Laura Gatien: Bridging Gaps in Mental Health Access
Learn about the vital work of Laura Gatien, driving positive change for mental health equity and empowerment.
In This Episode
In this episode of The Boiling Point podcast, hosts Emily Rodger and Dave Veale are joined by the inspiring Laura Gatien, Owner and Clinical Therapist at Laura Gatien & Associates, and the visionary founder & CEO of Just Us; We all Struggle Inc., a charitable non-profit striving to make mental health more accessible.
The conversation kicks off with personal reflections from Emily and Dave about their upbringing and experiences related to mental health. Laura passionately introduces her journey, sharing her mission to challenge the status quo in mental health systems and reduce the stigma associated with seeking support.
One of the central themes explored is the pervasive stigma surrounding mental health support and how gender traditionally influenced seeking help. The trio delves into the importance of breaking down these barriers and increasing accessibility to mental health services, highlighting the progress made in this direction.
Laura shares her insights on leadership, addressing the challenges she faces while staying true to her values as a leader in the mental health space. The discussion further unravels the inception and impact of the “Just Us” program, a charitable initiative offering free or low-cost counseling services, breaking down barriers and fostering hope for new mental health professionals to drive positive change in the field.
Throughout the episode, listeners gain a deeper understanding of Laura Gatien’s unwavering commitment to mental health advocacy and her remarkable journey in transforming the way we perceive and approach mental well-being.
Emily talks about her mother being a therapist. Dave reflects back on his upbringing and childhood experiences. Laura introduces herself, her business, and it’s non profit arm. Laura passionately explains why she does what she does and how she’s challenging the idea that changing systems isn’t possible.
The group discusses the stigma surrounding seeking mental health support and how ones sex and gender has traditionally impacted whether or not they sought support.
The group continues their discussion on reducing the stigma of seeking support, whether through coaching or therapy. Everyone shares some of the progress they have seen. Dave asks Laura about her approach to leadership and she shares some of the challenges that come with having a leadership role. Laura discusses staying true to your values as a leader while balancing the needs of clients and staff.
Emily asks Laura to dive into the non-profit piece of her endeavours, the “Just Us” program. Laura shares the origins of Just Us, a free (or low cost) counselling program—it was born out of a discussion with a client who’s friend had just died by suicide. In discussing what might have saved their life, the client said that a trusted place to go where they wouldn’t be turned away may have been the answer. Laura shares more about the program, including that until recently, the free (or low cost) counselling services were only available on Friday afternoons, but now it’s available every day of the week. Laura shares the layers of success she sees in this program, including helping new mental health grads and interns feel hopeful that they can change the world and that they don’t have to stick to operating within the confines of “the system”.
Emily and Dave share their takeaways.
Owner and a Clinical Therapist at Laura Gatien & Associates + Founder & CEO of Just Us
Laura Gatien BA, BSW, MSW, RSW is the Owner and a Clinical Therapist at Laura Gatien & Associates and also the founder & CEO of Just Us; We all Struggle Inc. a charitable non profit existing to make mental health more accessible.
From the first day Laura Gatien opened the doors to provide mental health therapy, she had a big vision. She was determined to not only provide one-on-one therapy but, more importantly, to help change the culture around mental health – to reduce stigma, increase access and remove barriers to mental health treatment. She knew that by normalizing mental health therapy she could help so many more people. She believed we all struggle at times.
As a practicing social worker for 12 years, Laura started out working with domestic violence victims as well as with those who had chronic and life-threatening health conditions through the hospital system. But by 2018, she believed she could help even more people with a radically different approach, and left the security of her government job to become a solopreneur, opening Laura Gatien Counselling Services, which has since become Laura Gatien & Associates, a mental health therapy practice in Saint John, NB. Within five years, the practice has grown to a team of approximately 25 team members.
Laura reaches out regularly through social media and her blog to share openly and honestly about mental health. She is incredibly passionate about transforming how we view mental health by educating on mental health, challenging stigma and creating solutions outside the box. Laura is a guest lecturer at St. Thomas University in the social work department as well has contributed to course creation for the program, complementing the traditional government and academic approaches.
Laura & her first intern started a Free Friday one-on-one drop-in therapy program in 2019 and five years later, after a slow start, it’s thriving and is now a registered charity. Creating this non profit charitable organization allowed Laura & her team to make these accessible programs sustainable. The non-profit is known as Just Us; We all Struggle Inc. Creating this separate entity to further grow & sustain their counseling programs and inspire new clinicians, help hundreds every month in both Saint John & Fredericton. This is Laura’s biggest honor & achievement to date. Their team of 8 (and countless former interns) have provided just shy of 5,000 free & low cost sessions to date and have the support of individuals, businesses and government!
And for our first responders, Laura provides the space and the promotion for a weekly (free) drop-in peer support group that has also grown as a supportive weekly hub. Laura connects people experiencing mental health issues with the help they need.
Laura earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Francis Xavier University in 2010 and completed her Bachelor of Social Work at St. Thomas University in 2012. She completed a Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Waterloo, with a focus on the social determinants of health in 2017.
Laura is a member in good standing with the NB Association of Social Workers. She thoroughly enjoys continuing her professional education as a way to grow and learn about emerging issues. She is currently contributing to the development of social work education at St. Thomas University through course development. Laura is also passionate about entrepreneurship and has been recognized as the Lady to Watch in 2020 by the Ladies of Influence SJ. She was a finalist for the Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneurial Achievement award in October 2022.
In 2021, Laura began working towards certification with the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counsellors and Therapists (AASECT) and has recently become fully certified sex therapist, and is one of only 21 across Canada. This specialized training gives her the advanced skills necessary to assess and treat the sexual concerns of individuals and couples, an area that is vastly under-discussed and under-served.
Laura is a frequent contributor to several media outlets who turn to her to help them educate and raise awareness for mental health as health- The Maritime Edit magazine, CBC radio, the Telegraph Journal, several podcasts and more.
Laura lives in Hampton with her 3 children, ages 10, 8 and 5.