Our clients come from all walks of life. They range in age from the late teens to mid-80's, with a heavy concentration of young and middle-aged adults. About a third are male and two-thirds are female.
Two characteristics are common to all of our clients:
- They are struggling with emotional issues that cause them pain as intense and real as a physical illness.
- They do not qualify for publicly funded mental health care and are unable to afford the usual cost of private therapeutic services.
We help them by providing high quality psychotherapy and psychiatric services at a sliding rate based on their income.
We want to share some stories of the amazing people we are privileged to help. In order to maintain the confidential nature of the therapeutic relationship, these stories represent a synthesis of a number of cases. In addition, clients' names and any identifying information have been changed.
Anna, a thirty-year old woman, was struggling with feelings of despair and fearfulness. She dragged herself through her days, working full-time for a telemarketing company. Her schoolwork at one of the City Colleges had ceased to be interesting. Also, she was worried about her mother who was recuperating from a heart problem. One of Anna's friends recommended Cathedral Counseling Center to her. She called and was soon after paired with an experienced therapist.
When Anna started her therapy, she felt skeptical. Her previous experiences with therapy had been unsuccessful in helping with her eating disorder and bouts of depression. As a result, she did not have confidence in her ability to change. Shortly after her call to the Center, she dropped out of school.
Early in her therapy, Anna agreed to meet with one of the Center's psychiatrists to evaluate whether medication might be helpful as part of her treatment. The doctor prescribed a medication that helped Anna keep her depressive and anxious symptoms in check and allowed her to work on her pattern of self-defeating behaviors.
During the sessions with her therapist, Anna began to explore the relationship between her emotions and food. She did not like her physical body and was highly critical and judgmental of everything she did. The sudden death of her mother left her feeling even more vulnerable, weakening her trust in herself and her ability to make decisions on her own.
When Anna learned that her therapist could offer her art therapy, she requested it be a major part of her treatment. Through different art-making sessions, Anna was able to recognize her vulnerable self and her sabotaging behaviors. She began to explore the disgust she felt toward her physical body. This exploration took the form of a human size drawing on paper of her body. Through this on-going project Anna has begun to strengthen trust in herself. She has increased her emotional assertiveness in her relationships with family and friends and at work. She has also enrolled in Weight Watchers again. This time she is really losing weight and feels more positively about her physical body.
The teamwork between her therapist and psychiatrist has provided Anna with a sense of safety that enabled her to change and accept herself. She recently had a meeting with an admissions counselor at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she would like to resume her studies.Back To Top
“There's blood coming out of the faucets in the ladies' room,” Diane told our receptionist on her way out. “I thought you should know.”
This pronouncement came after a particularly difficult session. It's par for the course when an intense memory of her early child abuse surfaces. Perhaps it was after the time she talked about her father forcing her and her younger sister to go down in the basement and undress. “I stood by and watched as my father tied her to a beam and beat her with a strap. There was blood. I did nothing.” She carries a great deal of guilt about not doing anything. “My sister usually got it worse than me.” But Diane did not get off easy. The abuse has an impact on every area of her life. To this day, she has trouble taking a shower. The shower stall was one of her father's favorite places to rape her.
Diane started the therapy relationship with some pretty basic questions: “Will you help me? Are you going anywhere? I can't take anymore therapist or doctor changes.” She was referred to Cathedral Counseling Center by her case manager at a hospital-based community mental health center. He felt she needed more consistency than his clinic could offer. Because her case manager knew that the staff were very stable and experienced, he thought Cathedral Counseling Center might be a good place for Diane.
In her early 40's, Diane is kind and gentle; a dedicated worker with an excellent work ethic. She possesses a wicked sense of humor and can make people laugh. She also can be plenty scary. At the least expected moment, although she appears stable, the demons within announce their presence. “Do you understand that there is not a day that goes by that I don't wish I was dead?” Diane has no intention of killing herself; she just wants the pain to stop.
“Do you think you can help me? I see blood everywhere.”
“How about now, here in the office?”
“No, I feel safe here.“
The heart of the therapeutic relationship is the process of learning to trust one another. Over time she came to trust that her therapist would be there for her. Even in late night phone calls.
“I'm afraid there's someone in my apartment.”
“OK - have you checked the locks on both doors? Now pull back the shower curtain. All clear? OK. How about the closet?” As she worked her way through the apartment, she was practicing techniques rehearsed in sessions.
In this way Diane's therapy continued over the days, months, and years - identifying and working through the memories of her severe sexual and physical abuse. As Diane was able to understand the horrors she’s lived with, she began to care for herself. She gave up a stressful job. She completed some higher level computer courses and is looking for a job which will combine her two master's degrees and better suit her. In Diane's story, the best outcome of therapy is that she is now in charge of her life. Her great courage and resilience, along with hard work in treatment, saw her through.Back To Top
Lori's Mother's Story
My youngest daughter, Lori, was a delightful child. She was beautiful and bright - a gentle spirit who enjoyed singing in a band and was a talented runner. Everything looked so promising when she left for college.
Then, during her first year at Vanderbilt University, she showed signs of the mental illness that would change our lives. It took several years and a number of hospitalizations before we had the right diagnosis: schizophrenia, a chronic condition that impairs her thinking and judgment, and that must be managed with medication and treatment.
It took even more years of revolving doors and worrying if Lori would be alright before we found the right treatment. She finally got connected to good doctors and case managers who helped her find stability.
But she still needs someone to talk to, and sometimes I do too. Cathedral Counseling Center has been a beacon of light for us. Lori has seen Jane Stastny at Cathedral Counseling Center regularly for 5 years, and I meet with Jane when I'm worried or have questions. Lori and Jane have a strong relationship, and Jane is very encouraging of Lori. I still have my fears, but I don't feel I'm in this alone anymore. It's a great relief.
My faith has blessed Lori and me, and has seen us through the last 25 years. We are blessed also by Cathedral Counseling Center where people like Lori get dedicated, professional, affordable help in a warm and welcoming environment. I hope you will join me in supporting their work.
-- D.M.NBack To Top
Mary was referred by the student counseling center of a local university over a year ago. She had started to avoid talking during classes because she had begun thinking that she had nothing to add, that others would respond to her with disdain, and that she would become too flustered to complete her sentences. Mary had experienced periods of prolonged sadness and isolation in the past, especially during high school, but never such alarming anxiety or dread.
Mary also complained of conflict with her boyfriend. He was an unemployed artist who argued with her all night, then slept during the day while Mary tried to do her school work. Mary expressed concern that he had begun to drink heavily. However, she would eventually conclude that the problems were her fault for being too self-centered and demanding. Mary said that physical violence did not occur during these fights.
In initial sessions, Mary's therapist employed cognitive behavioral tools to teach her how to understand and manage her anxiety. Mary achieved a real turnabout as she participated more in class and with classmates. Her approach to school shifted from dread to a renewed sense of belonging and success.
As Mary felt better, her therapy shifted. She began to explore her identity and significant relationships. She gained an understanding of the problems she had experienced in past relationships and, with this new knowledge, learned to express her needs more directly. She negotiated more supportive and stable relationships with friends and family. Her boyfriend did not respond positively to Mary's new behaviors, and Mary ended the relationship before graduation.
Mary left Cathedral Counseling Center to move to another state for graduate school, having accomplished a great deal. She left with an enthusiastic sense of the future, optimism for herself, and an understanding that she can ask for support from a variety of sources, including psychotherapy, when she needs to.Back To Top
Tom first came to Cathedral Counseling Center in late April. Tall, slender, and conservatively dressed, he was clearly uncomfortable and anxious as he took his seat in the therapist's office. He explained that he had been working in financial analysis for nine years since leaving college. He'd managed several difficult, very challenging assignments and been rewarded with a couple of promotions. Then last December he was laid off. He has a good network and had thought it wouldn't take long for him to land a new job, but it's been four months now and he's getting very few bites.
Tom has a steady girlfriend for whom he cares a great deal. She has recently been pressuring him to get married, but he doesn't feel right about getting married at this time. He is angry at himself because he feels he's letting her down and letting himself down too. He can't seem to keep his anxiety in check and the anxiety seems to be growing.
Tom's therapist helped Tom understand and sort out all his different feelings, and cope in a way that would help him feel good about what he is doing. Tom is a good problem-solver so his therapist helped him step back, just as Tom did in his work, and look at the bigger picture. Once Tom could see the situation objectively, he realized what was and was not under his control. He stopped blaming himself for those things he could not control. He changed how he talked to himself and became his own coach and best friend again.
As Tom's anxiety levels were reduced, he was able to turn his attention to his own life goals and direction. He was able to identify and broaden his criteria for career success and consider more possibilities for continuing his career in the financial industry. He became more flexible and adaptable. He also identified the criteria he wanted in a relationship. He determined that his life goals included marriage and family and was working with his girlfriend to see if they could deepen the relationship to the level he wanted long term.
Before his course of therapy, Tom thought his life was a problem that somehow he should be able to solve. Now he sees himself as a person involved in a complex life situation who has options and new possibilities which he can face with trust and faith instead of fear and anxiety.Back To Top