“I discovered early on that witnessing another person growing and changing fundamentally for the better gave tremendous meaning to my life. That is why I often think of the work of mental health professionals as a labor of love,” says Soni Kim Monroe, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist and Chair of the Board of Directors of Pelican Cove Counseling Center.
Created with the importance of mental health awareness in mind, Pelican Cove Counseling Center (PCCC) is a locally founded non-profit that seeks to provide accessible and meaningful counseling and therapy, without the limitations of financial restrictions. Inspired by a passion for helping others, as well as the memory of Monroe’s beloved husband and colleague, PCCC was founded.
“When my husband Stan and I started our group practice, Crossroads Institute for Psychotherapy and Assessment, we promised ourselves that once our practice became more established, we would find a way to provide low-cost counseling to those who didn’t have insurance or couldn’t afford treatment,” Monroe describes. “After my husband passed away unexpectedly in 2015, I struggled for a while, trying to figure out a way forward. About a year ago, I was in conversations with my nephew Tim Park, about how I could find meaning in my work again, and it was then that we decided the timing was right to carry on with Stan’s and my dream to start a non-profit to provide low-cost counseling.”
And as for the meaning behind the name? Terranea’s adjacent bluff park and beach trail was a treasured hiking location of Stan’s. “Stan was an avid outdoorsman,” Monroe fondly recalls. “He set about hiking around the entire Palos Verdes Peninsula, hiking down to the shoreline as far as he could, and using a tide map to determine when the low tide would be so he could hike certain areas.”
Now more than ever in today’s society, the stigma surrounding mental health is a consistent topic of discussion, as notable figures and leaders alike have taken up the platform of spreading awareness and accessible options for all who seek to better themselves.
There are mobile apps that provide mindfulness-based meditations on-the-go, 24-hour hotlines, trending hashtags on social media, and even celebrities such as Lady Gaga and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex lending their voice to advocacy, as well as opening up to share their own personal experiences. Monroe elaborates on these views, saying, “Sometimes we can think about the concept of mental health dichotomously, as either having it or not having it. In other words, you either have mental illness or you don’t. However, for most conditions, we are all on the spectrum of mental health. Most people do well until they run into some sort of a problem and then they experience either depression or anxiety. If left untreated, these conditions may spontaneously remit but they may also get worse, and it is usually beneficial to seek help early. Seeking talk therapy to talk through problems, increase awareness of what’s going on, and learning to manage stressors more effectively, are vital to living fully in the modern world.” Monroe adds, “Fortunately, among the younger set, there is less stigma about seeking mental health services and hopefully that attitude will spread to the rest of the society.”
According to Monroe, in terms of the major differences between PCCC and other mental health centers, it comes down to quality of care. While government-funded treatment centers cater to outpatient therapy, often the patient is not given the specialized and customized treatment to effectively meet their individual and personal needs. Many of these centers provide Evidence Based Practices or EBP, standardized treatments, which often cater to a wider set of patients and are completed within a restricted time frame.
“The reality is most practitioners combine various methods of treatment, but the difference is that when you are seen in most of the government-funded programs, the treatment you receive is determined by the type of symptoms you present with and what the ‘manual’ says helps with these type of symptoms,” explains Monroe. “In contrast, when you go see a therapist with private insurance or private pay, they usually take the time to get to know the client and even help the client articulate what they think is not quite right about their circumstances, experiences, or feelings, even if they don’t have specified symptoms they present with.”
PCCC seeks to implement this approach and apply it to those who cannot afford the often-expensive treatment costs through the non-profit’s private funding and grants, and provide individual, couples, family, and group therapy to low income individuals who are seeking open-ended and long-term mental health treatment. “Each dollar donated to our organization helps to provide relief from emotional pain for those who cannot afford this type of care on their own.”
Additionally, PCCC will also emphasize a focus on training psychotherapists with the proper techniques and processes to navigate a wide variety of cases, as well as professionally counsel with both the skill and dignity that every patient seeking mental health care deserves, regardless of financial means. “We hope to provide a nurturing place for therapists in training where they learn how to help people to grow and flourish,” Monroe describes. “And we hope that the professionals that we train will go forward into the society, having learned how to understand and work with each client as a whole person, patiently working with them until they achieve the changes they seek.”
So what are some helpful tips anyone can use to benefit their own mental health? Monroe says the key is focusing on both the body and the mind. “It is important to address all areas of wellness in order to stay mentally and physically fit,” she explains. “Regular exercise, eating well, and engaging in self-reflective and self-awareness activities, such as journaling, having deep conversations with friends and loved ones, and making time to unwind and to be still, are all important to achieving good mental and physical health.”
As PCCC hopes to grow in funding, they also hope to have significant growth within the upcoming year, with goals of opening their first clinic in Spring 2020 and subsequently beginning training of counselors. Looking to the future, Monroe also has aspirations to open multiple locations throughout the Los Angeles and South Bay area.
“Obtaining continuous funding is vital to help us grow and fulfill our mission of providing quality training and uplift our communities,” explains Monroe. “Although we will likely directly work with only a limited number of trainees and clients, we hope they will in turn affect those around them, causing a ripple effect of positive changes that can echo through our communities and society at large.”
For more information and to donate to Pelican Cove Counseling Center, please visit pelicancove.org.
Written by Caitlyn Piercy