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San Angelo Lifestyles

Hope & Healing

written by becca nelson sankey  |  photos by becca sankey photography & Gianfranco Grenar




It was nearly ten years ago when Joe,* who had been working for the same company for more than two decades, lost a job he loved and was asked to take a position there that he didn’t want. Despite never having sought counseling services before, Joe felt so defeated and depressed that he turned to West Texas Counseling & Guidance for help.

“Because my confidence was shaken, I needed some feedback,” he admitted.

“I needed someone to help me work through these issues so I could identify what was going on with myself and find a good strategy to deal with my issues.”

Joe received cognitive behavioral therapy at the center for nine months, during which time he “laid out some pretty raw emotions and dealt with them,” he said. “It’s way too easy to go down a path that’s negative and talk yourself into believing something that’s not true. Cognitive behavioral therapy is about analyzing your thinking and how it fits into your total emotion. …(allowing you) to understand your competencies, your passion, and to put yourself in a productive path of thinking.”

Shortly after finishing therapy, Joe landed a better job out of town, where he has been ever since. “The honesty, the support, the encouragement were all the pieces in my path that I would not have gotten to as quickly” without counseling, he said.

 

Jane* also began receiving counseling from the center several years ago for chronic depression. 

“He’s helped me a lot, encouraging me to write down things that I do and looking at that, because I gloss over the good things about myself and I focus on the bad things,” she said of her counselor.

“I feel like I’m never judged. In my darkest times I know that I’ll be able to talk to him.”

But Joe and Jane aren’t the only ones who have experienced progress. Since 2012, the counseling center has completely rebranded and moved its main office to the sixth floor of the historic Cactus Hotel. More changes followed in quick succession, with additional services including aid for veterans, as well as programs for suicide prevention and support for suicide survivors.

With the expansion of services, the number of sessions and therapists exploded. Last year, in 2019, the center’s 38 therapists (which includes part time and full time and those who office in Del Rio) provided 21,140 sessions, versus 16,590 sessions the previous year.

 

Executive Director Dusty McCoy does not see the increased demand in psychological counseling as a negative. For example, the introduction of the Zero Suicide Program, which teams with community partners such as local workplaces and school districts to identify at-risk individuals and provide immediate counseling, has led to a spike in clients who likely would not otherwise seek counseling. 

“Almost everybody that we go out to on these calls are the ones not being seen, the ones who, for the most part, are not being treated,” McCoy said. “If we can get people in and get them the help they need and turn their lives around, that’s a good thing.

“I feel confident that we have saved people. We’ll never know which ones those were, but just the volume of people we’ve seen through the Zero Suicide Program, which has been over 500 people in about a year and a half (indicates that). And over 200 of those were kids.”

The center also started the LOSS Team, which responds to suicides within Tom Green County to provide survivors support and resources. SOS (Survivors of Suicide) is a support group for individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide. Other programs include The Compassionate Friends, a support group for parents grieving the death of their child; SMART Recovery, for individuals with substance abuse issues; a department dedicated to helping military veterans connect to resources, including benefits and counseling; For Kids’ Sake, to help families navigate divorce; and an assessment center for psychological evaluations.

WTCG offers counseling for all ages and addresses issues such as weight loss, insomnia, trauma, depression, anxiety, and marital and family discord. With a sliding scale that starts at zero, individuals can receive counseling regardless of whether they have insurance, are under insured, or unable to pay.  

“One thing that’s neat for me is you can see somebody in the waiting room paying the full fee for counseling, and across the room you can see someone who’s obviously homeless (receiving counseling for free), and they’re all receiving that same quality service,” McCoy said. 

Being able to help someone turn their life around is another reward, he said. He spoke of a past client who was on the verge of divorce because of unresolved trauma from his childhood. “That ingrained a lot of negative core beliefs, and we went back to how he got to that point,” McCoy said. “He had these rules in place that he lived by, which made a lot of sense to keep him safe as a child, but no longer worked for him as an adult. Once we identified those underlying assumptions it made total sense to him. He made such a turnaround as far as being a family man, his relationships with his family, his interactions, and I know that (therapy) saved that marriage and probably helped his children.”

For people like McCoy’s client, as well as Jane and Joe, WTCG has provided hope, a beacon during dark times. “We’re only as strong as the weakest link, and they go about the business of helping the weakest link,” Jane said. “I think they’re invaluable to this community. They work hard and they just give back, and give back, and give back.”

 



WTCG, which also has offices on Magdalen Street, at First United Methodist Church, and in Concho Suites, is in the midst of a capital fundraising campaign to move all its services under one roof at the Cactus. As of May 2020, the center had more than one million dollars to raise before construction could begin on the hotel’s ninth, tenth and eleventh floors. To donate to the campaign or to help the center’s uninsured clients, go to sanangelocounseling.org 

To schedule a counseling appointment, call 325-944-2561 weekdays from 
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

If you are in crisis, you may call the same number during those hours, or call MHMR of the Concho Valley’s crisis hotline at 
325-653-5933

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