Submitted by Tammy Theis, senior communications consultant, Communications & Public Affairs

Heather Dickson brings her skills, her heart, and even her pets, to work so her clients know they matter.

Ensuring people remain hopeful is one of the keystones of clinical counsellor Heather Dickson’s work to support clients along their substance use treatment journey.

“We need to participate, together, in life-affirming celebrations so people who have experienced substance use challenges feel they belong to our larger community. This helps them have hope for the future,” Heather says.

In order to foster this hope, she and the other staff host events in the centre for occasions like National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. They also bring in guest speakers to talk about their own substance use journeys. “People connect at these events with meaning and with hope. And these people matter. Every individual matters.”

Heather also believes in the power of pet therapy. She often brings her two Siberian huskies to the treatment centre on her days off. 

“Just seeing the dogs leads to our clients telling me about pets they miss. It helps them open up. And while they’re petting the dogs, they’re talking to me, telling me about their lives and their experiences. They see me as someone they can relate to. It helps me help them.”

And Heather truly goes above and beyond to let her clients know they have a place in her heart. “When I come in on a Friday – a day I don’t see clients – people learn that I think of them over the weekend, so they know they’re not an appointment on my calendar. Someone is not ‘4pm Thursday.’ They don’t really ever leave my head or my heart.”

Heather offers some advice for people who are caring for others: “Take care of yourself first,” she says, “when we are in judgement of others, it can sometimes be a signal that we’re not taking care of ourselves.”

She also wants people to know that the smallest thing – a smile or eye contact – can mean the world to someone who hasn’t felt supported for some or most of their life.

“Someone in our program told us being patted on the shoulder made him feel seen and understood for the first time in a long time. Little things can make a difference.”

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