Center joins with SMU School of Education and Human Development to offer low-cost sessions; arrangement helps clients and students
When Candy Marcum began working as a psychotherapist in the LGBT community, she said the best place to find clients was the gay bars.
Marcum was the first therapist hired by local activist Howie Daire in 1981 when Daire launched the Oak Lawn Counseling Center, which offered a sliding payment scale starting at $20 per session.
"We would go to the bars because there was no newspaper [to advertise in] at that time, and we would talk to the bartenders," Marcum said. "Those were our best referral sources."
Today, Marcum owns and operates Stonewall Behavioral Health, one of several successful private practices that offers counseling geared toward LGBT people in Dallas.
Despite tremendous growth in the field, however, there remains one big void, Marcum said — reduced-cost counseling for LGBT individuals and couples who otherwise can’t afford it.
The Oak Lawn Counseling Center, which later became Oak Lawn Community Services, is now defunct.
"There are lots of psychotherapists who are in private practice," Marcum said. "Where there’s a void is not-for-profit. For the last three or four years, there have not really been any services offered to this particular socio-economic profile for a GLBT person. My business is a for-profit business. It has a different kind of clientele."
This week, officials at the Resource Center of Dallas launched a new program aimed at filling the void.
In conjunction with Southern Methodist University’s School of Education and Human Development, RCD has begun offering counseling for $45 per session.
The program will utilize SMU graduate students who are working toward master’s degrees in counseling. The students will be supervised by faculty members and trained on LGBT issues by Resource Center staff.
Bret Camp, an RCD associate executive director, said the counseling program will cover topics such as crisis intervention, grief management, depression, substance abuse and coming out issues.
"There’s been a big void in the community for a decade," Camp said. "This is an opportunity for people to acquire quality services at a reasonable expense. There’s no shortage of student counselors who want to come in and work with our community."
Cece Cox, another RCD associate executive director, said the center receives a lot of requests for counseling services. Cox pointed to studies showing that LGBT people are sometimes reluctant to seek medical help.
"We don’t seek the proper help because we’ve experienced bias and prejudices and discrimination from care providers," Cox said.
Tony Picchioni, chairman of the department of human development at SMU, said three to five of his students initially will staff the RCD program.
"There was nobody there offering counseling services, and we saw that there was really a possibility for some very good practical experience for our students who are skilled but need to be out in the world counseling under supervision," Picchioni said. "We’re really excited about it."
Needless to say, Marcum doesn’t view the program as competition. Counselors at Stonewall Behavioral Health charge $100 per session and don’t accept health insurance.
Marcum said studies have shown that on average, LGBT people are no more emotionally disturbed than their straight counterparts. However, she said the challenge of integrating negative stereotypes into their psyches often results in low self-esteem. LGBT people also frequently struggle with relationships, Marcum said, because they haven’t had as much experience with them as straight people who begin dating in high school.
"I think for some people it’s life-changing," Marcum said of counseling. "I think for some people it’s life-saving. People get very depressed, and they may think of taking their lives. … I think professional counseling is very, very important, and I wish it was a affordable for everyone."
For information about RCD’s counseling program, call 214-393-3680 or go to the counseling page on the center’s Web site at http://www.resourcecenterdallas.org/index.php?q=counseling.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 14, 2008.