By Maureen Smith
CLEVELAND – The people of the Delta now have access to a nearby licensed counselor thanks to funding from the Catholic Service Appeal. The Solomon Counseling Center, a Catholic Charities operation, opened an office in Cleveland staffed by Larry Lambert, LPC, a member of Our Lady of Victories.
Valerie McClelland of the Solomon Counseling Center worked with CSA and Delta pastors to open a counseling office in Cleveland. Her staff uses short-term therapy to help people who may feel overwhelmed by a situation. The center charges based on a sliding scale to make therapy available to everyone. (Mississippi Catholic file photo)
The idea for the expansion came from several directions. The priests of deanery four had been talking for years about how they would like to have counseling available to their parishioners. The director of the Solomon Counseling Center, Valerie McClellan, was open to the idea, but it was hard to find a qualified person in the area. The priests had discussed the idea at their deanery meetings with diocesan leadership, who brought the idea to the CSA allocation meeting. During these discussions Father Kent Bowlds, pastor at Our Lady of Victories, found out Lambert was a professional counselor. Lambert was willing to take on the task, money was allocated and the service opened in October 2013. This year’s CSA appeal is well underway with hopes to surpass a million dollars.
“As priests, we provide spiritual counseling, but there are limits to what we can do for emotional counseling” said Father Bowlds. Both he and Lambert said many people are not willing to go to the public health center because it is so public. “If they go to public health, everyone can see you – especially in a small town,” said Father Bowlds.
The pastor added that the Solomon Center is able to charge on a sliding scale, which makes the option affordable to many who would not otherwise be able to pay. There is a Solomon clinic in Jackson, but the trip, two-hours from Cleveland, is not an option for many in need. McClellan agreed. “I am from the Delta and I think it can be extremely important to have someone in the area who is qualified and screened by the church,” she said.
“For someone with mood disorders, for example, who doesn’t know where to go for help, it can literally be a life-saver. It can be the difference between a family staying together or breaking up,” she added.
“One in five people have an emotional disturbance at any given time, so you have 20 percent of people walking around with some difficulty,” said Lambert. He came to his profession late in life, becoming a counselor after he retired from a career in higher education. He has seen clients across the life span, from adolescents to couples to older people. “All of us are subject to being overwhelmed by circumstance or put in a situation where our theories about how to live just don’t work,” he said. That is where counseling can help.
Both Lambert and McClellan want to dispel some misconceptions about counseling. “We use a short-term therapy model,” said Lambert. “We focus on what the problem seems to be and then focus on relief and change,” he explained.
The client does the work, the counselor is just there to be a resource and a support. Lambert used two analogies to explain the process. If a person had four bad tires he or she would go to a tire shop, discuss what kinds of tires he or she needed, purchase them and then continue on the journey.
The second example comes from scripture. “When I got into this, the story of the Good Samaritan struck me, the practical aspect of it. The Samaritan had a place to be, he was busy, but he saw someone in need so he stopped. He helped the man, got him what he needed and then left him in someone else’s charge. Therapy is about companioning with people – supporting them for a time on their journey,” said Lambert. “This ideas motivates me with my clients. They’re going to do the work. I’m going to support them, maybe give them some ideas,” he added.
McClellan uses similar language. “I like to say a counselor is a witness who walks with them (a client),” she said. “We use evidence-based and research-based therapies. Some are short-term or a little longer term,” she explained. She said most of the time a client will know when he or she is finished with the work. This can take as short as a matter of weeks.
Some reasons a person might seek counseling include depression, anxiety, mood or personality disorders, addiction and problems with a spouse or children, especially if a family is going through a stressful situation such as economic problems or a divorce. McClellan said her office often sees clients, both children and adults, who have experienced some kind of trauma or abuse. “Things that happen in childhood can affect you for years to come, they affect your quality of life. Counseling can help with that. You can have a fuller, richer life,” she said.
Christine Bach is the director of childrens’ services for Catholic Charities. She said the organization works with those in need across the diocese to get them in touch with the resources they need.
“CSA dollars strengthen marriages and families, partly through marriage counseling, but often through helping remove those road blocks that keep people from loving one another. For example, parents who were physically abused sometimes don’t know appropriate discipline strategies because they have never seen them used … Counseling can help bridge those gaps,” she said.
McClellan said the new office is using parish bulletins and pastors to spread the word about Lambert’s services, but the Solomon Center sees both Catholic and non-Catholic clients. The center accepts most insurances and charges based on a sliding scale. For information contact the Solomon Center in Jackson at 601-326-3719.
To make a pledge or check the progress of CSA visit the website http://jacksondiocese.org/