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.