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Finally a model that makes mental healthcare affordable

by ervte

Business is thriving for The Cottage Counseling Center – a blessing and a challenge.

It’s a blessing because, in the 25 years since the center was founded, people have become more aware and proactive about caring for their mental health.

But it’s also challenging because, especially since COVID hit, the center is “struggling to keep up with demand.”Finally a model that makes mental healthcare affordable

“I recently read an article saying that before COVID, about one in a hundred psychologists had closed their books. Now that’s about one in three. So that says something about the demand for mental health,” Keren Calvert, co-director of The Cottage Counseling Center, told Eternity.

The growth of the Cottage Counseling Center also reflects the increased demand for mental health services.

“We’ve gone from a few hundred sessions in a year to about 5000…” – John Parmentier, Co-Director of The Cottage Counseling Center.

The center began. When therapist Nicky Lock began offering counseling in a room at the back of St Faith’s Anglican Church in Narrabeen on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, she had two other Christian counselors who worked with her. Then the service moved to a cottage on the church grounds about to be demolished and officially became The Cottage Counseling Centre.

“Since then, we have grown from one center to seven centers. We started on the northern beaches and moved to more central and western Sydney,” explains John Parmentier, the other co-director of Cottage Counselling.

Apart from NarrCottage Counseling now employs 14 Christian counselors, two psychologists, and a social worker. The other counseling centers are Dee Why, Belrose, Lindfield, Crows Nest, Ryde, and Parramatta. A new center in Pymble, north of Sydney, is about to open, and online counseling is also available. Cottage Counseom a few hundred sessions in a year to about 5,000 sessions in a year,” says Parmentier.

“We use a room in a church … and in return, they get a counseling service.” – Keren Calvert, Co-Director, The Cottage Counseling Center.

Recent years .have caused a particular spike in demand for their services during COVID.

“We all know that there is so much need in the community. And when COVID came along, all the already difficult things just intensified,” says Calvert.

“COVID created its problems – people lost their jobs and money, got sick, were separated from their families, and became isolated. But everything already happening in a person’s life was also intensified.”

Like other mental health providers, Cottage Counseling still feels the impact of this ‘silent pandemic’.

“Most of our therapists are almost full,” Calvert says. “So we’re keeping up with demand, but it’s been a bit of juggling over the past year to find room for everyone.

“The demand is huge. I think churches probably feel the same way.”

Fortunately, .thanks to Cottage Counseling’s unique model, it has been expanded quickly and easily.

“We have this nice little model where we work with churches. We use a room in a church. They support us in every way they can and, in return, get an advisory service they can provide their community. It means we can move around and take advantage of the opportunities to grow,” explains Calvert.

In most locations, the counselor is not a member of that church himself, thus avoiding a conflict of interest in providing care to church members.

“That’s part of the beauty of the model. The idea is that the counselor wouldn’t be from the church so that the pastor can refer [people to the counseling center] … So it’s a huge benefit to the church and the pastor that that kind of burden isn’t on them, and that the counselor has the expertise to do that job well,” explains Parmentier.

The church partnership model has always been an important part of the Cottage ethos, founder Nicky Lock explains in a video about the service. She notes the value of church prayer support, adding, “Just being a part of the Christian body is an important part of who we are.”

All Cottage Counseling therapists have a strong Christian faith.

“It’s the core of who we are,” says Parmentier. “It’s more than a value – it’s who we are, what we do, and how we do it.”

“No one will be turned away…If you can’t afford to tutor, we’ll make it affordable.” -John Parmentier.

This leads to. Another reason for Cottage Counseling’s popularity: is its affordability for everyone.

“Our ethos is that no one will be turned away from the guidance they need based on their financial position. If you can’t afford guidance, we make it affordable,” says Parmentier.

The benefits are based on a sliding household income scale, so higher payments pay a little more, and lower costs pay a lower rate. The center also offers subsidized sessions for people with real financial difficulties.

“It’s run as a non-profit,” explains Parmentier. “And we often trust God because our grant is designed to ensure money isn’t an issue for people. So it is a kind of ministry.”

Another side of this ‘ministry’ is teaching churches and their leadership on family and domestic violence issues. Cottage Counseling also hosts church and community seminars and group programs on such issues as parenting, anger management, depression, anxiety, and Internet pornography.

To provide such a service that is affordable and accessible, The Cottage Counseling Center is aided by donations from local churches, individual members, and local clubs and organizations. But as demand for their services grows, Cottage Counseling seeks corporate donors to stand alongside them.

“We want to open two or three new centers and have two or three additional counselors and so on, but we can’t do it [without more funding]Parmentier says.

“So we probably need to shift our efforts to think bigger about what’s possible. That is a step of both faith and boldness, but it is also the very next step of where this ministry is.”

This is certainly not for financial gain for the Cottage Counseling therapists themselves, as Calvert says: “Most of the Cottage team love our job and would do it for free if we could. Sitting with a client, I feel privileged to be the person they trust with those incredibly difficult stories they have to tell. And if I can feel a connection with them, hopefully, I can help unlock some things along the way to help them get back to their better selves; then I’ll leave happy.”

Parmentier agrees, adding: “We love doing the job. We’re going to put a lot of money into it to make sure everyone can get care. But when more money comes in, it means we can do more.” subsidize, have more counselors and continue to grow to meet people’s needs.”

More information about The Cottage Counseling Center can be found at cottagecounselling.org.au. For questions about donations, email John Parmentier at.

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