Photo by Mariah Wilson

“Pay what you can” counselling clinic opens in Calgary

By Shefali Rai, November 21 2019 —

Cultivate stands for exactly what it means. They are in the business of fostering meaningful relationships with their staff, encouraging their practicum students to grow and, most importantly, improving Calgary’s mental health resources. 

Joel and Jessy Roos were part of a private practice five years ago, but it was in 2016 that they branched out and rebranded to form Cultivate. As the directors of Cultivate, their vision is simple: provide Calgarians with a one-stop shop offering a range of reliable and effective mental health services. To make things more accessible, the Roos’ recently implemented a “pay what you can” option for their clients. 

Of course, there must be a catch. But as Jessy Roos enthusiastically admits, “There is none!” Jessy, the executive director at Cultivate, believes in preserving her clients’ dignity and trusting their honesty. Cultivate leaves it up to their clients to determine a fair and comfortable monetary amount for the counselling services they seek. 

According to the Psychologists’ Association of Alberta, the recommended rate for a 50-minute individual session is $200. While there are social agencies offering mental health supports, 2019 is the worst year yet for people who rely on these services. An enlightening CBC article features the CEO of Catholic Family Service (CFS) explaining the provincial and United Way funding budget cuts that are deeply affecting Calgarians. CFS has now “cancelled its eight-session subsidized counselling program and replaced it with a single session.” Even though this creative solution reduces wait-list times for people in dire and urgent need, one session seems like a band-aid solution. A single session simply isn’t enough to guide anyone toward long-term success and this is where Cultivate comes in. 

Once you reach out to Cultivate, you’ll find there are no session caps, no minimum imposed rates, no lengthy forms to prove your low-income status, no doctor-approved notes and most of all, no judgment. It may seem too good to be true and slightly naïve of a private practice to offer their services without a few hoops to jump through. 

But as Jessy states, “Cultivate doesn’t believe in asking their clients to prove all the layers of help they need.” $100 may be substantial to a low-income individual depending on other factors in their life and would likely be out of the comfortable price range for students overwhelmed by education loans. So far, Cultivate has been taken by surprise by the good-hearted nature of people willing to give as much as they possibly can for counselling services. 

This idea of giving clients the power to dictate the value of goods is not novel to Cultivate. Jessy reminisced about Cultivate’s “pay what you can” idea stemming from Radiohead’s In Rainbows experiment. In 2007, the famous English rock band experimented with a “pay what you wish” option for their new album, In Rainbows. Shockingly, when all accounts were tallied up, In Rainbows made more money than the band’s last album. Artists have been toying with this notion for years, but implementing this trend is definitely rare for a private counselling practice. 

Their innovation doesn’t end with their “pay what you can” service, but also extends to the type of services they offer. Cultivate provides traditional counselling, education services and assessments, as well as fascinating new techniques to help their clients grow. Joel, the clinical director of Cultivate, works specifically with Autism Spectrum Disorder, sex therapy and LGBTQ+ populations. Some of their other psychologists provide niche services using art therapy and even virtual reality (VR) therapy. Being students, the VR therapy might even come in handy to help regulate stress levels and anxiety. 

While “pay what you can” mental health services and unique counselling therapies are attractive to students, it might be worthwhile mentioning that Cultivate could also be your future employer. They are eager to supervise psychology and counselling practicum students in the hopes of diversifying and growing their practice to new heights. The only real struggle they face right now is the sheer volume of clients coming their way. With no drawbacks and an open-minded atmosphere at Cultivate, what is there to lose? Not our minds, that’s for sure.


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