A new locally owned clinic called NorthWest Ontario Counselling & Consulting offers specialized virtual therapy

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

NorthWest Ontario Counselling & Consulting (NWOCC), a new locally-owned virtual practice based out of Fort Frances, brings added expertise and mental health support in the community. As of the first week of October, people across northwestern Ontario are welcome to start using their online booking system.

Founded by siblings and co-owners Brady Heyens and Kaylee Heyens-McMahon, the practice seeks to provide inclusive and accessible psychotherapy services to people within Northwestern Ontario and beyond.

Brady is a clinical traumatologist and EMDR trained therapist, passionate about supporting many neurodiverse individuals and vulnerable populations with a range of experience in therapeutic approaches.

“A lot of my services are embedded within a trauma informed lens,” he said. “And so I am really meeting the client where they’re at, and making sure we’re starting with a lot of stabilization and creating a solid foundation. And then we do start digging into things a lot deeper, trying to get to the root of those problems, so that it doesn’t continue to be a big issue for them as they move forward.”

He added that he also supports many neurodiverse individuals such as people with learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, ADHD, autism, and more.

Kaylee is a registered psychotherapist with a specialization in perinatal mental health. She is especially passionate about supporting women who are trying to conceive, currently pregnant, or in the postpartum period of life—a time of big transition that she believes often goes overlooked.

“In a rural area, people do sometimes want you to be the jack of all trades and treat everything but I would say that for now, those are my two areas of focus,” she said. “But that being said, if I have a client that really wants to work with me and they don’t fall into one of those areas—we still could be a good fit.”

The new venture has been a “pipe dream” for the siblings for quite a while.

“It’s exciting,” Kaylee said, who introduced herself as the younger sibling. “It’s hard to believe that it’s actually here.”

Brady added on that they have talked about opening their own practice since before they applied for graduate school. “Now it’s all coming together. This has been a long time coming,” he said.

Both siblings were born at the local hospital in Fort Frances and grew up on the west end of the district in Stratton. Often confused as twins, Kaylee clarified that she was a year and a half younger than her brother.

“We’ve been like side by side our whole lives and this made sense for us to open up this business together,” Kaylee said, adding that they come from a long line of “helpers” making it a natural decision to enter the healthcare field.

“I don’t know if it’s coincidence, or if it’s actually in our blood to be givers and helpers and supporters of the community. So a lot of really great role models in those fields growing up.”

Brady agreed and said they are really excited to begin a new venture, especially one that seeks to provide mental health support in rural areas.

“We really want to break down some of those barriers by offering virtual support people can meet from the comfort of their own home and don’t have to worry about transportation or any difficulties reaching the support that they might need,” he said.

To remove the barriers to accessing therapy, NWOCC offers free consultations and a user-friendly online booking system.

In the consultation, those interested can chat with the therapists to ask questions and see whether it would be a good fit for them. If it’s not a good fit, NWOCC can also help connect them with other resources in the community.

As therapists who strive to break down the stigmas and barriers surrounding mental health, they emphasize that therapy can be sought out at any time, similar to regular dental or family doctor visits, not only after a crisis situation.

“We are firm believers that when you’re in a healthy stable place, that actually is where some powerful work can be done in therapy,” Kaylee said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re really struggling or you’re doing pretty well, or somewhere in between, please reach out because there’s always something that can be gained from counseling, or therapy.”

“We’re just everyday, average people who struggle ourselves from time to time and are willing to talk about it and just happen to have the skills and training to help you through that. It doesn’t have to be this taboo, hocus pocus thing. It can be a very easygoing, conversational form of therapy. And that’s kind of how we try to break down the stigma around it, too.”

Brady Heyens, left, and Kaylee Heyens-McMahon are the co-owners of North- West Ontario Counselling and Consulting (NWOCC), a locally-owned but virtual practice that will help to bring inclusive and accessible mental health supports and psychotherapy services to people in the northwest region of the province and beyond. – Facebook photo

The need for more mental health resources has been an ongoing topic for many years, and the work of helping people through difficult emotions and potentially trauma can be a difficult task to carry. Stepping into the field may feel like a big responsibility, but it’s one that Kaylee and Brady are prepared to take on.

They view their work and role as a helper, rather than savior, which releases the pressure to meet certain expectations. Knowing that they are only one piece of the puzzle enables them to create better work and personal life boundaries, especially as people who genuinely care about each of their clients.

“A common question we get is, ‘How do you deal with other people’s stuff?’” Kaylee said. “The short answer is that we have to have a balance between supporting our clients and coming to the table with the education and experience we possess.”

“We’re also firm believers that the client is the expert on their life and the maker of their life, and they actually have within them what they need to get through their mental health struggles. It’s not us coming to the table trying to fix them or fix the issue,” she said. “People are really, really resilient.”

Expanding on their mindset, Brady added that they are “trying to work themselves out of a job” and give their clients everything they need to thrive in their mental health.

The long term vision for NWOCC is to bring on subcontractors and therapists with different expertises that can continue to provide mental health support in the community. Knowing that they can’t take on close relations as a client due to conflicts of interest, the addition will enable their loved ones to receive support as well.

“Between the two of us, we do have a lot of experience or expertise with these different populations or issues,” Kaylee said. “But we’re not experts on everything, and we shouldn’t be. So we’d love to have other therapists working for our practice that do specialize in all these different areas so that we can offer the most amount of support to our community in the surrounding areas.”

In addition, NWOCC hopes to establish an office space where they can meet clients in-person.

“Virtual therapy is really great,” she said. “But yeah, we would love to have an office space even in the next year or so.”

As a quick tip for people looking to boost their mental health, getting outside and engaging one’s senses in nature is a good way to stay present, they said.

For a quick response, the best way to contact NWOCC is through email at admin@nwocc.ca.