One of the lesser-known CASA programs, the Community Geographic Team (or CGT) is dedicated to increasing the capacity of mental health professionals in rural Alberta.

Specifically targeting the North and Central East zones of Alberta, CGT’s mental health consultants provide services to newer therapists working in rural areas – think as far east as Cold Lake, as far west as Grande Prairie, and as far north as High Level! Services most often materialize in the form of a mentoring relationship or one-to-one consultation, but CGT also delivers workshops and seminars to communities several times each month.

Consultant Anita Wahl, who specializes in play therapy, drove down to Bonnyville in December 2017 to deliver a presentation requested by the school district’s counsellors. The topic was “Posttraumatic Play”, and Anita was able to offer her years of expertise on using play and activities to best to support children and teens who have experienced trauma.

Consultant Dr. Beena Thomas has recently been working with AHS therapists in the area encompassing Jasper, Hinton, Edson, Whitecourt, and Mayerthorpe to deliver a two-part series on Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) for Adolescents, a common mode of therapy for teens struggling with personality disorders or suicidal thoughts.

“I would say the most common message I have received is that the training and coaching has given clinicians a sense of confidence and excitement to provide a treatment that tackles some of the most complex clinical issues that come into their clinic”, says Dr. Thomas.

“Many people have also stated that they are really happy to know that they can reach out to me when an issue pops up while providing DBT. It’s like having a safety net.”

Beena and Anita, in addition to consultants Marlene Haugen, Kealey Dube, and Clinical Lead, Dr. Lynn Davis, also maintain mentoring relationships with multiple therapists across Alberta. CGT’s consultants are there for whatever the therapist may need guidance in, be it the latest legislation, resource recommendation, or general best practices. CGT consultants also provide case consultation to therapists who may need a bit of extra guidance on a particularly challenging case.

Some of CGT’s members reside in remote rural areas themselves – Dr. Davis lives on a farm near Didsbury, and Anita recently moved up to Red Earth Creek (which has a population of around 400)!

At the helm of CGT is Program Manager Sharon Rayment, who is part of CASA’s larger Rural Services division. Sharon is joined in Rural Services by Janet Cathro, CASA House Program Manager. Eight of the 19 beds in CASA House are specifically reserved for rural patients, meaning that CASA not only supports the therapists of rural communities, but the families themselves.

The Community Geographic Team has consistently made a difference in the lives of rural Albertans since their very first visit to Boyle, Alberta in 2011, and continue to do so years later – on a daily basis.

To learn more about CGT, go to https://www.casaservices.org/community-geographic-team.

AHS therapists in Athabasca participate in building their own sand tray during one of Anita Wahl’s recent workshops on sand tray therapy.

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