Removing Barriers to Mental Health Care Access

A few years ago, I worked as a social worker in a ten week chronic pain program. Most clients were local but occasionally we would get some participants from farther away. Those who came from farther away often were met with significant barriers to mental health care access.

I'll always remember a woman who came from a village of about 125 people in the north of the province. As I assessed her psychosocial needs I asked if she had support to help her deal with stress, frustration or depression. She informed me that while there was a social worker at the hospital in the neighbouring village, the person who booked the appointments was her sister-in-law. There was no neutral person she could turn to. Everyone knew everyone.

That encounter is what got me thinking about how wonderful it would be if someone like her, someone from a remote or very small village could access a counsellor remotely for support and encouragement. I also wondered if we might use texting as a way to reinforce strategies learned by clients by sending them daily or weekly reminders. I had no idea if it was possible - that was only six years ago.

How things have changed! There are now hundreds of apps to help with mood, health, physical fitness, meditation, and relaxation; apps that offer reminders throughout the day and suggest self-care activities. And online/video therapy is becoming more and more common.

I hesitated jumping on board with video therapy because I was unsure of the safety and confidentiality it provided. When I learned that TranQool was setting up a video platform that was encrypted and PHIPA compliant, I was willing to try it out as a therapist.

The reason I joined TranQool as a therapist is because of people like the woman I mentioned earlier. There are many people in rural communities who don't have access to counselling services. TranQool was helping to remove those barriers to mental health care access. I also joined because of other people I have met: individuals caring for loved ones who are ill and who can't leave the house; people with physical disabilities who would find it difficult to go to appointments. It is my hope that TranQool will also attract deaf counsellors who would be able to offer counselling to people whose first language is ASL (American Sign Language). TranQool removes the barriers to mental health care  access caused by distance or physical isolation. It is truly accessible.

TranQool also has other features that convinced me:
  • Counselling is offered in a variety of languages;
  • It is easy to sign up and use; you don't need to install any software or hardware - just use a computer with a camera;
  • People can choose their therapist.
  • Appointments, payment, advertising are all handled by TranQool.

Coming from a small community myself, I am glad people now have more choices to support their mental health. Technology and internet access will only improve. More and more remote communities will have high speed internet. It is my hope that eventually, access will no longer be an issue for individuals, no matter where they live.

With all the changes in the last few years, I find it amazing that I have the capacity to meet people by video, have email and text reminders sent automatically to clients, find tools online that can help clients, be able to offer courses in therapeutic writing and coach people from anywhere in the world. So much more than I dreamed of six years ago.

When I first thought of becoming a therapist, I could not picture any of this. Now, I wouldn't live without it.

* Currently TranQool is only offered in Ontario ** I offer services in French and English.