Abstract: Talk It out Online Counseling Clinic: Initial Evaluation (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

Talk It out Online Counseling Clinic: Initial Evaluation

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Valley of the Sun E, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Lin Fang, PhD, Associate professor, University of Toronto, ON, Canada
Yu Lung, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Cathy Schmidt, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Sylvia Delgado, MSW, Clinic Manager, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Andrea Westbrook, MSW, PhD Student, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Lynn Nguyen, BA, Research Assistant, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Ellen Katz, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Gilda Hui, Research Assistant, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for quality accessible mental health services even more urgent, specifically for those who are in lower-income or racialized communities. Moreover, the pandemic posed a direct impact on social work field education, as many of the field placements needed to deploy their services, including supervision, on addressing the pandemic. To address the urgent needs for mental health services and to provide quality social work field education, University of Toronto launched the Talk It Out Counseling Clinic in March 2021. In this study, we describe the development of the clinic and report the preliminary program evaluation and service outcomes from clients who received the counseling services.

Methods: The Talk It Out Counseling Clinic is a free mental health counseling service for Black and lower-income communities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Canada. Supervised MSW practicum students provide short-term counseling to clients aged 16 and older via secure online platform or phone. The clinic uses a collaborative community-based model, wherein clients with mild to moderate mental health concerns are referred through community partners, including community health centres, community centres, immigrant and settlement services, and homeless shelters. Operating through the lens of anti-oppressive practice and trauma-informed care, the Clinic uses a strength-based, client-centered model, and a range of clinical approaches including CBT, solution-focused and narrative therapy. Clinic staff include a full-time Clinic Manager, and part-time faculty Clinic Director and Supervisors served by PhD students. To understand the service provision and preliminary impact of the program, we conducted a program evaluation that examined the outputs on student training and client services. In addition, the modified Virtual Client Experience Survey (VCES) was used to assess client experience and satisfaction with the services.

Results: From March 2021 to March 2022, we have trained 17 MSW students (35% First Year MSW, 65% Second Year MSW; 65% BIPOC) and delivered direct counseling services to 105 clients (62% females; 82% BIPOC). A total of 103 intake sessions and 478 counseling sessions were conducted. Client experience survey generated 46% response rate. The survey results suggest that 88% of clients found it was easy to access care and overwhelmingly, all clients (100%) felt that they were treated with respect and received compassionate care by their counsellors. Overall, 85% of clients were satisfied with our services. Areas for improvement include the efficiency of the online portal system and responding process during crisis situations.

Conclusion: The Clinic is an innovative and unique opportunity to break ground on reimagining how schools of social work can contribute to mental health system and network through field education. In addition to the provision of mental health care, preliminary evidences suggest that clients are satisfied with the services they received at the Clinic and that the service is accessible and providing a timely response to client’s mental health needs. We envision that the establishment and operation of the OCC will continue to benefit and impact on the general public and to social work education.