EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was submitted by Gwen Zwicker.
Marie Reinsborough-Wadden and Krista Royama have been good friends for many years. They became teachers together, taught together (even in side-by-side classrooms) and socialized together. The only time they haven’t done things together as adults is when they had their children. Now they are back together again as owners of their business, IRIS Community Counselling & Consulting.
“As teachers,” says Marie, “we realized that so much of our time was taken up dealing with mental health and wellbeing issues in our students’ lives that we were not able to focus on the curriculum. That’s when we decided to leave teaching, go back to school and become counselling therapists.”
Marie is a guidance counsellor at a school in Riverview and Krista holds the same position in a Moncton school. In the evenings and on weekends, both see clients at IRIS.
Marie and Krista point out that most schools are staffed by one guidance counsellor, which they believe is not enough to meet the growing needs of children and their families. That is where IRIS comes in, to help families in the local area access mental health needs more easily and quickly.
IRIS offers “counselling services and education for individuals/groups, families and youth living alongside a variety of mental health issues.” “At present, there is no place to refer a child for mental health services until he or she is 12, so we set out to help,” says Marie. The services offered by IRIS are primarily geared to youth aged 5-21. However, since a mental health concern for one child often affects most, if not all, other family members, the age limits sometimes vary.
Why offer these services in Sackville? Having been born and raised in Sackville, Marie wanted to place her focus on the area, while Krista says, “I wanted to give back to the community that supported me. When I moved here, my son was 11 months old – he’s now 15.”
IRIS Community Counselling & Consulting opened its doors in June 2018. Both Krista and Marie are extremely thankful for all the support they received to help them get going – funding from Renaissance Sackville and particularly the funding provided through the Sackville Memorial Hospital Foundation. The latter allowed a partnership with Marshview Middle School which covers the cost of counselling services for some students.
How did Marie and Krista agree on the name ‘IRIS?’ Inspired by the wild iris flowers that grow from the rugged Tantramar Marshes, IRIS was intentionally named in honour of the strength, perseverance, resiliency and beauty of the flower itself. Much like the empowering nature of mental health counselling, the iris grows when given support and care: whether that comes in the form of water and sun or a safe space and the guidance of a welcoming therapist, the results can be powerful. Marie’s daughter’s middle name is actually Iris for that very same reason.
IRIS conducts numerous workshops in partnership with other businesses and organizations. Marie and Krista have partnered with EOS Eco-Energy on workshops dealing with stress and anxiety related to climate change; with Fort Folly First Nation; with the Girl Guides; and with educators on workshops for dealing with mental health issues and stress. They are hosting three workshops entitled Youth Empowerment, where Marshview Middle School as well as private donors has made it possible for some young people to attend. During Pride week, they participate in events with PFlag. In addition to all that, they are involved in consulting for larger groups.
IRIS has just launched a new website. You can book appointments online and see what services IRIS offers. Services offered are often covered by insurance providers like Blue Cross, NIHB, Jordan’s Principle, Homewood Health etc.. Marie and Krista are happy to work with clients to ensure their counselling services are accessible to all.
What are the challenges for Marie and Krista? Obviously finding enough time to help the youth they serve as well as having time for their own families. Both women admit that opening this business has been a learning experience, but a good one. They help each other by promoting and encouraging self-care so they can be healthy and engaged with their clients. During the school year, their services are somewhat more limited than in the summer when they can be more flexible.
IRIS’s physical location feels intimate, cozy and welcoming. The walls display paintings done by Marie and Krista’s children – their interpretation of “iris.” Krista says, “I feel relaxed when I am here. It is actually very calming to sit with a client for an hour in this space.”
You can find IRIS Community Counselling & Consulting at 131H Main St. in Sackville. Email: email@example.com. Take a look at the new website at: http://Iriscounselling.ca to check available appointment times and read about the services offered.