Psychotherapy demo project comes to Durham, UOIT

(From left) Registered nurse Jennifer Muller, Dr. Nicole Elliott and registered nurse Tracey Holz of Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences are working on campus as part of a cognitive behaviour therapy demo project. Photo credit: Jasper Myers

Durham College and UOIT are part of a free demo project aimed at helping students with anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges.

Whitby-based Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences and three other mental health hospitals throughout the province are involved in a provincewide demo.

Ontario Shores is offering cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to the campus community in Oshawa and at more than 30 other sites throughout its service area – in Durham Region, Northumberland, Peterborough, Haliburton, Kawartha, Scarborough and York Region.

“The Ministry of Health has asked us to work on a project where we’re providing publicly-funded psychotherapy across the province,” says Beth Brannon, director of the Integrated Community Access Program at Ontario Shores.

DC and UOIT students can access the services through the health centre, located in the Campus Recreation and Wellness Centre. Interested students must see a mental health practitioner at the health centre and get a referral to be part of the CBT demo project, says Dr. Nicole Elliott, clinical psychologist at Ontario Shores.

Ontario Shores offers 12-16 weeks of CBT through the demo program, which will be in effect until March 31, 2020.

Dr. Elliott says there’s a greater need mental health support at the post-secondary level.

“There’s such a higher increase with anxiety and depression when people first move away or go to school and stuff and then that’s exactly what CBT helps support, too,” she says.

“So, the therapy we do, it’s more looking at building in more skills for being able to cope with things on your own, or just really examine the ways that you’re thinking, or looking at ways to be able to identify what’s been going on contributing to your emotions and your distress and then how you can change that.”

The Campus Health Centre already offers mental health services. Students of either school get an initial appointment to determine their needs and then are connected to the appropriate services, according to the health centre’s website.

When a student is referred to the demo, they’ll go through the Ontario Shores intake before getting into the CBT demo. Brannon says this intake allows students to be connected to the right services, even if the CBT demo isn’t the service they need.

“That intake process is important, because sometimes what happens is people will be referred who actually need more than what this project can offer,” says Brannon.

The intake nurses will work with individuals to find the right support, so if they see someone needs a different kind of therapy, they’ll flag it and make sure the individual is properly connected, adds Brannon.