Being a psychologist: not always a walk in the park… or is it?

Forget about lying down on a couch; it is time for walk-and-talk therapy

“I don’t have time for therapy.”

I wish I were able to convince myself otherwise. Actually, I wish everyone was able to make time for therapy.

I stopped seeing my psychologist five years ago, thinking I couldn’t afford to spend an hour of my time (and $100 of my mother’s salary) every week just to sit on a couch and complain about my life. It was too late when I realized that I should have kept going, but as someone who later sought and received urgent professional help, I can safely say that therapy is absolutely worth your time and money.

I am doing way better now (thank you for asking) but I still struggle with the idea of going back to therapy. I must admit that I have always had a teeny-tiny negative bias towards it, and to be quite honest, I am broke and busier than ever.

But I recently learned something that almost convinced me to go back …

Sticking to online therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic was not enough for two private psychologists from the Centre de Psychologie Behaviorale (CPB) in Ahuntsic. That is why they started offering outdoor consultations as an alternative.

One of those two psychologists, Serge Drolet, has been working at CPB for 30 years.

On April 17, 2020, the Quebec government issued an official document instructing mental health service providers to limit their in-person activities and opt for teleconsultation whenever possible. At the time, all of CPB’s operations had already shifted online.

Since March 2020, about 25 per cent of Drolet’s clients have consequently abandoned therapy because they were not interested in Zoom consultations.

“Some very good patients left, and sadly, I don’t know what they became,” Drolet explained.

This inspired him to experiment with “walk-and-talk therapy” instead.  Since June, about 15 per cent of Drolet’s patients have chosen to bring their therapy sessions outdoors.

During the winter, the Marcelin-Wilson park and the small woods near the clinic are often deserted. On March 2, it might have been -17 C outside, but the most courageous of Drolet’s patients were able to enjoy the calm and tranquility.

However, since the office is surrounded by many other primary care services like a drugstore, a radiology centre, and a dialysis clinic, there is a lot of traffic on the sidewalks despite the centre being located in a quiet neighbourhood.

“Stuff happens when we find ourselves in these kinds of situations,” Drolet said. “[A patient and I] were walking and an old man tried to shove us aside because we were not walking fast enough for him. There was a lesson of self-assertion management, and that’s great because [this patient] is a person who, when alone, is submissive when it comes to confrontations. I gave this man a piece of my mind — while remaining professional, of course — and I was glad that she [the patient] could see that I, myself, do [what I usually advise her to do].”

According to Drolet, this new type of consultation also adds a dynamic component to the therapy.

“There’s a small wood not too far away and there are three directions we can take,” Drolet said. “On the right, we can see perfectly well; on the left there are a couple of young people that seem rough; and in the middle, it’s the woods. I don’t decide which way to go. You choose where we go. Just the fact that the person makes decisions like that during the session, somewhere along the way, it helps them make decisions in life,” Drolet said.

Being stuck alone with ourselves can be challenging, and many people’s mental health problems were exacerbated because of the pandemic. However, Drolet noticed that his patients had become more invested in their therapy; they have more free time to self-examine and to reflect on their patterns. Moreover, now that psychologists are being exposed to the same worries and deprivations as their patients, they can now empathize rather than sympathize with them. In fact, Drolet said that being on an equal footing with his clients in such a way has allowed him to help them better.

In the end, with all of COVID’s difficulties, it has also opened the door for new possibilities for how mental health service providers can treat their patients. Now that many people have more free time to focus on themselves and that it somewhat became easier to find a psychologist we can relate to, combining therapy to the health benefits of getting more fresh air gives us one more reason to consider going to therapy.


 Photo by Christine Beaudoin

Student Life

Concordia is not doing enough: the case for tuition reduction

The University has not been lenient towards students amid a global pandemic

Last May, Concordia’s proposed budget was decided by the Board of Governors and was “long-term oriented to address post COVID-19 structural issues.” The 2020-2021 budget assumes the impacts of COVID-19 will go on for three years into the future. However, recent developments in clinical testing by Pfizer and Moderna have led the government to stockpile available doses. This means a return towards pre-COVID life might come sooner than expected. As such, a crucial reduction in tuition is justified despite the university potentially operating under a larger deficit for the current fiscal year.

Thousands of students have petitioned since the beginning of the fall semester to reduce tuition. Nearly 97 per cent of students who participated in the recent Concordia Student Union (CSU) by-elections of 2020 voted in favour of tuition reduction.

In a town hall meeting  hosted by the CSU on Nov. 19, students considered mass organization and protests against tuition hikes, similar to the 2012 student strike. They stated that, “In the context of the pandemic, we need to do that now as well — enough is enough.”

Many feel as though the school is indifferent towards the plight of its students.

“I’m convinced that the university doesn’t really care. They’d let half of us die if it means that the other half will be filled with students, because what they’re really interested in is keeping us enrolled and keeping us paying,”  said a student who was interviewed by The Link.

While students continue to voice their concerns, Concordia’s current budget leaves little to no room for financial leniency towards them.

According to Fiona Harrison-Roberts, the outgoing finance coordinator of the Journalism Student Association (JSA), “Concordia will be increasing the price of tuition this year as opposed to reducing tuition.”

“COVID-19[‘s] recurrent and structural impact will need to be integrated into the budget model for fiscal years 2021-2022 and thereafter,” as mentioned in the budget’s PDF document.

With a bulk of students shifting from full-time to part-time as well as a decline in first-year students, Concordia experienced an expected loss of revenue as a result of COVID-19.

“The drop is attributable to lost income from on-campus activities such as residence room rentals, parking and conferences, and diminished tuition revenue because of a decline in international student registrations, particularly at the graduate level,” said Concordia’s President and Vice-Chancellor Graham Carr in a public statement .

Currently, Concordia is operating under a deficit of five to eight per cent for the fiscal year.

“It is a large amount; however, the figures are similar to what the Government of Quebec has invested in proportion to its own budget to address the COVID crisis,” Carr added.

While Concordia is using the government’s actions to justify their current expenditures, the question to be asked is whether comparing themselves to a provincial government that has not done enough in the face of COVID-19 is a smart thing to do.

Regardless, as the student body grows more restless and with vaccines available this upcoming year, a “three-year financial plan” to combat the effects of COVID-19 becomes less pertinent. Students continue their uphill battle this year in paying rent and tuition, working, and studying through “Zoom University,” with little to no financial relief from their institution.

Concordia boasts of a “solid financial track record” in reference to their “balanced budget for 2019-20” after public funding cuts forced deficits for many years.

“In 2019-2020, before COVID, we had a balanced budget for the first time in six years,” stated Carr.

While it may be a commendable feat for some, Concordia’s members should ask themselves: at whose cost was this achievement realized, if not the students’?

Operating under a larger deficit to ensure the financial safety and security of nearly 50,000 students during a global pandemic is not an unreasonable demand. Especially when such an operation runs at the detriment of both the financial and mental health of its students.


Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab

Behind the open letter: an interview with Juliet Bartlett

The Concordian talks to student Juliet Bartlett about her open letter to Concordia’s administration

This past week, Concordia forums have been abuzz in response to an open letter posted online regarding the university’s approach to online schooling during COVID-19. The letter outlines complaints about a wide array of issues such as the lack of a pass/fail option, tuition breaks and support for international students.

The Concordian sat down with the author, third-year Intermedia student Juliet Bartlett, to discuss the letter and her intentions behind it.

TC: Your letter is extensive and very impassioned; what prompted you to write it?

JB: The letter was quite a few months in the making. It wasn’t just something that I typed overnight. It was inspired by months of talking and listening to students either via the [Concordia] subreddit or reading posts on Facebook or my own friends as to what their experiences were. I didn’t just want to write a letter based on what I was experiencing. I wanted to write it with everyone in mind and kind of capsule [sic] the frustration the student body is feeling at the moment.

TC: Concordia has many formal ways to communicate with administration. Why did you feel an open letter was the best format for your message? 

JB: Open letters are public, they usually embody something bigger than one person. If changes were to be made, they had to be public and they have to pick up traction. Concordia — I think a lot of students feel this way too — doesn’t make changes unless it is something bigger or that’s been on the slow burner for an extensive period of time. It was really important that it was public knowledge and that it was going past the student body and Concordia to make sure that we aren’t just going to sit and be silent and take this.

TC: You’re in Intermedia. How is Concordia’s approach to an online semester affecting you as a BFA student?

JB: I’ll prelude by saying this: I love my program, the people, the professors. But, as a fine arts student, it’s affecting me specifically because for most of my projects, you need a higher-end computer to run the software you need. Fortunately, I do have a good enough computer to run these programs. It is getting outdated though. Whereas, last year, we had the option to use either the Intermedia editing suite or the Centre for Digital Arts (CDA). There’s a lot of students that I have spoken with that aren’t as fortunate as me. They’re on a laptop that’s almost catching fire while they’re trying to run Blender. And especially for students that aren’t located in Montreal, even if [the department] were to open something, there isn’t really a way to get that equipment to them. So we need to consider fees and we need to consider costs, because tuition wasn’t lowered, we got a $17 discount. The CDA fee was waived, but how can you justify the cost of an $800, plus upgrade to your computer to run the software you need for school?

TC: What would you like CU admin to take away from your letter? 

JB: Number one, I hope that they read it in full. I hope it’s not skimmed. I want every word to be considered in my letter. Number two, I want them to know this isn’t out of spite. I wanted them to erase and forget this whole current ideal that’s been spun around by some people saying that students are lazy, students don’t care, they just want a pass and they want to cheat. That is not the point [of] my letter. What we’re trying to say is that it is a rough year. There are more issues than are being assumed going on behind closed doors with students.

The ones who were in university 20, maybe 25 years ago, maybe those employees who just started, remember what it was like when you started university. Remember the stress that you felt. Then, I want you to take away all those memories you had with your friends in first year. Take away all of the social outings you went to. Then, I want you to confine them to one small room with a computer, a webcam, Moodle frequently crashing and a heavier workload. Add a strong tiredness that is 24/7. Then, I want them to imagine that this is what their university tells them is fine.

TC: In the recent CSU by-election, students voted in favour of a pass/fail option, lightening course workload, and turning away from proctored exams, all topics you mention in your letter. Do these results give you hope or do you expect more of the same from the institution?  

JB: It doesn’t give me hope in terms of what the administration’s next plans are going to be. It does give me hope and empowers the idea of the letter, and the fact that the student body does agree with that and does want this. I think it’s pretty evident that we have wanted it since the beginning of fall term. I also don’t understand how the administration wouldn’t want to [implement] a pass/fail option. Everyone seems to be struggling — that I have spoken with. Everybody’s GPA is most likely going to take a hit. So, as a university, why wouldn’t you favour pass/fail, rather than having your overall university GPA drop? Because that is most likely what is going to happen.

TC: What would you say to other Concordians who want to have their voices heard on these issues? 

JB: I would strongly encourage them to write their own letter. Sit down and really think about the things you have felt this term, these specific things that apply to your faculty and school-wide. Be honest, and write a letter. We all need to unite, both the student body and professors, because this is affecting professors as well. We need to understand that we need to work together to make changes happen. The louder we are, and the more vocal and well-versed we can be in this, the better the outcome.

In response to the concerns laid out in the open letter, Concordia University replied in a statement:

“We understand the difficulties and frustrations that students and everyone are facing during the pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, students’ success and well-being have been priorities for us and we have put in place a series of measures to help them through these difficult times. We have hired more teaching assistants, are loaning IT equipment to students, have extended the winter break, safely opened study spaces in the library or sent at-home kits for some courses, among the many measures taken. The university has also made significant technology investments to support the move to remote course delivery and assistance to faculty and staff, direct financial aid to students as well as online learning supports, increased on-campus health and safety measures, and stepped-up cybersecurity in a context where cyberattacks are proliferating. We will continue to further adjust to the situation and remain committed to the success of our students.

On tuition fees generally, please note that for the vast majority of students, tuition fees are set by the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur (MES) and are adjusted on a yearly basis. [For Quebec residents and out-of-province Canadian students, the government increased tuition for the 2020-21 academic by 3.1 per cent.]”


phoPo by Christine Beaudoin

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