22 March, 2023

A collaboration between Avondale and one of the largest op shops in Australia is bringing affordable counselling to the local community.

One-hour sessions have been offered by qualified counsellors and supervised final-year counselling students at the ADRA Op Shop Morisset on Mondays and Wednesdays since March 1.

“After working extensively with the community, one of the largest needs we’ve identified is mental health,” says op shop manager Dr Paul Rankin. “So, we think offering counselling at an affordable rate will help.”

Counselling coordinator Lana Hibbard says getting access to a practitioner in the local area is difficult. “Even if you have a mental health care plan from a GP, you’re often waiting a long time to see a psychologist.” And few bulk bill. So, ADRA Counselling Morisset clients pay for only what they can afford according to their income, with sessions ranging from $A30 to $A100.

Lana Hibbard from the Well-Being Centre at Avondale and counselling students like Sophie Carver began offering sessions at the Morisset ADRA Op Shop from March 1 (Photo Credit: Brenton Stacey).

Sophie Carver is one of the counselling students. Completing her first placement in her final year, “I want to start putting my skills to use, but I’m aware this means dealing with real-life issues. That’s a big responsibility,” she said.

As an off-campus student during the COVID-19 lockdowns and a carer for a family member with a severe mental illness, Ms Carver experienced feelings of isolation and loneliness “but couldn’t afford to see a counsellor.” She contacted the Well-being Centre at Avondale, which offers a free service to staff members and students—and where Ms Hibbard is the lead clinical counsellor. That helped. As did meeting other students in her class at a couple of on-campus intensives this past year. “Because I work from home as well, my whole world is at home, so I looked forward to coming for weeks.”

The Graduate Diploma in Counselling will be Ms Carver’s third degree—she has others in primary teaching and in special education. “It feels like a natural progression,” particularly for “a quieter person who prefers one-on-one interaction”—Ms Carver found the classroom challenging but enjoyed connecting individually with students, their parents and their teachers in a part-time chaplaincy role.

The placement at ADRA Counselling Morisset will help Ms Carver and other students “grow in confidence as they listen to their clients and draw on what they’ve read in textbooks and learnt from case studies,” said Ms Hibbard. “Their lecturers and clinical supervisors tell them, and I tell them, ‘Trust the process.’”

As the number of clients increases, ADRA Counselling Morisset plans to expand so it can continue to meet community needs. And while “no one gets turned away,” clients who want to address issues related to domestic violence, drug or alcohol addiction or specialised mental health conditions, or who need diagnosis, will be referred to specialist services.

The Morisset ADRA Op Shop donates proceeds for the benefit of the local community. And as the largest ADRA Op Shop in Australia, it is staffed by 150 volunteers, all of whom have access to counselling at a subsidised rate. “The impact we have, just in store, is incredible,” says Paul. “One of the volunteers said to me, ‘This is my safe place.’ She feels supported. That’s why we’re here.”

Book a counselling session: To book a one-hour session, call ADRA Counselling Morisset on 0432 293 832 or email [email protected].

This article was originally published in The Record.