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By Melissa Ford
I knew Thrive Counseling Service was in the business of changing and saving lives every day, but I wasn't exactly sure who the beneficiaries were.
Nina Allen, President/CEO of Thrive, says it's a popular misconception that Thrive only provides services to people with severe mental disorders in lower-income brackets. Allen says that Thrive isn't just a mental health provider; rather, the 114-year-old organization is dedicated to helping people in our communities increase their emotional wellbeing.
"Historically, community mental health centers have been geared toward more severe, chronic mental health issues," Allen says. But Thrive's staff of 28 full-time and 13 part-time employees — including therapists, doctors, case managers, support staff, and a 24/7 Crisis Team — are, in Allen's professional opinion, "very capable of dealing with people who are pro-active with addressing their problems from depression, anxiety, trauma and grief. In fact, the majority of people we treat are people who are living their lives to the best of their abilities, who are active in treatment and want things to be better."
At their spring benefit in May, Allen spoke about the impact Thrive has made and continues to make in our local communities:
"At Thrive, we hear stories about human challenges 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People struggle, gain insight and ultimately take back their lives. We see hope replace despair, strength replace helplessness, and independence replace dependence on others. The impact of our work sends positive ripples across our communities. Individuals and families are stronger, kids stay in school, there is less homelessness and crime, fewer incarcerations, less substance abuse, people are able to work, and yes, fewer people commit suicide."
Allen claims that helping people change and saving lives is a remarkable profession, and Thrive is an amazing place to be. Yet it's difficult to convey the difference the dedicated professionals at Thrive make because of the confidential nature of their work. "Everything we do is secret," Allen says. "And that's what we have. Our reputation is solidly based on what we do being confidential. You won't come and tell me your story if I go and talk to someone else. It's your story, not mine to tell."
To better understand Thrive, Allen provides some thoughtful answers to get to know Thrive, and hopes people will feel comfortable considering it their community center for emotional wellness and support.
Why is Thrive a good place to start when seeking help?
There are wonderful therapists in our communities, but how do you find one? Instead of searching for a therapist because you may have read about or heard of him or her, you can start with Thrive. At Thrive, there are talented therapists with years of experience who make a big difference. Our access department will take your information and if we can't help you then we'll find someone who can. We understand that this may be a difficult time, and this is one of the toughest phone calls you will make, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to find help. We also have very talented psychiatrists and case managers that work closely with therapists to assure the client gets the best treatment possible.
What draws wonderful therapists to Thrive?
People who work in a community health setting like the challenge of a clientele with diverse problems. They also like working with a team that includes supportive psychiatry and other services. There's a little bit more continuity of care at Thrive. We have much more of a team approach than if you chose to see an individual therapist. We are not just seeing you for an hour a week if you might need more supportive services. If you are having trouble finding housing, getting on benefits or having trouble accessing transportation or feel isolated, we have case managers who can help you make those things happen. We work with two wonderful psychiatrists who support people with medication management in conjunction with therapy. Our 24/7 Crisis Team is always on-call to provide emergency support and give us a handle on what is going on in the community. We work side-by-side with the police and area hospitals to offer the best possible care for every client.
What prevents people from seeking help other than money?
Thinking things will get better, people hesitate to make that phone call because they might see other people around them in that are in worse shape. So they start to rationalize, trying to get over their problem. I think people are afraid to tell their stories; they're afraid they'll be judged. Shame is a big part of why people don't seek help. I often hear, "I could have done something different." That's the stigma piece. People will often buy into stigma thinking, "I could have done things differently; it's my fault my husband abuses me or kids are out of control or it's my fault my wife won't stop drinking." We don't judge people who come to us for help. We'll work with you to find the best solutions to change your life for the better.
What happens when people seek help?
Talking to someone is the start of recovery. We have master-level therapists with licenses that require continuing education credits. We need a complete picture of you and then we connect you with a therapist. You get to decide if it's a good fit. You'll start looking at what brought you in, what problems you can identify that you would like to work on. You'll start forming a therapeutic relationship where you can mutually explore how to identify your strengths, work with those strengths in order to improve whatever circumstance you want changed. You may not know how to get to where you want to go, you just know you don't like where you are and want things to improve. We are here to help you create change.
What is Thrive's track record?
Thrive was founded 114 years ago by women, some of whom were part of the 19th Century Club. They followed along the lines of Jane Addams, strengthening their community through volunteer work. Today, Thrive continues to grow. We have a robust internship program, bringing great young minds from all over Chicago to offer new ideas that keep us learning. We are here to make sure that people get the help they need. For example, if we don't take your insurance we will find out who does take your insurance. Also, we are offering more outreach programs such as continuing our Mindfulness-Based Stress Management group, which was a huge success.
Allen wants everyone to know that when considering help, remember Thrive is only a phone call away.