When Dr. Kerry Bernes looks back over the 20-plus years of the University of Lethbridge's (U of L's) Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Counselling Psychology and Master of Counselling programs, he feels a fatherly pride. That’s because he is not only a professor in the two programs, which are part of the U of L’s Faculty of Education, but he helped create them.

Bernes was hired in 1997 to develop the M.Ed. in Counselling Psychology program. He worked with Kris Magnusson, hired in 1998, to build the program, which was up and running within a year. Bernes and Magnusson then teamed with Athabasca University’s Sandra Collins and University of Calgary’s Bryan Hiebert to establish the Master of Counselling program and, within two years, it was operating within the Faculty of Education as well.

Since the programs are designed to train graduate students to become registered psychologists, the  requirements provided a basic template to follow in creating the programs. “It was still a massive undertaking,” says Bernes.

The work of Bernes and his colleagues was so successful that the U of L now boasts  counselling psychology programs respected across Canada, with applicants coming from far and wide to meet the growing demand for registered psychologists.

Every year more than 150 applications are received per program for 20 spaces in M.Ed. Counselling Psychology and Master of Counselling.

We’re recruiting really high-level, top-notch students from across the country,” says Dr. Kerry Bernes.

As the first person hired for a program that didn’t yet exist, Bernes says it’s “really quite rewarding” to look back over 25 years and see the amazing progress. “It has really grown into something big. It’s now a highly attractive program across the country. It has gone from ground zero to a hugely significant program with good research.”

Bernes, who is a registered psychologist, is a key contributor to that research through evidence-based treatment such as his “Octagon of Life” model detailed in a book he co-wrote with Faculty of Education student Jason Wegner. The book, Manic Man: How to Live Successfully With a Severe Mental Illness, explains how Bernes’ treatment plan enabled Wegner to overcome depression and live a productive life in spite of bipolar 1 disorder.

“The Octagon of Life” model directs Wegner to focus on eight key areas: exercise, nutrition, exposure therapy, cognitive therapy, relationships, career, finances, and mental-health balance. It’s a holistic approach that “produces fantastic results,” says Bernes.

“It was designed specifically for Jason, but the ideas would make it applicable to a number of mental-health problems,” Bernes adds.

The book has had a tremendous impact as others dealing with mental-health challenges are able to relate to Wegner’s situation, and that is helping to destigmatize mental-health issues and encourage people to seek treatment, says Bernes.

Wegner’s story is also a testimony to what can be accomplished by the sort of well-trained registered psychologists the Faculty of Education is producing. The university's decision to create a counselling program “shows good wisdom on U of L’s part,” says Bernes. “It has a huge impact on society, and that’s what I believe we’ve done. We’re touching people’s lives in a meaningful way. To build this and be part of this, it’s been a fun journey."

Writer: Dave Sulz
Photo: courtesy of Dr. Kerry Bernes


Related story links to Faculty of Education Graduate Studies and Research:
Dr. Amy von Heyking: High-quality Education Systems are Created Through Rigorous and Collaborative Accountability Systems
Education Research on Place-conscious Pedagogy: Creating Curriculum from Local Perspectives with Dr. Sharon Pelech
The Creativity of Curriculum and 36 Years with the Faculty of Education: Dr. Richard Butt
Coping with COVID-19: Harnessing our Natural Stress Response
Coping with COVID-19: Loneliness
How Students Can Get Screen Time Break During COVID-19: Experts
The Intersectionality of Faith, Mental Health and Wellness for Racialized   Populations During the Pandemic
Bridging Neuroscience and Education: Riley Kostek (BSc’09/BEd’11)
Teaching and Assessing for Life Beyond the Classroom: Dr. David Slomp
Five questions with Shining Graduate Rita Lal (BSc/BEd '01, MEd '20)
Teaching Multiple Literacies in Canadian Classrooms: Sarah Gagnon (BSc/BEd’11, MEd candidate)
Wellness is About Writing: Teri Hartman (BA/BEd '02, current MEd student)
Leadership in Education: The Power of Generative Dialogue
A Generative Approach to Leadership for All Educators

For more information please contact:

Darcy Tamayose
Communications, Dean's Office, Faculty of Education
University of Lethbridge
Learn more about the Faculty of Education: Legacy Magazine (2008-2019)
Twitter: @ULethbridgeEdu Website: uleth.ca/education
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