“We were doing a lot of explaining who we aren’t instead of who we are.” – Vanessa McConnell, Kindred (formerly Catholic Family Service of Calgary)

For well over half a century, Catholic Family Service of Calgary (CFS) provided access to counselling to people working through trauma, abuse, marital, or family breakdowns.

However, perceptions around their name deterred some people from seeking help. This is why you may see Kindred on the doors of their Beltline location, or hear it when you phone.

Vanessa McConnell, Director of Family Mental Health and Social Inclusion for Kindred, says while continuing to honour their strong history, values, and purpose under a new brand, who they are and what they do is not changing.

“We were doing a lot of explaining who we aren’t instead of who we are. When you want to provide barrier free services, to hear that people are unsure of whether or not we can help them creates opportunity for significant reflection. In 2021, we underwent an internal and external stakeholder engagement process that reaffirmed our name was creating barriers to service. We have always been open to all, but we understand it wasn’t intuitive for a lot of people in the community.”

While the name may be changing, Kindred’s commitment to providing barrier-free services for all faiths and cultures isn’t. After realizing that their existing counselling model was creating long wait times, Kindred team moved to a United Way-supported rapid counselling model to near-immediate impact.

Red quotation mark

“United Way was there with us through that entire journey, as the original supporters of our counseling and the shifts we were trying to make. I think the continued investment has reaffirmed for us that it was the right direction to go.”

“The success speaks to the importance of the shift”, says McConnell. “About five years ago we were in a position where we had wait lists that were over nine months long, so when folks would call in their hour of need we would be saying ‘we’ll give you a call back in six months’, and that wasn’t the response we wanted to be giving to our community.”

Under the new rapid access model, a client can see a counsellor within three business days of when they reach out. The system creates a brief intervention at the right time rather than a long-term intervention at the wrong time. The change in operating model means that more people can get help when they need it, reducing the potential risks that can exist when someone in need goes without help for too long.

Program managers found that individuals wanted to “have the conversation when they wanted to have the conversation” as opposed to waiting. Coupled with research showing that most people seeking counselling only access it once, Kindred made the move to offer services that increase the ability to maximize their impact, sooner. The sessions are present-focused, with the outcome looking towards how the client wants to feel by the end of the session.

Long-standing support from United Way of Calgary and Area has allowed Kindred to grow and expand rapid access counselling both within the city, and beyond. They have opened additional sites with three different agencies (Calgary Housing, Alpha Detox, and Inn from the Cold), along with virtual services.

There are plans for Kindred to grow even further in 2022, as the rapid access counselling system becomes affiliated with all 70 Family Resource Networks across the province. The family-focused program will see Kindred offering counselling services across Alberta.

United Way of Calgary and Area sees mental health as one of our critical community needs. We work with local agencies like Kindred on community-based initiatives focused on mental health promotion, prevention, and early intervention because we see it as an essential part of community health. The rapid access counselling program’s focus on mental health promotion, prevention, and early intervention ensures those impacted by mental health issues can easily access the supports they need before the issues become deep-rooted.