Last year my wife and I came to Canada for the first time to present at the joint conference between CCPA and ACA (American Counseling Association). Though she has been to other countries before this was my first time out of the USA unless you count a few trips that I took in high school when I went across the border in Fort Kent for five to ten minutes, once I even got out of the car and bought some pop. My knowledge of other countries came from stories from relatives, friends and clients for the most part, supplemented by some TV and readings of course.
After I secured my first passport ever, we headed to Canada ready to present and to explore as much as we could in the few extra days we were able to stay prior to the conference. Driving around Kingston and through to Montreal we stopped at many shops, spoke to countless folks and found the conversations to be engaging, sometimes entertaining but always enlightening. In one otherwise empty shop a conversation took a turn to the more clinical and I found myself doing an unofficial consultation with someone that was feeling overwhelmed. We found a private spot and talked about what was going on and explored some ways to improve, where real help could be accessed in their area and that above all, that they were far from alone. A nice thank you was the result and then we got into our old Merc and headed for our next destination. Though the person was far from suicidal and posed no risk, I have thought of them often and hope that they did enter formal treatment.
Most folks were curious to learn where we were from and typically had kind words for us about our country. In some areas language was a barrier but for the most part folks found my confused stare as a sign to speak English as I was clearly lost as to what they said. I often apologized for being in a country where I did not speak their native tongue but most shrugged it off and welcomed me fully. A few agreed that perhaps I should not be in a place where the language was unknown (there are some of those folks everywhere I suppose).
So here we are, two clinical professionals from a different country, one that speaks the language a bit (my wife took French in high school and traveled to France before so she can hold her own) and one that can look confusedly at the speaker of any language other than English, but we found many a kindred spirit in our northern neighbor. We were outsiders yet we were accepted.
A man named Michelle who was also a counselor, and proudly in recovery told me about the Canadian health care system and gave many real world examples. He spoke of his mum and how she went from a diagnosis of cancer to specialized care, including surgery to remove the cancer in a matter of three weeks or so. She, along with Canadian healthcare in general, are fit and fine as of our meeting. When asked about the mountain of debt she surely must have from treatment (here in the states, losing one’s home and life savings after a major illness is not uncommon, nor is the need for a “go fund me” page or fundraisers to help fund care). He told me she was covered and simply needed to focus on her health.
We met with many interesting clinical professionals during our stay and enjoyed the sights to be sure. And while we in New England USA know maple syrup (I believe it is in the DNA of every Vermont born person) we stocked up on the Canadian staple as well. The more we may sometimes feel different, the more we realize that in many ways, a border is just a made up division. We are all one though we may live under different conditions and authorities.
As counselors we’d like to thank our northern hosts for allowing us to present in their great country and for helping to educate us as to how your system of healthcare differs than ours. As a token of my esteem, I have become a member of this fine organization and have spoken with them on sharing freely many years’ worth of my writings. I have also applied for the CCC and CCC-S credentials and hope to play a small role in Canadian health care. Most important however, is my desire to learn as much as I can on the Canadian healthcare style so that much of your ways can be taught to my readers back in the states. This information exchange has much promise in my eyes.
While we may have different authorities and our take on health care differs greatly, it is my belief and my experience that counseling knows no borders. I hope and pray for a day when the USA adopts a similar mindset on health care and refinds much of the humanism that it appears to have lost recently. If you ever find yourself in Wolcott Connecticut USA, consider this an invitation to tour our humble therapeutic farm. We hope to receive many such invitations from Canada as well. As I send this, my wife and I are packing our bags to head to other parts of Canada over the next four days. We hope to meet and speak with many folks including counseling professionals, to learn from and share with in order to help make real and lasting change for those we serve. If you see an old Merc with Connecticut plates in your neck of the woods, please give us a shout as we’d love to talk with you. Until then, Be safe and do good.
-”Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org) and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.pillwillop.org). He can be contacted at [email protected]
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA