Why people are turning towards counselling during
the downturn

2015 was going to be the year that Robyn Wilson would finally be able to take a vacation, quit her part-time second job, get rid of her tenant and do some home renovations.

“However, due to my layoff, I have not been able to do any of those things and in fact have had to dip into my rainy day fund.”

Due to the economic downturn in Alberta, Wilson was laid off from her job in land development in January 2015 after working there for eight and a half years.

Wilson, who is a single mother of two, found work waitressing back in the 2008 economic crash and is still waitressing part-time to help support herself and her family. In addition, Wilson still has her tenant to help cut down the costs of some of her bills.

“I’m still trying to find a job in office work or reception or anything like that and it’s been tough, I haven’t found anything.”

“For some of us, we need to really brainstorm and decide what avenue to take if we don’t get a job soon,” said Wilson. “I tried taking a medical terminology course online but found it too
difficult without the classroom environment. That costs money, which basically went down the drain.”

Wilson added that the biggest struggle in this recession is the continuous rising cost of groceries to feed her two children and two pets.

After attending the two-week Moving Forward workshop for unemployed people in Calgary earlier this year, Wilson decided to start her own support group, or meetup group, for people who have been laid off.

“Just by talking to these other people maybe it was something that would benefit each other, just by learning,” she said.

Wilson created her meetup group of 21 people through Meetup.com because she believes that many people will appreciate the extra support. Wilson is also hoping to collaborate with other Meetup.com groups to combine events.

She added that getting together is more than just sharing information on resume writing or budgeting.

“Even though you have the information to share, it really does depend on where you are in your point of life or you want to move on,” Wilson explained. “I got the feeling that a lot of people just wanted to get together to just talk about their stories, to learn from some other people.”

Getting together on a regular basis is something that Wilson believed would help unemployed people on their different employment searches. She also wanted to find guest speakers to come speak to her group to talk about finances, resume writing, and networking.

Wilson knows many people that have lost their jobs in the past year, quite a few of which live in her neighbourhood.

“I don’t believe that there is such a thing as job security and everyone should plan for a rainy day,” Wilson said.

Dr. Debra Ford, a counsellor in Calgary, also created a Meetup.com group for unemployed Calgarians.

“I don’t believe that there is such a thing as job security and everyone should plan for a rainy day.” – Robyn Wilson

Ford, who has not been laid off herself, created the Meetup.com group based out of her own counselling practice, the SolePath Institute, created in 2009.

SolePath wanted to provide different kind of support for people looking for work.

“It seemed to us that there’s so many great people providing things like resume writing or getting extra education, but one of the things I’m finding in my counselling practice is that the piece that’s missing is the emotional, mental, and spiritual support.”

“One by one, people are coming in here and needing that kind of emotional support.”

Ford said that SolePath decided to create a new Meetup.com group offered by her practice, called “Now what? Actively unemployed.”

“Really it’s about saying, ‘How do we stay positive, how do we stay up, how do we find spiritual support while we’re struggling?’”

Fords’s first meetup was held in February. She said that the meetup focused on emotions,
which included feeling scared, worried, or anxious.

“Our work is about trying to be happier,” Ford explained. “Things happen in our life that are difficult, not just losing your job but any kind of an ending. So many things that happen in your life that are your big milestones, and then you need to manage your emotions.”

The meetups are free of charge, and further workshops can be taken at a cost.

Although Ford has more clients due to the downturn, she believes that people are able to reconsider their career paths.

“I would say that there’s a different reason for more clients, and that is that people are getting the opportunity to reassess what they were doing. And so maybe you lose your job, you get a chance to say,’Is that the work that I want to do?’ We help with that.”

“There’s so much positive that’s coming out of people losing their job which is the ability to say, ‘Well I could be doing something different.’”

Dr. Susan MacDonald has a private practice in Calgary specializing in career and personal counselling, and consulting to organizations.

MacDonald said that with the economic downturn she has seen an increase of clients too, and added that it is a “recession-proof business.”

Stress is another reason that MacDonald is seeing a higher volume of patients. She said that many people are have gone past the point of stress and into that of a burnout.

“I have more clients now than ever before that I’ve put on disability,” said MacDonald. “Burnouts are honestly the scariest thing that I work with. It takes a long time for people to recover.”

Similarly to Ford, MacDonald feels that the recession has been a great opportunity for many of her clients.

Dr. Susan MacDonald believes that career counselling can be beneficial to help broaden people’s horizons and show them that being laid off can be an opportunity for personal growth. Photo by Caroline FyvieMacdonald said that with life coming to a halt, people can change career paths and go through the career counselling process to find a career which may be a better fit by exploring solid rationales for a potential switch.

“It can be an opportunity to do something different.”

According to MacDonald, career counselling can be very helpful for people wanting to switch careers, adding that she most commonly sees lawyers, accountants and engineers who are dissatisfied with their careers.

Wilson and Ford both agree meetup groups for unemployed Calgarians are an effective way of evaluating what opportunities there are around Calgary during the tough economic times.

“It’s not for people that are sitting around doing nothing,” Ford explained. “They’ve lost their job but they haven’t lost their life.”

cfyvie@cjournal.ca

The editor responsible for this article is Ashley Materi, amateri@cjournal.ca