By Kendra Monk, IPHE/Interim Professional Home Economist
“Hello! My name is Kendra, and I am a teen clinic counsellor. Have you ever been to a teen clinic before?”
This is often how I start out sessions with youth who have been referred to me. I work alongside several Manitoba teen clinics in my job, and I offer direct, on-site, drop-in counselling services for youth aged 12-21.
What is a teen clinic? They are specialty health clinics in Manitoba that are just for youth, where teens can drop in and speak confidentially to a health care provider about any health issue that is important to them. These services are free, and youth can obtain needed supplies that might otherwise be difficult for them to get due to lack of access, stigma, parental restrictions, or cost. These include free condoms, and free or low-cost birth control, emergency contraception, and pregnancy/STI/HIV tests.
Another thing that is obtainable for free is information – teen clinics strive to provide youth with accurate and up-to-date information on any topic related to their health. This includes accurate, non-judgmental information on all three legal pregnancy options (adoption, abortion, parenting), and more.
In addition to a team of nurses and doctors/nurse practitioners, many teen clinics have other professionals attached who they can refer to, such as dieticians, addictions workers, and counsellors.
I operate from the same framework that teen clinics do. I believe in the core principles of choice, confidentiality, accessibility, integration, and cultural responsiveness. We are harm reduction focused and endeavor to meet youth where they “are at.”
I’ve been working in this role since early 2016, and it’s an honour to be able to support youth with what can be some difficult issues for them – such as relationship concerns, sexuality, gender identity, stress, anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide. As a teen clinic counsellor, I can act as an immediate point of entry to start having conversations about these things, and can offer information, support, coping tips, and referrals. Sometimes, a one-off counselling session is all that is needed. Other times, I act as a bridge to make connections to longer-term counselling and community resources.
The accessibility of these services in a youth-friendly context (lots of teen clinics also show movies, have music playing, and offer snacks), such as what teen clinics provide, is a fantastic option for youth to be able to get what they need without delay and without judgment.
Teen clinics are located throughout Manitoba in community health centres and junior/high schools. To find out more or see a location close to you, please visit www.teenclinic.ca
By Kendra Monk, B.H.Ecol, M.Sc.; Teen Clinic Counsellor, NorWest Co-op Community Health