After 21 years of service and counselling 7,500 families and individuals, Jim Farley is retiring from the Nelson Community Services Centre.
Farley’s retirement is the first for the centre, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. NCSC runs several programs, including the Aimee Beaulieu Transition House and Cicada Place Youth Services & Housing, but most area families will know the centre for its counselling services for children, youth and adults.
And that’s where Farley entered the picture in 1991, after working in Victoria with autistic children and later at the Jack Ledger House, a youth treatment centre there. Like many “refugees from the Vietnam craziness,” Farley’s life in Canada involved community work.
From Victoria, he and his wife, artist and special educational teacher’s assistant, Karen Guilbault, moved to Nelson – sight unseen – 21 years ago, looking for a healthy place to raise their son and daughter. Within months, they each had jobs.
Farley first worked at NCSC one-on-one with children and families and taught parenting courses, the job which is now Liz Amaral’s. For the past 15 years, he’s been the centre’s general counsellor for individuals and couples.
How has counselling changed in two decades?
“We’re trying to bring science and proven research techniques to the job,” he said. “We use the techniques of John Gottman for couples’ work, and cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety and depression. It’s talk therapy with tried and true techniques, not just philosophy.”
Farley sees some people for just two or three sessions; some unusually lengthy counselling lasts for three or four years, but on average he sees clients for ten sessions. For the last five years he’s had wait lists, sometimes up to 30 people. As a long term counsellor, what is it like, seeing people so intensely hour after hour?
“I love my job,” he said.
“It feels amazing that people talk from the deepest part of their heart, their deepest feelings. But it also takes a toll, as you walk with a lot of pain and suffering. You have to take yourself not too seriously or think you’re in charge of their lives. You have to believe in resilience and the healing power of the individual.”
A big part of a counsellor’s wellbeing also comes from working with like spirits: supportive co-workers.
“In staff meetings, the expertise and shared information, the discussion of techniques and treatment, is crucial. It’s hard to imagine working alone this long with such complicated lives.”
Lena Horswill, NCSC executive director, said Farley came at just the right time in the agency’s evolution and growth, and his dedication and loyalty will be missed.
He confesses he may — way down the line after months of blissful retirement and adventures with family and grandchildren – well, he may just consider doing a bit of counselling.
Farley expresses his appreciation to those who have trusted him over many years, and wishes them well in their lives.