Valdosta State University family therapists help people cope withholiday season

November 30, 2005

Charles Harmon Director of University Relations, Sementha Mathews Manager of Public Information and Media Relations, Amanda Edwards Student Intern

Valdosta State University family therapists help people cope withholiday season

Interns in Valdosta State University's Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program are helping people cope this holiday season by providing low- or no-cost therapy to area residents struggling with personal issues.

The heavy commercial orientation of the holiday season sometimes reminds people how much they cannot give their kids and/or spouses, said Martha Laughlin, director of the VSU Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic.

"The music, glitter and cheer that is associated with Christmas sometimes serves to remind people of who they are not and what they do not have," said Laughlin. "The months of November, December, and particularly January are generally high traffic for us."

In addition to an abundance of clients they see at their clinic located at 210 W. Moore Street, the advanced-standing MFT interns also provide no-cost psychotherapy to homeless individuals and families through the outreach program, said Melanie Sullivan, clinical coordinator of the Moore Street Clinic Outreach. Working in collaboration with Lowndes Associated Ministries to People (LAMP), therapists provide support for a variety of personal issues based upon a compassionate, strength-based approach that seeks to magnify the client's inner resources to help them move forward.

"Therapists listen carefully to their client's personal challenges, concerns, and triumphs as they fight the impact of homelessness in their lives," said Sullivan. "Through therapy, clients experience an increased sense of well-being, more hope for the future, and less discomfort with their current situation."

While there are several agencies that provide food, shelter, and clothing to homeless families, until this year, there have been no free therapeutic support services available to this population. Since March 2005, homeless families staying at the LAMP-New Horizons shelter have been receiving therapeutic relief from the pressures of their stressful lives. The outreach program will continue through 2006.

"We make a difference in many people's lives," said Miranda Getman, a second-year student in the program. "We don't fix their problems; we equip them by giving them the resources so they can fix their own problems."

The Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy prepares students for licensure in marriage and family therapy in Georgia and for clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. The program is committed to nurturing the development of highly competent clinicians working from a relational perspective in an environment that supports diversity and scholarship.

The Moore Street Clinic operates on a sliding payment scale; however, no one is turned away from receiving therapy due to financial hardship. Day and evening appointments are available seven days a week for patients of all ages. Call the clinic at 219-1281 for more information.