There are many roles for volunteers at Walk-In Counseling Center. Volunteer counselors provide the free counseling sessions; volunteer receptionists welcome clients and connect them with counselors. Team consultants support everyone on the team. Abby K. is one such team consultant.
Team consultants, who are experienced clinicians, are a key support for the counseling teams. During the clinic, they are on hand to assist a counselor who needs help with a complex or challenging client issue. After the clinic, the team consultant leads a discussion of the issues the counselors addressed that day.
During this discussion, which is done without identifying any clients, the team exchanges additional ideas about how to help the client. After the team consultation, a counselor may follow up with the client with more resources or possible courses of action.
“I am a teacher at heart,” says Abby, who has been a team consultant at Walk-In for almost a decade. During team consultation, “I try not to talk first – I encourage the other counselors to get involved in the conversation.”
Walk-In counselors come from different backgrounds and often say the team consultation is a highlight of their experience. Since members of the team may be social workers, family therapists, psychologists, or professional counselors, they bring different approaches to clients’ problems.
Abby encourages counselors to “think about themselves in the room with the client – what they are doing in the room, how they are experiencing the session – rather than just reporting what happened.” She views team consultation as a great professional development tool for everyone – whether they are early or late in their careers. During each clinic, counselors learn from each other and offer support.
“I have such a respect for our counselors, who are so connected and so committed to their clients. Even if they see the client only once, they take the client very seriously. Every client is valued by our counselors, and I try to value every counselor in the same way,” Abby says.
Abby spent her first nine years in the mental health field as a medical social worker. She saw individual clients occasionally then, and during the next 30 years taught family medicine residents. When she started working part-time in a hospital crisis center emergency room, she discovered that she loves crisis counseling.
Abby’s relative, longtime Walk-In volunteer Jeannie Bearmon, had been inviting Abby for many years to join a team at Walk-In. She finally did in 2014.
In both the emergency room and at Walk-In, it often happens that each shift has a “theme,” Abby says. “One night everybody has a relationship issue; one night, everybody will come in needing resources; another night, everyone will come in feeling depressed. It’s just fascinating to me.”
“That’s what I like about crisis work. It’s never the same. Never. Every night is a different night; different issues, problems, personalities. We figure it out and work together to do the best we can to help,” Abby says. “Once in a while there is a client we can’t help because there is no support in the community for their issue. I work hard to help our counselors deal with the frustration that causes.”
Abby adds, “I think Walk-in is a great organization. I have grown a lot being at Walk-In. I have met wonderful people working here. With every night being so different, it’s really exciting to be here.”