Village of Hope Stories – Dave


“In this field, it’s the little things that are rewarding. There are a lot of little steps you have to take through this process.”

I didn’t have a direct path to my work at the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre. After graduating from university, I went to teach English in South Korea for several years. When that was coming to an end, I knew I wanted to continue working with youth in some capacity. When I came home in 2012 I went back to college to do a Child and Youth Worker program, and that’s when I started hearing about the Centre.

For the first three years I was on-site in Carleton Place, working with youth one-on-one and in groups as an Addictions Counselor. The joy of the job was being with the clients eight hours a day, five days a week, and getting to see the finer points of their progress. The start of the treatment journey can be really rough for a lot of them when they’re first coming into the program, but then over two or three months you get to see the progress that’s being made.

For whatever reason, I tended to gravitate towards the clients in the most difficult circumstances, whether because of their substance use, living situation or family life. I can think of one young man in particular who came into the program a couple of times. He had significant anxiety, and had been there for a couple of days and hadn’t come out of his room at all. I remember it was a Friday evening. The clients would usually come together as a group at the end of the week to discuss what went well for everybody that week and point out things we could work on.

I don’t remember what I said, but I got him to come down for group. It was the first time he had come out of his room, or even interacted with his peer group. I remember because I was leading the group that day and he sat on the couch right next to me. He stayed there for the whole group. I was like, ‘Wow,” because in this field, it’s the little things that are rewarding. It was a victory that we were finally able to get him out of his room to join the group. It does speak to the little steps you have to take through this process.

Now that I’m working as an ACC Counselor, I really enjoy getting to work with the youth one on one. We often say this is when the real work starts, when you have to put the skills you learned at the Centre into place without a massive support team looking out for you, and when you’re back amongst all the triggers that were creating these problems in the first place.

Every client is different, and it’s fascinating getting to know each one’s story. It’s so rewarding, especially when you have a client who becomes really comfortable working with you and with opening up about what’s going on.

The biggest challenge clients face after they leave the Centre is the lack of structure. Summer can be a particularly hard time because they don’t have school and some don’t have a job. They have all this free time. We try to help them build that structure and find pro-social activities they can do to keep them on track with their goals.

I’m really happy to see the capital project come to fruition. This is something that’s been talked about ever since I joined the Centre – and well before that. It’s going to been great to have everybody in one location and, from a functional point of view, that’s going to make all of our jobs easier.

Dave Whalen is an Assertive Continuing Care (ACC) Counselor at the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre.


There’s been a lot of progress made on the new build!


112 Willowlea Road,
Carp, Ontario K0A 1L0
613-594-8333 ext.1201
Charitable Registration # 88992 6242 RR0001