In a classroom at one of Providence Care’s Community Programs buildings at 533 Montreal Street, Occupational Therapist and Recovery College Coordinator Ellie Lambert teaches a lesson about the thinking brain versus the feeling brain. She asks the class of about 10 people spanning different generations and backgrounds who they think is in the driver’s seat- emotion or logic. With the help of a peer-support facilitator, Beverly Johnson, Ellie poses the question: “how do you prevent your feeling mind from driving you off the road?” The class discusses how to find a happy medium between thoughts and feelings. This class is called Building Healthy Relationships and is one of 19 courses offered during the spring semester at Providence Care’s Recovery College. The spring semester just wrapped up and like the winter semester, it was a huge success.
“We’ve had more than 100 people register for the Recovery College since we launched our winter semester in January. It’s extraordinary,” says Ellie. “We have a wide range of individuals with different experiences participating in our classes.”
The Recovery College is an adult learning centre that provides free education and opportunities to support mental health, wellness and recovery. The focus is on education and it is set up like a college, where those who are interested can register and choose from a varied selection of courses, such as Recovery 101, Mental Health CPR, Learning to Live with Stress and Reflections Through Words -Writing Workshop.
“It honestly makes me so happy to see the Recovery College come to life. This work has been so meaningful,” says Ellie. “Recovering isn’t about fixing. What we do is connect, human to human and acknowledge that we’re all going through things and that’s what it’s all about- community.”
Sitting in the healthy relationships class is Kingston resident and 58-year-old Cat Pedro. She enrolled in most of the spring semester courses and says receiving that community-based support has substantially helped her mental health.
“I was in a car accident before COVID-19 hit and became dependent on a wheelchair. I loved to dance and socialize and suddenly I had this new injury, a new life in a wheelchair and I was all alone, feeling so isolated. The first two years were tough on me and my mental health deteriorated. When things opened up again I knew I needed to get out there, get some help and socialize. The Recovery College has been so good for me,” Cat explains.
Cat says the Recovery College has given her the confidence and motivation to do more things that are important to her. She’s become an active member of her local Royal Canadian Legion and has even started advocating for better accessibility across the city.
“I’m posting about getting my Recovery College Certificate and finishing the program like it’s this big monumental thing because it is to me,” Cat says with a laugh. “This is me trying and this certificate is a milestone in my journey.”
34-year-old Becky Croteau usually sits across from Cat in the Building Healthy Relationships class. She says anxiety and stress are triggers for her epileptic seizures and learning to manage was the motivating factor in registering for two Recovery College courses.
“It would have been so great to learn these types of skills when I was in high school, says Becky. “When I’m about to have a seizure I have overwhelming anxiety, that’s one of the ways I know one is coming on. This was such a supportive and compassionate learning environment, I’ve learned a lot that I’m hopeful will help me in the future,” she adds.
With six months of experience running the program, Ellie and her co-coordinator and fellow occupational therapist, Jenna Sands have big plans for the upcoming fall and winter semesters.
“We have seen an overarching interest in learning new skills for managing wellness along with the desire to build connections and share experiences with peers,” says Jenna. “While we are planning to run our core wellness classes again, we will be adding other exciting courses and workshops to the curriculum.”
Ellie and Jenna would like to bring Recovery College courses to different community spaces as well, like pre-and post-natal groups.
“We are feeling overwhelmed with excitement from the ongoing interest and positive feedback we have received thus far and look forward to what the future has in store for the college,” says Jenna.
As for Cat and Becky, they’re enjoying the summer following the completion of their spring courses and are both looking forward to the start of the fall semester where they both plan to enroll in additional classes and workshops.
Congratulations to all of those who have completed winter and spring courses!
For more information on Providence Care’s Recovery College visit: Recovery College – Providence Care.