Thursday, January 13, 2022 /
When she was just a high school student, Megan Rafuse (HBSW'09) lost her mother to cancer.
“Her death really drove my career choices,” Megan says. “It made me unafraid to take risks, because I learned that you don’t get a second chance to live your life.”
And in a short period of time, Megan has transformed her private counselling practice into a company with services and clinicians across Canada. She is the CEO of Shift Collab – a mental wellness company that offers individual therapy and counselling, public speaking, and education.
“Typical challenges Canadians are dealing with,” she says, “include anxiety, depression, grief and loss, life transitions, obsessive compulsive disorders, and eating disorders.”
Megan grew up on Cape Breton Island and did an undergraduate psychology degree at St. Francis Xavier University. She followed this with an Honours Bachelor of Social Work at Lakehead’s Orillia campus, a master’s degree at the University of Toronto, and work at SickKids hospital.
Her professional life, though, began in earnest organizing home care for seniors with an Ontario Community Care Access Centre (CCAC), while simultaneously expanding her private practice.
Five years later, Megan realized how much she loved being a clinician and that having two jobs wasn’t sustainable, prompting her to become a full-time mental health therapist.
“It’s such a privilege to share a journey with someone and witness their growth,” she says. “I believe that when one teaches, two learn.”
Within three months, her private practice was entirely full, spurring her to hire 10 clinicians and a receptionist. Around the same time, she’d been chatting with Jordan Axani, who had a business offering mental health workshops and training for workplaces.
“We both wanted to make mental wellness more accessible, so we decided to work together,” Megan says.
Although the founding of Shift Collab should have been a time of excitement and celebration, it became a period when Megan’s perseverance was tested.
“I suffered a catastrophic major concussion in a car accident and was off work for six months while I recovered,” she says.
But this setback didn’t slow her down for long. She and Jordan, who is also her life partner, threw their energy into building Shift Collab.
Today, their company has several divisions. Shift Collab provides individual therapy and counselling. Shift People provides mental health workshops, public speaking, and training for businesses and organizations throughout North America.
“Our goal is to challenge the standard EAP – employee assistance program – and offer more robust and innovative programming,” Megan explains.
Through a partnership with the Maple network of virtual health care providers, they have 85 clinicians available in cities from coast to coast.
“I’m really proud of the fact that we offer practicums to Lakehead students and that we’ve hired nine Lakehead grads as clinicians,” Megan adds.
Their Best Practice division is a community of over 1,000 therapists supporting each other in building modern mental health clinics.
Shift Collab was also responsible for joining forces with an insurance company to create Real Campus, Canada’s largest independent student assistance program. “It provided mental health counselling to about 250,000 students, paid through their student benefits.”
Since she’s started her career, Megan has seen a huge shift in people’s willingness to speak out about mental health. “They don’t wait until it’s a crisis before getting help,” she says.
“We’re in a society where it’s very easy to compare our lives to someone’s social media highlight reel. But we have to remember, it’s just their reel – not their real life.”
Megan Rafuse is just one the exceptional alumni, students, researchers, and donors featured in Lakehead's Annual Report. Stay tuned for the official report launch in February to find out how Lakehead has been making a difference this past year.