peer counsellor is usually a volunteer who has “natural helping skills.” She finds that people naturally turn to her with their problems. She applies to CFLA to become a peer counsellor, and if accepted, she enters a 100-hour counsellor training program. It costs her $300 to take a training that is valued at $700. She then promises to work for CFLA for a set period. Many peer counsellors go on for further training and become professional helpers. The current supervisor of this program started his career four decades ago as a volunteer peer counsellor.
The outcome of counselling can be dramatic. Improved mood, less anxiety, better sleep, a feeling of finally moving forward, out of suffering and into thriving. People become more productive and contribute more to their families, their jobs and the community.
As for the counsellor, well there’s nothing like the warm feeling that comes from making a difference.
The next Peer Counsellor Training begins on Oct. 19 and runs on alternate weekends. Trainees are ready to start actual counselling in the early new year. Interested folks should call 250-748-8281 for more information before Oct. 15.