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Family Life Counseling Program meets increasing mental health needs in Appalachia

Submitted by evanharrell on Fri, 07/28/2017 - 12:49

PAINTSVILLE, Ky. — Many challenges face local Appalachian communities including economic and educational uncertainty leading to stress, anxiety, and sometimes depression at higher rates than the rest of the country. Counselors with Christian Appalachian Project’s (CAP) Family Life Counseling Program work daily to provide mental health service to those in the greatest of need.

Chris Griffith, manager of the Family Life Counseling Program, leads a team of four full-time counselors. “We serve around 1,000 people annually,” Griffith said. “Our primary focus is seeing the entire family as the client. We may counsel children, but also provide marriage counseling and family therapy so that we have a more holistic approach.”

CAP’s counseling program has been around for more than 30 years equipping families with the right tools, skills, and healthy practices to be able to address immediate issues that can impact a family such as anger, trauma, depression, abuse, parenting issues and unresolved grief. In addition, once CAP works to satisfy immediate needs than the counseling program can address those deeper multi-layered issues.

“We focus on sustained change,” Griffith added. “While it takes a lot more energy, a lot more effort and a longer time period to access the deeper issues our counselors have learned to count success in terms of incremental change. We work to present compelling reasons for change, and ultimately that has the power to lead to long-term transformation.”

Beyond the direct counseling services the program strives to be a resource for other mental health professionals and the community. In addition, the Family Life counselors are helping to breathe new life into their local, regional, and state organizations by having innovative partnerships, shaping policy, and providing guidance through leadership.

“The size of our staff is small, but we make the time to be integrated into the community and also with our professional associations,” Griffith explained. “It’s important to us to have a voice regarding mental health policy as well as building relationships with each participant who has been referred to our program. These relationships help us and our counterparts to continue to have an impact as the region faces increasing mental health challenges.”

Griffith concluded, “One of the great things about CAP is that we have a network of programs doing a beautiful job of addressing immediate, basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing. CAP approaches this work with a very holistic, relational point of view. Our mission affords us the opportunity to treat the whole person.”

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