Free counselling an untapped resource for Agassiz Harrison

Free counselling an untapped resource for Agassiz Harrison

Numbers low for mental health and substance use issues counselling in Agassiz

Free mental health and substance abuse counselling available in Agassiz is being underused, according to numbers from Agassiz Harrison Community Services (AHCS).

Counsellor Ashley Caringi started with AHCS in March and says despite her efforts to put counselling services on the map, she only sees about five to eight clients a week – 32 per cent of her client capacity.

“It’s a small town and they need to get to know me and get familiar,” Caringi says. “I’m really hoping in the next few months that things start to pick up.”

Caringi serves youth and adults with substance use issues or mental health problems.

“There are a lot of people who are struggling out there,” Caringi says. “People who are in mental pain and are experiencing mental illness… and often mental illness is connected to using drugs and alcohol. So their lives can be really negatively affected.”

While District of Kent residents might know about her free counselling services, Caringi says there are many reasons they might not be coming in.

“There can be a lot of mistrust,” she says. “A lot of people with addictions have felt discriminated by the system and so they’re feeling apprehensive about using [it].”

Caringi says social expectations often prevent men in particular from accessing mental health or substance abuse support.

“Male social roles in our society are to be strong, independent… and they might feel like they’re less of a man if they come to counselling.”

Caringi has a BA in psychology from the University of British Columbia and a Master’s in Counselling Psychology from Athabasca University, but says one of her biggest assets is that she is simply an empathetic, compassionate person.

“My way of being with clients is very sincere,” she says. “I care about people [and] that’s the reason why they should want to come in. I’m trying to be someone who models acceptance and compassion.” “If I can intervene and change the course of someone’s life for the better, then that’s amazing,” she adds.

Caringi also offers couples counselling and counselling services to friends and family members of people with substance abuse issues.

For information about the free counselling services offered by AHCS or to book an appointment, call 796-2585 ext. 231.