Despite the seeming affluence in Calabasas and the surrounding areas, there are people who struggle and cannot afford counseling services.
“We’re here to fulfill that need,” said Seth Fenton, director of Caring Place Counseling, a non-profit organization in Calabasas that started providing psychotherapy on a sliding fee scale.
“The people who come to us could be paying anywhere from $10 to $100, depending on their income and situation,” said Fenton.
Fenton opened Caring Place in August, with just a handful of interns like himself, to get the much-needed 3,000 hours required of marriage and family therapist (MFT) interns before they can apply for a license.
“We were volunteering all over the place, so I thought it would be a good idea to open a place like this, serve the community and help interns like me fulfill their requirements,” said the Tarzana resident.
The closest facility, which offers the same type of psychotherapy services on a sliding fee scale, is California Lutheran University’s (CLU) Community Counseling Center but the wait list is reportedly long, said Fenton.
Since its opening, Caring Place has seen a steady growth of clients, who avail of individual, family, adolescent and couples counseling.
Three interns like Fenton see clients seven days a week, whose issues range from anxiety to addiction, depression to divorce.
Supervising MFT Patricia Valentine oversees all cases and consults with the interns on their caseloads.
“Patients actually get good value for their money because they not only get one therapist but four who meet, discuss and collaborate on their case,” said Fenton.
The initial consultation is free after which an intern is assigned to a client.
“We’re from different age groups and have a wide range of life experiences here,” said Karla Barnett, one of the MFT interns. “There will most probably be someone who will be a good fit for a particular client.”
Barnett has five years of clinical psychology experience under her belt, having mostly worked with women battling substance abuse and relationship problems.
“If there is a specialty for women then that’s mine,” said Barnett.
In the near future, the Thousand Oaks resident sees herself facilitating moms’ support groups – “the type where they head to the center after dropping their kids off at school,” she said.
She also sees herself facilitating group therapy sessions and working with teens and children with special needs.
Both Fenton and Barnett agree that with the ongoing economic crisis and unstable times, there will be a continuing rise in temporary or crisis situations–issues that weren’t a concern 10 or 20 years ago.
“We’ll continue to see kids struggling hard in school, parents stressing about money for college and other anxiety-related issues," said Fenton.
As the middle class continues to struggle, Fenton predicts that the need for low-cost and affordable counseling centers like theirs will be more pronounced.
“There is an even bigger need right now for our services and that’s why we’re here,” he said.