Counselling Connect for Your Patients: Free Access to Virtual Crisis and Short-Term Counselling

Posted Thursday November 12, 2020

Posted By: Jeffery Satchwill

Category: General

With in-person counselling services suspended due to Covid-19 restrictions, there is a critical need for quick and easy access to virtual crisis and short-term counselling. Counselling Connect provides free access to a same-day or next-day phone or video counselling sessions using a digital platform to “house” multiple services and organizations.

Through a single user-friendly website, individuals can book a 45- to 90-minute counselling appointment with a mental health professional from one of the participating community mental health and addictions agencies. The long-term benefit is that people get the care they need when they need it, without sitting on a wait list or navigating a complex system.  Counselling Connect anticipates it will divert people from the Emergency Department and support them in acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to manage their mental health.  This bilingual service is for children, youth, adults and families in Ottawa and the surrounding area.

How it works

  • Your patient provides brief information on the secure site and chooses the counselling time, Monday to Friday, that works for them.
  • They receive an email confirmation. At their appointment time, the counsellor will call them. 
  • One 45-90-minute counselling session may be enough to address their needs. Other support options can also be discussed during their session.

For most clients, single-session counselling is sufficient and helpful (Hymmen and Stalker, 2013 Hoyt; Talmon, 1990). Clients report improvements in coping with presenting problems and outcomes have been demonstrated on specific measures of variables such as depression, anxiety, distress level and confidence in parenting skills (Hymmen and Stalker, 2013). Research also suggests that the vast majority of clients are satisfied with the single-session therapy process (Hymmen and Stalker, 2013) and that children and youth show higher levels of satisfaction compared to those who used more traditional services (Barwick et al., 2013). For those individuals who require a few more sessions, Counselling Connect staffing capacity allows some flexibility to respond nimbly to this need (i.e.: 1-3 sessions) while maintaining a focus on same day/next day access and no wait list. Where the needs are more complex, clients can easily be linked to specialized services in alignment with a stepped care approach.

Stats to date

Over 2800 counselling appointments have been booked through Counselling Connect since the public launch on May 14th, with 63% of these appointments booked through the Counselling Connect website; 37% of appointments are booked through other partner organizations such as the Ottawa Distress Centre. The average time between a booking and the appointment is only 10 hours and 17 minutes.

Counselling Connect was born out of the need for the mental health and addictions sector to respond quickly to the changing environment and growing mental health needs of those most impacted by Covid-19. With planning and development support from the Ottawa Health Team-Équipe Santé Ottawa, Counselling Connect leverages existing resources from 14 accredited community mental health and addiction agencies, including:

  • Canadian Mental Health Association Ottawa
  • Crossroads Children's Mental Health Centre
  • Centretown Community Health Centre
  • Le Cap
  • Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region
  • Family Services Ottawa
  • Jewish Family Services         
  • Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization
  • Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services
  • Sandy Hill Community Health Centre
  • Somerset West Community Health Centre
  • The Walk in Counselling Clinic
  • Youth Services Bureau
  • Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health

While Counselling Connect is a Covid-19 innovation, the phase 1 and phase 2 evaluations will provide feedback on the successes and challenges of the model and make recommendations for the continuation and possible enhancement and expansion of the service in the future.

For more information on the service, please contact directly at:

Patient resources

Patients can select a counselling service and schedule free same-day or next-day phone or video appointment.


Hymmen, P., Stalker, C. A., & Cait, C.-A. (2013). The case for single-session therapy: Does the empirical evidence support the increased prevalence of this service delivery model? Journal of Mental Health22(1), 60–71.

Talmon, M. (1990). The Jossey-Bass social and behavioral science series. Single-session therapy: Maximizing the effect of the first (and often only) therapeutic encounter. Jossey-Bass.

Barwick, M., Urajnik, D., Sumner, L., Cohen, S., Reid, G., Engel, K., & Moore, J. E. (2013). Profiles and Service Utilization for Children Accessing a Mental Health Walk-In Clinic versus Usual Care. Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 10(4), 338–352.

Natasha McBrearty and Tamara Chipperfield
Co-leads for Counselling Connect

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