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Laura Gatien. Image: lauragatien.com

Non-profit looks to expand affordable counselling services

By Brad Perry Mar 10, 2023 | 1:31 PM

A mental health advocate is hoping to expand accessible and affordable counselling services in southern New Brunswick.

Laura Gatien, who operates a clinical therapy practice in Saint John, has launched a non-profit called JUST US.

The idea is to expand the free and low-cost counselling services her agency has been offering for the past several years.

“We’ve been really successful in creating a model where we’re able to offer these programs and they’ve been subsidized by the main private paid business,” Gatien said in a recent interview.

In fact, her team has offered more than 3,600 free or subsidized counselling sessions over the last four years.

But Gatien said the need has become so great that her practice cannot grow to meet demands without external support.

“The demand just continues to grow, especially as the pandemic highlighted very important mental health concerns. It helped people tune into their mental health and see it as health,” she said.

“We’re not stepping out of these programs at all, we just need other people to step up.”

That is how the non-profit organization was born. JUST US launched in October and recently received charitable status.

Gatien said the name of the organization is meant to help eliminate the “Us vs. Them” mentality with it comes ot mental health.

“When you categorize people who struggle with mental illness as them, it feeds into the stigma of othering people with mental health difficulties when in reality there’s just us,” she said.

“There is no us and them. All of us are affected by mental health issues at times and no one should be defined by this.”

Gatien said one of their goals is to expand their Free Friday counselling programs from Friday afternoons to the entire day.

The agency also offers low-cost counselling with interns who are supervised by social workers with a master’s degree.

In addition to free and low-cost counselling services, Gatien said they also want to expand on the workshops they offer.

“Our charity is going to provide advocacy and continue to push for change in the culture around mental health by demystifying it and speaking to community groups and workplaces on how to understand your mental health a little bit better,” she said.

You can learn more about the organization on their website by clicking here.


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