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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
February 25, 2017
Canadian Excellence

John Ellis, ED of Family Service Ontario; Leslie Josling, ED of KW Counselling Services; Carol Stalker, Wilfrid Laurier University  and Sue Horton, University of Waterloo
John Ellis, ED of Family Service Ontario; Leslie Josling, ED of KW Counselling Services; Carol Stalker, Wilfrid Laurier University and Sue Horton, University of Waterloo


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

Walk In Counselling Clinic: Access to Professional Counselling Services Right When You Need Them

May 16/11

KW Counselling Services’ Walk-in Counselling Clinic Eliminates Wait List,
Reduces Emergency Room Visits

The construction vehicle pulled into KW Counselling Services’ parking lot and out jumped three burly men in safety gear on their lunch break. With a pat on the back, one man walked into KWCS, while outside the others opened up their lunch boxes.

His co-workers, realizing he needed help, didn’t just encourage him to seek counselling services – they drove him right to the KWCS Walk-In Counselling Clinic. With an average wait-time of 20 minutes, he was able to receive a 1.5 hour counselling session between noon and 6 pm on any Thursday without needing to make an appointment.*

This is a glimpse into just one man’s experience. Every year thousands of individuals and families are now coming to Walk-In Counselling Clinics.  These innovative Clinics are cropping up in Family Service agencies across Ontario as an effective alternative to the oversubscribed, avoidable and costly emergency department for people with mental health issues.

While politicians have promised to try to cut down on wait-times in emergency rooms, Ontarians in need of prompt mental health counselling continue to be poorly serviced.  The results are costly not only for the health of those who wait, but to taxpayers and employers as well. 

To help deal with this unreported crisis, K W Counselling Services and other Family Service Agencies have launched Walk In Counselling Clinics.

A recent pilot study conducted in partnership with the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University examines the cost and clinical effectiveness of the Walk-In and the follow-up counselling offered at KW Counselling Services in Kitchener, Ontario.  Results of this pilot study, although preliminary, show that at the point clients first visit the Walk-In they present with very significant degrees of distress (measured by GHQ-12 scores) **. 53% report they are unable to participate in their usual community or family activities. These scores drop dramatically by the four month follow-up.

Thirty percent of those who were employed reported that the issue that brought them to Walk-In prevented them from working. With follow-up, this figure drops to 10% after four months, and days of lost work time drop markedly.

Clients report feeling much better on surveys conducted at one and four months after their visit to Walk-In. At the four month point, average GHQ-12 scores have dropped favourably by 63%. These scores mirror those of the general population and are no longer considered cause for concern.

Nineteen percent of Walk-In clients report they would have visited an Emergency Room if the Walk-In had not been available. An Emergency Room visit costs approximately three times as much as a visit to the Walk-In.

Another advantage of the Walk-In Counselling Clinic is its timeliness – people can receive help right away, at the point when they are most ready to change and when treatment is more likely to be effective. The majority of walk-in clients score high on measures indicating readiness to make changes.

“We are very encouraged by the results of this preliminary study”, says John Ellis, Executive Director of Family Service Ontario.  “Family Service Agencies across the province are incredibly excited about this new way of delivering counselling.  We believe we have developed a new powerful and cost effective counselling model that provides an alternative to costly and avoidable Emergency department usage”. 

“The pilot study certainly suggests that clients are finding the single session helpful and that it is contributing to a decrease in psychological distress” says Carol Stalker, principal investigator of the study.

“We look forward to conducting a full scale research study on Walk In”, says Dr. Susan Horton, Economic Professor at the University of Waterloo.  “We are optimistic that Walk- In represents a model that not only improves the lives of families but also saves public resources by reducing the need for other costly services and assisting clients with their return to work.”

*Courtesy WWLHIN Newsletter
 ** General Health Questionnaire-12

Contact Information:

Leslie Josling, MSc, RSW
Executive Director, KW Counselling Services
519-884-0000 x 216
Cell: 519-502-2912

John Ellis, MSW, RSW
Executive Director, Family Service Ontario

Carol Stalker PhD, RSW
Principal Investigator, Professor, Associate Dean PhD,
Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work
Wilfrid Laurier University
519 884-0710 ext, 5217

Sue Horton, PhD
CIGI Chair in Global Health Economics
Department of Health Studies and Gerontology, University of Waterloo
519-888-4567 ext. 33439

Cheryl-Anne Cait, PhD, RSW
Associate Professor, Associate Dean MSW,
Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work
Wilfrid Laurier University
519 884-0710 ext, 5224

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