Avondale and ADRA Provide Affordable Counseling in Australia

South Pacific Division

Avondale and ADRA Provide Affordable Counseling in Australia

The collaboration provides final-year counseling students with practical counseling experience while meeting the need in the Avondale community.

Humanitarian | Australia | Brenton Stacey

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

One-hour sessions have been offered by qualified counselors and supervised final-year counseling students at the Morisset ADRA Op Shop on Mondays and Wednesdays since March 1, 2023.

“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 counseling at an affordable rate will help.”

Counseling 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 [general practitioner], you’re often waiting a long time to see a psychologist.” And few institutions offer bulk billing. Therefore, ADRA Counselling Morisset clients pay for only what they can afford, according to their income, with sessions ranging from AU$30–100 (approx. US$20–66).

Sophie Carver is one of the counseling students. Completing her first placement in her final year, She says, “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.”

As an off-campus student during the COVID-19 lockdowns and a carer for a family member with a severe mental illness, Carver experienced feelings of isolation and loneliness “but couldn’t afford to see a counselor.” She contacted the Well-being Centre at Avondale, which offers a free service to staff members and students—and where Hibbard is the lead clinical counselor. That helped, as did meeting other students in her class at a couple 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,” says Carver.

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

The placement at ADRA Counselling Morisset will help 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,” says 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 specialized 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 op shop aligned with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Australia, it is staffed by 150 volunteers, all of whom have access to counseling at a subsidized rate. “The impact we have, just in store, is incredible,” says Rankin. “One of the volunteers said to me, ‘This is my safe place.’ She feels supported. That’s why we’re here.”

The original version of this story was posted on the Adventist Record website.