Meet Chloe Chow, Co-Founder of Vent Over Tea

Vent Over Tea is a free active listening service that pairs people who need to vent with an empathetic listener to chat in a local coffee shop. Based in Montreal and founded in April 2015 by McGill psychology graduates, its goal is to provide a casual, confidential, and non-judgmental outlet for members of our community. Additionally, the organization hosts monthly community events such as art therapy workshops. Chloe Chow, a former McGill psychology student, was one of the original founders and now works as a Psychology Consultant at a holistic psychology clinic. Here she discusses the creation of Vent Over Tea and its future growth as well as advice for students who may want to improve upon their own active listening skills. 

Claire Suisman for HerCampus McGill (HCMcGill): What inspired the creation of Vent Over Tea?

Chloe Chow: I connected to one of my co-founders while we were both studying psychology at McGill. At the time, there was a lot of grumbling on campus about how inaccessible the student mental health services were (3-4 month wait lists to see a counsellor). My co-founder Sarah had the idea to offer a free in-person “listening service”, where you could book a one-hour session with a trained listener and meet up in a cafe to discuss anything you wanted. With the help of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, we worked really hard to turn this idea into a reality in both Montreal and Calgary. 

HC McGill: How do you see the organization growing in the future?

Chloe: The dream is to create a model that can be easily set up in any city and to create a network of communities across North America. We’re not in a rush, though. We’re still working on ironing out the process and growing our community here in Montreal. Something new that we started doing this year is organizing and facilitating regular community events, in addition to the one-on-one service that we started with. The goal with the community events is the same as the goal with the one-on-one service: to use the power of conversation to help our communities feel more connected and supported. 

HC McGill: What advice would you give to McGill students, psychology majors in particular?

Chloe: Don’t worry about making any wrong decisions. There are no wrong decisions, just decisions and outcomes. You can always make new decisions to have new outcomes. Let go of the idea of life as a linear path forward; it is circles, ups and downs. Be your best self, but let go of the need to succeed. You’ll succeed once you start practicing gratitude for the present moment. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself. My fondest memories of McGill are of the people I met and the communities I embedded myself into. Get involved with the plethora of clubs that exist. Pick up a hobby. Create good self-care habits now. Sleep is more important than studying. Your health is more important than your grades. Life is to be lived now.

Specifically for psychology undergrads: get some real work/life experience before you commit to a 2-5 year Master’s or PhD program. Academia is just one dimension of life - there is much more. This doesn’t mean stop learning - it means look for learning opportunities outside of the educational system. Ask yourself what you want to learn/feel/be and find ways to learn/feel/be those things. Degrees will give you diplomas, life will give you lessons.

HC McGill: McGill students often grumble about the school’s mental health services. What are your thoughts on the subject? Alternatively, what resources would you recommend to students who have trouble getting access to McGill’s counseling services?

Chloe: It can definitely be tough to access McGill’s mental health services due to sheer volume of request; I went through my fair share of grievances trying to see a counsellor on campus. However, therapy can come in many forms and if you’re not having luck I recommend finding alternative forms of support: find a local Art Hive (free or low-cost open art studios that offer materials), book a Vent Over Tea session, go to community events (Yellow Door is great and VOT offers them as well), try online therapies (often more affordable) like Talkspace, try a supportive phone line (I recommend Tel-Aide), go to drop-in community yoga classes at Moksha Yoga or any other studio that offers community classes, or look for psychology clinics that offer sliding scale rates. Be resourceful. Do a combination of things. There are people and things to support you. 

HC McGill: How can people become better active listeners for our friends and family?

Chloe: Listen to learn. Approach every interaction as if that person has something to teach you, because they do. Become insatiably curious about other people. Everyone wants to have their story be heard. If you facilitate that opportunity for someone else, it’s a gift. Use silence in your dialogues, don’t rush to fill the gaps, create space for the things that don’t need to be said out loud. 

 

If you're interested in booking your own "vent session," visit https://ventovertea.com/en/

Her Campus will also be collaborating with Vent Over Tea to host a writing therapy workshop in mid-January. Stay tuned for details.

 

Image Credit:

https://www.york.ac.uk/research/themes/health-and-wellbeing/mental-health/