By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Catholic Charities can now say help is just a phone call away to people across the state. Solomon Counseling Center has announced a new tele-health initiative that will allow people to “go” to counseling using a computer or smartphone. The agency has partnered with a secure proxy provider, doxy.me for the effort.
“We can send them a link and they can have face-to-face counseling,” said Valarie McClellan, the head of Solomon Counseling Center. The program is secure and meets requirements for confidentiality. Counselors are already seeing patients using the system during a roll-out phase of the program. Right now, counselors are only seeing adults and there is a small fee for the sessions. McClelland hopes to expand in the coming months to others in need.
Patients still have to meet with a counselor in Jackson at least one time. “We like to lay our eyes on someone, establish a relationship,” said McClellan. After that, they will make an appointment and attend the sessions online using the camera in their computer or other device.
McClellan said this program will allow Solomon to open access to therapy to many communities where there may not be any opportunities for it. Mental health professionals can be hard to find in the Mississippi Delta and other rural communities. Catholic Charities hopes to be able to add a case worker to help with set up and getting those initial visits arranged.
Lots of people may find themselves in need of counseling. Many times, a trauma from childhood will come back and impact someone’s adult life. “Most of us can function pretty well in the world, but many adults (who suffered a childhood trauma) will only do fine until something triggers that trauma to resurface,” she explained.
Therapists define trauma as an emotional wound that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person. Common sources of trauma include abuse and neglect; serious accidental injury; disasters; experiencing or witnessing violence in neighborhoods, schools and home; and treatment for a life-threatening illness. When people develop feelings of anxiety, anger, irritability that begin to creep into their everyday lives, impacting their behavior and decisions, they can get help from a counselor or therapist. The sessions don’t last forever, in fact, counselors focus on helping people develop their own coping skills. “We only use research-based therapies that are proven to work,” said McClellan. “They have shorter time limits and have specific goals. Our patients can learn some skills to get through what they are going through at that time,” she added.
McClellan shared a handful of success stories from her work. Her team recently worked with a middle school student who started displaying angry, defiant behavior. The young person was not even able to do schoolwork and was having fights with his peers. She said his therapy focued on how to process thoughts and feelings connected to significant life stressors; ways to help him learn to cope with daily stressors, how to deal with his emotions appropriately, how to communicate appropriately, time management skills to assist in increasing motivation to complete tasks, and anger management skills. His progress report indicates that he has gone four months without an altercation, was able to complete the school year and be promoted to the next grade and is even able to talk about his plans and hopes for the future.
In another case, a woman who left an abusive situation was able to learn some coping skills for herself and her children as she rebuilds her life.
If a person is unsure of needing therapy, McClelland asks, “what do you have to lose? If we can teach you some skills to help you make your life better, why wouldn’t you want to do that?”
Counselors at Solomon are still seeing patients in-person in their offices in Jackson in addition to utilizing the telehealth option. They see married couples, adults, adolescents and children using the therapy specific to their needs. The center has some limited financial aid available for some cases. For an appointment for either an in-person session or to inquire about telehealth, call the Catholic Charities office at (601) 326-3719.
By Maureen Smith