Most of us are aware of the benefits of diet, exercise and sleep, and how important it is to take care of our physical selves, but many of us do not consider taking care of our mental health. We get annual eye exams, physicals, and dental exams, but do we get a check-up for our ability to cope well and handle stress on a day-to-day basis? Being truly healthy and living your best life includes a comfortable balance between mind and body.
The Capitol Hill Consortium for Counseling and Consultation (CCCC) makes it easy to get a mental health check-up. Founded in 2009 by psychologist Barbara Brown, the practice has grown to 25 clinicians holding more than 600 sessions weekly. “We have a diverse population of therapists serving a diverse clientele across their entire life from children to elderly,” she says. CCCC is open six days a week and has ‘low fee therapy’ based on income and ability to pay. It is located at 650 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.
“We treat people with anxiety, depression, trauma, grief and loss, behavioral issues, bipolar disorder, mood disorders, relationship issues, work problems, stress, educational issues, eating disorders – just about any issue you can imagine,” said Barbara. “We offer shorty-term therapy for people who want to deal with a specific issue such as fear of bridges. We also offer therapy to help someone problem solve. For example, ‘How will you handle yourself while visiting your family at Christmas?”
CCCC accepts all insurances. It also has an administrative staff to take care of billing needs leaving clients and clinicians able to focus on the therapy.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health is the ability to learn and grow intellectually. It consists of: how you feel about yourself and the world in which you live; your ability to solve problems and overcome challenges; your ability to build relationships with others and contribute to your community, and your ability to achieve goals at work and in life.
It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Mental health problems are actually very common. According to Mentalhealth.gov, in 2014, about:
- One in five American adults experienced a mental health issue
- One in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression
- One in 25 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression
The website states that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It accounts for the loss of more than 41,000 American lives each year, more than double the number of lives lost to homicide.
According to a survey conducted by the University of British Columbia, 42 percent of U.S. adults have seen a therapist at some time in their lives, and an additional 36 percent are open to it.
Who is Therapy For?
“Everyone can use therapy,” said Barbara Brown. “The ultimate goal of therapy is freedom of choice to live your life.”
At some point in our lives most of us experience some kind trauma, stress or anxiety. Being in a state of stress can reduce the strength of the immune system, making people more vulnerable to conditions ranging from the common cold to cancer. Mental health also affects people’s ability to interact with others in effective ways. When we are depressed, stressed or anxious, we are more likely to feel irritable, frustrated and intolerant and not able to perform well at home or at work.
Our mental health affects our physical health in surprising ways. Studies have shown that people with untreated mental health problems visit a medical doctor twice as often as people who receive mental health care.
Not only are CCCC’s clinicians diverse, but also are their methods of therapy. “Some are focused more on long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy,” explained Gina Sangster, psychotherapist, who has been in the Consortium for six years and who grew up on the Hill. “For example, some therapists prefer Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Others practice mindfulness training or acceptance and commitment therapy. Still others might emphasize cognitive or trauma-informed therapy.”
Gina also said CCCC currently has group therapy sessions for people who suffered early loss, chronic pain and illness, adult children of dysfunctional families and for coping with life.
CCCC clients vary by income, age, sexual orientation and cultural and ethnic background. “I think seeing diversity in our clients as well as our clinicians is a tremendous asset of CCCC,” said Gina.
I used to think that therapy was for the rich – a luxury item for those who could afford it. Insurance used to limit both the amount of reimbursement allotted and the number of sessions allowed in a calendar year. Now, Barbara said, progress has been made to the old restrictions from insurance. She and her clinicians are providing a place or ‘safe haven’ for people who want to dig deep and improve their lives. “People who are self-aware and who are able to work on themselves often have a better quality of life, feel more fulfilled and have more fun.”
Some books Barbara recommends: Chemistry of Joy and Chemistry of Calm by Henry Emmons, M.D. and Unstuck by James Gorden, M.D.
Pattie Cinelli is a health/fitness professional who offers information about subjects on the leading edge of health and fitness thought. She has been writing her column for more than 25 years and welcomes column suggestions and fitness questions. Pattie can provide lectures, private sessions and group classes in stretch, yoga, Pilates and her specialty: Balance and Mobility for your church, home or office. She is also producing a podcast. You can contact Pattie at: [email protected].