Study shows free psychotherapy to be an effective and much-needed service


An evaluation of the Brief Psychotherapy Centre for Women has shown that time-limited psychotherapy is so successful that it should be a model for communities throughout Ontario.

The two-year evaluation study, funded by the Ontario Women’s Health Council, examined the Brief Psychotherapy Centre for Women, the only program of its kind in Canada, which has developed and practiced a distinctive model of therapy for women. Clients self-refer to the centre, affiliated with Sunnybrook & Women’s, by telephone for therapy. The therapy is focused on specific problems and completed within 16 weeks.

The nature and complexity of the clients’ problems include: mental health issues such as depression and anxiety; marital/partner and family relationship difficulties; recovery from emotional, physical and sexual abuse; financial and employment concerns; and physical challenges such as chronic health issues, body image and eating disorders. Once women began their therapy, only three per cent failed to finish.

“Free community-based, non-medical psychotherapy should be the wave of the future,” says Anne Oakley, Coordinator and Psychotherapist at the Brief Psychotherapy Centre for Women. “In a very short time, we can provide women with techniques to manage a variety of issues. Women can also self-refer, which is an empowering first step.”

Since 1988, the centre has supported the right to quality, accessible, community-based mental health counseling for women. “I’m so different than when I started this. I have a lot more healthy and happy relationships. I was always holding back something because it was never enough to just be myself, now I’m happy with who I am,” says one client.

“The Ontario Women’s Health Council is proud to have funded the Brief Psychotherapy Centre evaluation study,” says Jane Pepino, Ontario Women’s Health Council chair. “The assessments provided in the study contribute to meeting a vital need in women’s health research: models for best practices in women’s health. We need models such as these in order to develop a healthcare system that is equitable and accountable to the women it serves.”

The centre has committed to sharing the results of their study, and their model of practice, as well as practitioners, with the hope of educating policymakers and funders responsible for designing mental health services for women.