From Walk-In to Online: A Review of Eastside Community Mental Health Services’ Walk-In Single Session Therapy Transformation

Eastside Community Mental Health Services (ECMHS, formerly known as the Eastside Family Centre) is a no cost service for Calgarians that provides professional therapy for any situation, large or small, where someone wants to be listened to and helped. Prior to COVID-19, the main modality of ECMHS was walk-in service where a clinical session could be arranged the moment someone stepped through the doors. However, like many services in 2020, ECMHS faced the challenge of needing to transform a service that had primarily relied on walk-in appointments into a service that could be accessed virtually in order to continue providing quality counselling and therapy. This symposium will review the trends, successes, and challenges faced by ECMHS service providers and clients throughout the 2020 calendar year while reflecting on lessons learned from shifting to virtual service quickly due to public health measures arising as a result of COVID-19.

Presenters and slide deck

Janet Stewart, Program Supervisor, Eastside Community Mental Health Services, Wood’s Homes

Janet Stewart is a program manager at Wood’s Homes with Eastside Community Mental Health Services. She has worked in the field of mental health for 27 years as a youth worker, crisis counsellor and clinician in areas of domestic violence, family crisis and complex trauma. She is a registered psychologist. Janet is passionate about matching youth and families to the best possible mental health support available. She also is dedicated to the education of counselling students and beginning therapists.

Jenna Passi

Jenna Passi, MPP, MA – Currently the Research Program Supervisor at Wood’s Homes. Jenna holds both a Master of Public Policy (University of Calgary, 2018) and a Master of Arts – Criminology (University of Ontario Institute of Technology, 2014). Research interests include: social policy, program and outcome evaluation, capacity building, and data driven decision making.


Key Learnings

  • Service utilization at Eastside Community Mental Health Services (ECMHS) decreased right after the first provincial declaration of a public health emergency due to COVID-19, however service utilization grew steadily in the months following. Throughout 2020, the need expressed by users did not exceed the capacity of ECMHS (i.e., at no time were waitlists necessary, or were therapists required to turn individuals away). No shows and cancellations averaged 11.4% of scheduled appointments during this time.
  • Reliance on resourceful innovations and team creativity, alongside technological upgrading, allowed the ECMHS therapy team to shift from a walk-in service to a virtual service within 48 hours to continue supporting Albertans. These efforts culminated in building the capacity to handle the same amount of sessions virtually as of January 2021 as would have been handled in walk-in service.
  • The primary presenting concerns remained fairly consistent at ECMHS, however there were 2 months where ‘Epidemic’ was a top presenting concern among those accessing service. ‘Epidemic’ appeared in the top 3 presenting concerns in the months directly following official provincial declarations of a public health emergency that resulted in increased restrictions and public health measures throughout the province.

Subscribe to Frayme
Stay up-to-date with Frayme and network opportunities through our newsletter, OnPoint. 

Join our Network
Network partners work alongside Frayme or other network partners in order to transform youth mental health and substance use services in Canada. Access the evidence, resources and tools you need to take action.