The annual award, which is given out by the CCPA’s Technology and Innovative Solutions Chapter (TISC), recognizes students who “use technology or technological approaches to promote self-care and balanced productivity, or to contribute to the improved health, well-being and safety of their clients.”
“I was blown away when I heard. It was hard for me not to cry because my heart is just so in this project,” the Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology said of winning the award for her app, MySolTrek.
“This app doesn’t feel like anything else I’ve ever, ever done before. It’s an awesome responsibility, but also a huge, huge adventure and I’m just so thankful.”
TISC Past-President Linda Rombough presented the award – along with the one-year paid student CCPA and TISC membership that comes with it – to Verbosky during the CCPA’s virtual award ceremony in May 2021.
“As a current Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology student, Monica shared how she developed an app geared 100 per cent towards self-care. It has the capability of being used for counselling, mentorship, or just as an individual end-user,” Rombough said during the award’s presentation.
“On behalf of the TISC board, we would like to congratulate Monica on her great work.”
Verbosky, whose background is in tech sales, said she first came up with an ‘analog’ version of the MySolTrek app last summer, as she prepared for a long winter of COVID isolation at her home in the Kawartha Lakes.
What started as a personal resiliency journal to turn to during lockdown, soon became a tool for spiritual, social, physical, mental and emotional self-care Verbosky was keen to share amongst her lakeside neighbours.
“After pulling together a menu of ideas for myself to draw from on a dark January morning, I thought, ‘You know what? I’m getting a lot out of this. I should do this for my girlfriends on the bay,’” she said,
“So, I designed something for them to do themselves, in journal form, then I sent them a text telling them I was going to come around on my kayak and drop something off for them.”
The response to her efforts was so great, Verbosky said, that by Christmas, she’d sent out 50 more such journals to family and friends from here to London, England. By early 2021, at her loved ones’ suggestions, she’d begun focusing her efforts on transforming her self-care system into app form.
The end result was MySolTrek, which Verbosky named in honour of her late parents’ memory – ‘sol’ meaning sun in her mother’s native Swedish, and ‘trek’ meaning journey in her father’s Slovak.
The app, which Verbosky is still beta testing and plans to launch by January 2022, is part self-care, part peer support, with five different categories of ‘trek’ – the emotional trek, the mental trek, the physical trek, the social trek and the spiritual trek.
On the self-care side of things, each trek has its own touchpoint self-checks, as well as corresponding lists of activities users can engage in to nurture that aspect of their being – for example, five-minute meditation exercises in the spiritual trek, and hikes in the woods for the physical trek.
There is also an extensive list of country-wide resources and talk-lines people can refer to should they need to gain access to clinical counselling, and a Prayer Wall intended to build community.
On the peer support side, the app offers a series of eCafes giving users access to various ‘purposeful’ chats to engage with their peers on shared experiences.
To those ends, Verbosky ran a focus group of 75 people this past spring, including nurses, police officers, firefighters and other first responders. Her intent was to gather the information needed to create a safe space for people to connect with peers to engage in meaningful conversations beyond those being exchanged on your average social media platform.
“It has been my original intent to help frontline workers, and those recovering from cancer, and counsellors coming off of a tough day, to be able to connect with their peers,” she said.
“MySolTrek is intended to raise the level of the conversation – it isn’t for political or religious debate, it isn’t for buy/sell, and it isn’t a dating app. Everyone is welcome, but it is 100 per cent intended for self-care and peer support. If you can meet your needs on other social media platforms, this probably isn’t the app for you.”
Once Verbosky finishes fine-tuning the app and releases it, she said her ultimate hope is that users walk away from using it with the newfound knowledge of just how multi-dimensional we all are as spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, and social beings.
“When I think back to the birthplace of this app and me sitting down to do my own journal, that was one of the biggest things that came out of it for me,” she said.
“This really grew out of a very relatable need and recognition of my need across the various areas of my life to get ahead of the weight of isolation…
“This gift of inspiration and creativity kept me healthy all winter considering spiritual, physical, social, mental, and emotional self-care. I have tried to utilize the best of what I’ve learned at Yorkville and seize a unique and timely opportunity to help others.”
Anyone wishing to learn more about the MySolTrek app or to join Verbosky’s newsletter is asked to email [email protected]