Combine the remains of Hurricane Katrina and the slump in the economy and who doesn’t need a little help these days?
To respond to the ever-increasing cry from individuals in distress, the archdiocese’s Family Life Apostolate office began in September offering low-cost family, marital and couple counseling infused with a Catholic perspective.
Since its debut, the counseling service has proven its importance with more than 50 monthly visits scheduled.
“The first week we started getting calls,” Deacon Drea Capaci, Family Life Apostolate director, said. “And, already, I know there has been some good things (positive outcomes from counseling).”
Guided by experts
Deacon Capaci said counseling was the result of months of discussion with Archbishop Gregory Aymond and a committee of individuals experienced in counseling. Committee members included Tony Melito, a Brother Martin counselor with a private practice; Dr. Paul “Buddy” Ceasar from Southeastern Louisiana University; Dr. Rachel Cupit of Loyola University; Mercy Sister Katherine Glosenger of Mercy Family Center; Rex Menasco, executive director of Mercy Family Center; Dr. Doug Walker, Mercy Family Center; Dr. Carolyn White of Our Lady of Holy Cross College; Angie Thomas of Woman’s New Life Center and Deacon Capaci.
Soliciting expert advice to learn what in-house counseling would entail was paramount, Deacon Capaci said. Catholic Counseling Service meets state and federal requirements, including HIPAA confidentiality.
A dedicated phone line for the counseling service also has been established in the Family Life Apostolate office – 861-6245. And, Deacon Capaci’s assistant, Cathy Francis, compassionately answers and serves as the intake coordinator, keeping track of counseling hours and required documentation.
Offering affordable counseling was a top priority. So, local universities were solicited to find counselors with master’s degrees in family counseling who are earning their required hours toward licensing or those close to earning their master’s degree. All are under the supervision of a licensed counselor.
The maximum amount charged for a one-hour session is $30, Deacon Capaci said, but no one will be denied. One-hour sessions are offered Monday through Friday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., and 5-8 p.m., in Metairie at 110 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Suite 420.
Another of Deacon Capaci’s goals was to expedite scheduling. In the past, Deacon Capaci would refer callers to counselors with whom he was familiar. Counselors through the archdiocese are to respond quickly to clients.
“I don’t want people to wait two or three weeks,” he said. “I want to do anything I can to eliminate that.”
Deacon Capaci and Francis recently met with counselors to assess the progress of the program.
All are Catholic and agreed that they were satisfied with the headway they’ve made over the past four months and were getting as much from the program as their clients.
Amy Grace Miller, who has a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling from Our Lady of Holy Cross College, was excited when she discovered that the archdiocese would offer counseling with a Catholic bent. She is earning hours during her two years of supervised counseling in order to obtain a state license to counsel.
“One of my goals in counseling is to be able to offer counseling from a Catholic perspective,” she said.
“No matter what happens in life, you always have God and family,” said counselor Paul Siragusa, who is finishing his last semester for a master’s degree in counseling. “I try to encourage my clients to remain spiritual with God and not lose their faith.”
Counselor Bob Schmidt, who holds a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Our Lady of Holy Cross College, is working on his Ph.D. from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. “
“I personally feel that psychology should be incorporated with some spirituality,” he said. “That’s my quest. … It’s not our job to persuade our client to look at something from a Catholic perspective, but we as Catholics have that foundation, that basic understanding of how Catholics deal with marriage and therapy as a whole. … We are equipped with answers from a Catholic perspective.”
Deacon Capaci said he already sees a need for expansion and is exploring locations on the northshore and the West Bank as well as more counselors.
“That’s probably going to be our next step,” he said.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.