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Rhodes Wellness College Partner Spotlight: Coast Mental Health

counsellor therapist career

On the first day of her practicum with Coast Mental Health, Rhodes graduate Jill Cherewyk was encouraged to build client connections right away. “The number one priority was for me to just move in and make a connection with the clients” Jill recalls, “that was a very good sign for me” (Cherewyk, 2018).

Since 1972, Coast Mental Health has supported mental health recovery in the Vancouver region. The organization assists and promotes recovery from mental illness, aiming for long-term wellness through a community approach that considers housing, support, and employment (Coast Mental Health Foundation, 2016/2017).

Coast Mental Health provides practicum students an opportunity for immediate professional immersion, tapping into their natural passion for mental health (Cherewyk, 2018). Now a professional life coach and counsellor, Jill works as an instructor at Rhodes Wellness College and continues to work part-time with Coast Mental Health.

Renay Bajkay, Director of Residential Services at Coast Mental Health, has had the pleasure of working with many students and graduates of Rhodes Wellness College. Renay oversees Coast’s housing program portfolio and places practicum students. She also teaches 2nd-year students at Rhodes Wellness College. She notes that Coast Mental Health relies on practicum students to make an immediate impact, assisting with mental health support services. “They automatically just fall into the role of being supportive”, Renay says of Rhodes’ students, noting their listening and empathy skills (Bajkay, 2018).

For a number of years, Rhodes College practicum students have assisted with Coast Mental Health’s mission. Read on to learn more about this important partnership.

Students from Rhodes Wellness College Come Equipped for a Professional Environment

Before Coast Mental Health’s partnership with Rhodes Wellness College, Renay says previous practicum students from other institutions did not quite have the skills she was after. “The skills I’m looking for are beyond the everyday skills you would expect”, she says, adding that Coast Mental Health requires practicum students to connect, listen, and intervene with individual clients (Bajkay, 2018). “This is what I got with Rhodes”, Renay recalls, noting how students are professionally prepared and “very attuned to their own feelings” (Bajkay, 2018).

Coast Mental Health Director of Housing Services Renay Bajkay

Coast Mental Health Director of Housing Services Renay Bajkay

Jill attests to Rhodes’ “rich environment” for sharing and listening with peers (Cherewyk, 2018). Alongside the core curriculum, students absorb foundational empathy skills that bolster their professional confidence. Jill says she felt prepared and confident by the time she joined Coast Mental Health as a practicum student: “I was up for a challenge, and I knew I had enough skills” (Cherewyk, 2018).

Coast Mental Health Helps Students in Counsellor Training Gain Practical Experience

For students completing their counsellor training, Coast Mental Health provides practical experience in a variety of settings. Jill says she was curious to know what the day-to-day operations would be like, having never worked at an agency before (Cherewyk, 2018). For Jill, the experience was a truly enjoyable one. She remembers realizing on her first day that “this is a great fit for me” (Cherewyk, 2018).

Renay highlights the many placement opportunities available to students, either in her extensive portfolio or those of her colleagues. For instance, she recently coordinated a practicum with a co-worker to match a student with an experience tailored to his passions and interest. Renay notes that her colleague “hired him, because she was very impressed” (Bajkay, 2018).

The Rhodes-Coast Partnership Forges Long-term Bonds

Several students are currently in practicum placements at Coast Mental Health, and Renay is in the process of placing more. She describes the ongoing collaboration as one that helps Coast Mental Health fulfill its community mission, while introducing students to specialized professional environments (Bajkay, 2018). The practicum partnership, which can lead to employment, allows students to build important and rewarding contacts for a counsellor therapist career.

Jill enjoys being able to check in with long-term clients and assess their progress. “I’m always happy to talk about the work I do there,” Jill adds, often discussing the experience with students and encouraging them to complete their practicum component at Coast Mental Health (Cherewyk, 2018).

Jill Cherewyk continues to work part-time at Coast Mental Health

Jill Cherewyk continues to work part-time at Coast Mental Health

With more Canadians now at ‘high risk’ of mental illness, the need for effective mental health services has never been greater (Ipsos, 2017). Given the great pressure placed on large institutions and hospital beds, Renay sees mental health increasingly calling upon community non-profits like Coast Mental Health. Partnerships like the one between Rhodes Wellness College and Coast Mental Health are an important way forward, allowing students to hone their skills while making an immediate impact in mental health services. As Jill says of her practicum experience, “it all came together so nicely!” (Cherewyk, 2018).

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Works Cited

Bajkay, R. (2018, April 20). Rhodes Wellness College Partner Spotlight: Coast Mental Health. (O. Higgins, Interviewer).

Cherewyk, J. (2018, May 1). Rhodes Wellness College Partner Spotlight: Coast Mental Health. (O. Higgins, Interviewer).

Ipsos. (2017). Public Perspectives: 3rd Annual Canadian Mental Health Checkup. Retrieved from: https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/2017-08/IpsosPA_PublicPerspectives_CA_April%202017%20Mental%20Health.pdf

Coast Mental Health Foundation. (2016/2017). Annual Impact Report 2016/2017: Celebrating 45 Years in Our Community. Retrieved from: https://www.coastmentalhealth.com/assets/media/2017/08/CMHF-Annual-Impact-Report.pdf