Karen Hetherington, Faculty Lecturer

After completing an undergraduate degree in sociology at Loyola College, Karen Hetherington began her career in social services in 1972 as a community worker at Forward House, a community mental health organization in Montreal. Professor Hetherington eventually became the Assistant Director of Forward House and subsequently moved on to be the Executive Director of the Dawson Community Centre in Verdun. With the transformation of community health clinics to CLSC’s in the 1970’s Professor Hetherington assumed the role of General Coordinator of the Point Saint-Charles Community Clinic. During her 3 years at the clinic, Professor Hetherington undertook a Master’s degree in psycho-education at the University of Montreal. In 1990 she was hired by the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and was the first to develop the role of community and clinical liaison in the mental health sector. While working at the Douglas Institute, she developed her interest in global mental health and was asked to become a senior consultant to the Montreal World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health. In this capacity she consulted on mental health development in Central America, the Caribbean and Africa.  Following her 10 years at the Douglas Institute she worked at the Montreal regional level of the Ministry of Health and Social Services. She has a vast community and public service experience and has been a founding member of numerous community organizations, working in areas such as mental health, immigration and youth .She is presently the President of the Canadian Mental Health Association- Montreal Branch and a member of the board of directors of the Argyle Institute. She founded Option Milieu, an organization which provides consultation in planning and implementing integrated community health networks. She joined the McGill School of Social Work in 2007 in the capacity of MSW Field Coordinator.  In 2014 Professor Hetherington was hired as a Faculty Lecturer in the School of Social Work. Her key interests are in the area of mental health prevention and promotion, community development and international social work.

Following a trip to France in 1974 to her sister's wedding at L'Arche, Jean Vanier's communities for the intellectually handicapped, Karen decided to focus her career goals on working in the area of social service. She promptly enrolled to be a volunteer at Forward House, a community mental health centre in Montreal. At that time she applied for a BSW in social work at McGill. She was accepted, but at the same time was offered a position as the Director of the Day Program at Forward House. Deciding that what she needed was the work experience, Karen chose to accept the position at Forward House. As Karen moved through her various administrative, clinical and consultation experiences, she has come to identify herself as an "agent of change". Karen's belief in the impact of community organizing, social justice and social change has guided her career path. In a desire to share her vision Karen became involved in grooming new "agents of change" through her role as a lecturer in the School of Social Work and the Faculté d'education permanente at the Université de Montréal and in the Continuing Education Department of Université de Laval.

Karen has specialized in the area of mental health from a clinical, administrative, planning and policy perspective. As a senior consultant to the World Health Organization, she has worked on program and policy development in Latin America, and the Caribbean. She is presently working in Guatemala with rural communities, supporting the traditional mental health practices of the Maya and on the development of mental health policy.


Certificate on International Development (Centre canadien d'études et coopération internationale) 1987

M.A. Psycho-education (Université de Montréal) 1985

B.A. Sociology (Loyola College) 1972

Professional Activities:

President of the Canadian Mental Health Association - Montreal Branch, 2008.

Chairperson of the organizing and scientific committee of the Global Conference on Primary health care and mental health. To say and to do it. Integrating mental health into primary health care, May 2008

National Secretary for the World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation

Housing committee for l' Association québecoise pour la réadaptation psychosociale

Organizing committee for the annual conference on promotion and prevention of l'Association canadienne pour la santé mentale - Filiale de Montréal

Curriculum Advisory Committee, Continuing Education Faculty, Université de Montréal


1989 - 2008 Senior Consultant

Montreal World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Research And Training in Mental Health

August 2013 - present Faculty Lecturer

School of Social Work, McGill University

March 2007- 2013 MSW Field Coordinator

School of Social Work, McGill University

1999 - 2013 Course Lecturer

School of Social Work, Université de Montréal

1998 - present Director

Option Milieu

1996 - present Instructor

Université de Laval

2001-2003 Consultant to Heath care establishments

Agence de la santé et des services sociaux

1998 - 1999 Community Liaison Agent

Douglas Hospital

1984 - 1987 General Director

Point Saint Charles Community Clinic (CLSC)

1980 - 1984 General Director

Dawson Centre

1972 - 1980 Assistant Director and Day Program Coordinator

Forward House


Areas of interest

  • Primary health care
  • Tran cultural psychiatry
  • Mental health in the work place
  • Health and social service policy and system organization


Professional expertise

Mental Health Policy and Service Guidance Package, World Health Organization, Geneva 2003

  • Modules: Mental Health Context, Planning and Budgeting, Mental Health Legislation and Human Rights, Quality Improvement, Advocacy and Budgeting
  • Mental Health Policies and Programs in the Workplace, World Health Organization, Geneva 2005.


Hetherington K. Laissons sa place au communautaire, Le Point en administration de la santé et services sociaux 2005 Vol.1 No.2

Hetherington K. Professionals and non-professionals. Beyond the difference…The Emergency of Mutual Compromise, International Journal of Mental Health, U.S.A.1994.


    Hetherington K. Plan d’implantation du réseau local en santé mentale dans les territoires du CSSS de Bordeaux-Cartierville-Saint-Laurent et du CSSS d’Ahuntsic et Montréal-Nord.  La vision, les valeurs et les liens en action. Rapport du Comité clinique, Montréal, 2006.

    Hetherington K. Plan d’action sur les troubles anxieux chez les jeunes de 12 à 25 ans, Agence de la santé et services sociaux Montréal, 2004.

    Recent communications:

    Citizenship and Mental Health: New Solidarities for Social Integration 11 World Congress  World Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation (WAPR) Milan Italy November 2012.

    Le sens au travail et le travail de sens : quelles perspectives en santé mentale et travail? Antistress Week, Ministry of Health, Social Action and Equality of the Wallonne Region , Namur Belgium 2011

    Social Work and International Development. Poster presentation. Joint World Congress on Social Work and Social Development, (IASSW) (ICSW) (IFSSW),Hong Kong  2010

    Putting  “Community” back into Social Work Practice- CASWE Conference, Families and Communities: Intersections & Connections, Montreal 2010,


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