The Spirit of the Drop-In

When I tell people that I work at Klinic I am often asked if I work in the house.

525 Broadway

                         545 Broadway

The house on Broadway is probably the most well-known image of Klinic- the house and the tree out front (which is the original inspiration of the Klinic logo). I often think of the house as Klinic’s foundation, not unlike the program that currently occupies the main floor of the house, which is one of the programs that I first became aware of at Klinic.

Even the Klinic website description of the service feels foundational: Klinic’s Drop-In Counselling services are for anyone experiencing something they can’t manage on their own.

Klinic’s Drop-In Counselling is the only free drop in counselling service available to the general public in Winnipeg. We average 200 visitors a month and about 3000 people per year. The program is a core component to our counselling and crisis related services at Klinic, and an important piece of mental health service delivery in our city.

I recently had the opportunity to spend an afternoon as part of my Day in the Life series with the Drop-In Counselling Service. It was a Wednesday, meaning the service was open from 12-7pm. On any given day Drop-In is a complicated mix of staff, volunteers and students who all work closely together, along with our intake worker (Gwen) to make the day happen, and hopefully be able to meet the needs of everyone walking through the door. Most everyone who works in Drop-In has other roles in the organization including counsellors in our short or long term programs or on the crisis lines. This allows for a great mix of experience and perspectives and clearly benefits the whole team.

I had the opportunity to meet with several staff, a volunteer, and a student that day to talk about their work and what they like or find challenging, and I learned a great deal. I also learned about a document called the spirit of the drop-in workload, which inspired the title of my blog. This document is much more than a document and really reflects how the work is shared in this community and the overall supportive spirit. Watching staff, volunteers, students and our intake person greet and move clients through over the course of the afternoon was very insightful on the level of coordination required and the commitment to the best possible care for our clients.

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Some of the Facts

People visit drop-in for many reasons and everyone talks about the uniqueness of each situation, but some of the more common issues we may see include anxiety, depression, relationship issues and addictions. We estimate that about 1/3 of drop-in clients may be referred onto short term counselling where they will see one of the counsellors for up to 6-8 sessions to work on a specific issue, however, many folks are able to work through an issue in a single session or may be referred on to another resource. Many folks do come back to drop-in weeks, months, or years later for new or additional issues and the majority of our referrals are by people who have previously used our services.

What did I learn from my drop-in day?

  • Not unlike I have talked about before, this is hard work. Sitting with others in pain is very difficult and it is important to have a solid team of support around you.
  • It takes a lot of organizing to pull together this mix of human resources for every shift and make everything look effortless.
  • How we greet, welcome and create safe space is critical in engaging our clients.
  • The house is beautiful and loved but there are challenges including space and separation from our main office and services.
  • If we could create a system where no one waits or gets turned away for service everyone would be much happier, and it is very hard to turn people away if we reach our capacity on a shift. We do however make every effort to invite people back if we could not see them for any reason.
  • Accessibility means having capacity and service when people need it, and we have to continue to strive to be as accessible as possible.

Favorite quote of the day:

“For some people an hour is enough – they just needed to be heard, it’s a refuge.”

A huge thank you to all the people involved in making our Drop-In Counselling a welcoming and supportive space that reflects the spirit in which it was intended.