Nova Scotian psychotherapist Amiee Wilson started Thoughtful Changes in early 2021 after completing her master’s degree in counselling psychology the previous autumn.
“My practicum placement involved helping lower-income individuals access mental health support,” recalls Wilson. “It was at a free clinic, and it became obvious to me that we needed more clinics in Nova Scotia as our wait list was very long. In fact, in many cases, there were individuals that had been waiting for several years to access the public mental health system.”
At first, Wilson wanted Thoughtful Changes to include in-person counselling and a “wellness hub” where people could shop for products. However, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted those plans.
“We knew as an organization that – at the height of the pandemic – mental health was suffering, so we had to figure out how to work around everything. We decided that, like all the other counsellors, we would take our clinic online.”
As such, the organization had the ability to hire counsellors from across the province and, perhaps most importantly, serve a wider range of people. Today, it employs five counsellors, and aims to provide student counsellors gain knowledge and experience also.
At the forefront of Thoughtful Changes’ mandate is financial accessibility.
“We want to be the affordable, go-to mental health resource for Nova Scotians who have been waiting for public mental health support,” explains Wilson. “We differ from the competition in that we offer a sliding scale based not just on income alone, but upon the individual’s situation as a whole as well.”
The organization has also initiated a program called Pay-It-Forward “where clients who did not have access to counsellors in their area could pay full-fee and donate to help others who couldn’t afford our lowest sliding scale fee.”
Each counsellor at Thoughtful Changes has their own set of specialties and expertise, so clients can decide who might be the best fit for them.
She also notes that the counsellors contracted by the organization maintain their autonomy around scheduling and the type of therapy they wish to practice.
“Most clinics hire counsellors and want them to only use a certain therapy with their clients. We also help our counsellors grow their own private practice while working with us.”
Wilson currently runs the day-to-day operations, responds to inquiries, manages new clients, and handles all business matters. “I am the only one running the company and it is a struggle a lot of days because I have my own private practice with a full case load.”
To that end, her hope is that Thoughtful Changes will be able to secure proper financing to hire someone to help run the practice. “We are not a charity, so we are not eligible for a lot of the funding out there.”
While she believes that Nova Scotia is heading in the right direction with regards to mental health care, Wilson points out that – with long wait lists – the needs of the general population are simply not being met.
“As mental health declines and our public health systems are not adequate, we need to fill in the gap somewhere, so we feel rewarded doing the work we love.”
This year, Thoughtful Changes is taking on more counsellors, along with its first counselling student. Wilson is currently in talks with the provincial government about the need for mental health care in Nova Scotia, which she hopes will bring forth more services.
“We expect our clinic to at least make a dent in getting access to such needed services at a time when it is needed the most,” adding that she maintains the original goals of in-person counselling and developing a wellness store. “If this does not happen, we can always continue with our online presence and possibly build an online shop to help fund our organization.”