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Busy, hectic lives and catching up with the times has the Thunder Bay Counselling Centre mapping uncharted technological waters these days.
Heather Boynton is one of 10 people certified to do online counseling through the Thunder Bay Counselling Centre, the Children's Centre Thunder Bay and the Catholic Family Development Centre. (Leith Dunick,

Busy, hectic lives and catching up with the times has the Thunder Bay Counselling Centre mapping uncharted technological waters these days.

The organization recently launched, in conjunction with the Children’s Centre Thunder Bay and the Catholic Family Development Centre, an online counseling service, in order to meet the changing needs of its clientele.

It’s just another way to ensure no one falls through the cracks, said Nancy Chamberlain, TBCC’s executive director.

“It’s keeping up with what people want, with what consumers want,” Chamberlain said. “We also know that we live in a very vast region and I think for accessibility reasons, multiple jobs, distance, any number of reasons there are people who would actually choose to access counseling from the comfort of their home.”

Ten counselors spent more than 70 hours apiece being certified through the University of Toronto, with Chamberlain noting the online brand of counseling is a specialty area that differs significantly from the traditional face-to-face sessions.

The establishment of a good relationship is the key to online counseling working, she said.

“Some of the examples are letting you know about some of the emotions, letting you know what the office looks like,” Chamberlain said.

“We know that if you go back to World War Two, people were really good at writing letters to each other and talking to each other through that kind of communication. And the Internet is just a different modality. It’s still writing.”

CFDC executive director Rob Barrett said modern scheduling often pushes counseling to the bottom of people’s to-do list, even though in many cases it should be a top priority after family and work commitments.

Online counseling can be done at a person’s leisure, when time permits, rather than adding another priority to attend to in an already busy day.

“(Counselling) takes them away from work, it takes them away from appointments and it also means that they’ve had to fit their schedules into other people’s lives,” Barrett said. “That doesn’t always work. This service allows for those who are not just challenged with time, but also with issues around safety and societal anxiety, as well as accessibility, including those who live in remote communities.”

The program was brought to life a year ago, thanks to a $98,000 gift from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Those interested in online counseling can contact any of the three participating agencies, with all patients put through a pre-screen process to ensure the most serious cases are handled face-to-face.

After approval, patients are then provided a website address where they can securely register and log into a personal, confidential email system.


Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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