Christine Zeindler



Unsplash photo: Vicky summer @cestvictoiree

Unsplash photo: Vicky summer @cestvictoiree

UBC Okanagan’s Social Work Mental Health Clinic is offering virtual counselling and mental health services to support children and youth during COVID-19.

The clinic, which specializes in the assessment and treatment of children and youth with mental health concerns, is free of cost and does not have a time limit on services.

“Anyone in the Okanagan and beyond can take advantage of our services,” says Clinic Director Hilla Shlomi. “This is a self-referral clinic, where parents or guardians can directly contact us to receive more information.”

Shlomi adds that the clinic offers a team-based approach, where clinicians and practicum students work with each family to provide emotional and psychosocial support. This often involves liaising with other health professionals and the child’s school.

Services are available to families with children between the ages of 6 and 19, who have mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, suicidal and self-harming behaviours, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and psychosomatic difficulties.

Online counselling offers some benefits compared to in-person sessions, according to Shlomi.

“Virtual services allow us to reach individuals who otherwise wouldn’t commute to our UBCO clinic,” she says. “Also, we have learned it allows for both parents to be involved in sessions in spite of sometimes being in different locations, which is key to the child’s engagement and success. Some children may also be more comfortable in their homes versus a clinic setting, which can lead to more productive sessions.”

Shlomi explains that students in the Master of Social Work program, who work with the families alongside senior clinicians, are leading the way in providing innovative online solutions.

“An integral part of our clinic is to train the next generation of service providers. Now that the education includes a virtual component, it’s often the students who are expanding the clinic’s offerings,” she says. “Their knowledge and creativity have allowed us to implement virtual games and other online activities. Not only have they adapted to remote delivery, they are seamlessly providing virtual therapy.”

Master’s student Radha Ortiz notes that although the leap to a virtual space was a big one, she and her fellow student clinicians are increasingly comfortable and proficient in this new virtual reality.

“We’ve learned to engage youth in new ways,” says Ortiz. “Some of these skills are sustainable and can be continued once in-person sessions are restored.”

Both Shlomi and Ortiz anticipate that virtual sessions will continue as an option even after clinic doors open again. They say that this adds to the clinic’s already unique offerings of professional care in an academic setting.

“The focus of our services is the child, but parents are also counselled,” says Shlomi. “We don’t advocate a blaming environment. Parents are part of the solution.”

“The unlimited number of free sessions and the built-in parental education and support all add to the clinic’s service to the community, and we’re deeply passionate about helping families that need that extra support.”

Those looking for further information can email

To learn more about the clinic, visit: