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February 17, 2009

New Year, New You: Healthy lifestyle more than just physical fitness

(Note: This article is the fifth in a series, “New Year, New You,” aimed at raising awareness of opportunities that could improve the health of residents in northeast Louisiana. An annual report issued in December ranked Louisiana as the unhealthiest state in the nation.)

Mental Health Counseling:
Over in Room 284 of Strauss Hall at ULM, a broad range of additional mental health services is offered, also at a nominal fee.

The clinic treats patients with symptoms of depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, eating disorders, anger, grief, stress and addiction issues, just to name a few.

One “jewel” tucked away inside the clinic is a brightly-colored playroom, where young children are surrounded by dollhouses, toy soldiers, drawing pads and crayons, and even a sand box. Therapists in training use the room to assist younger clients in expressing their feelings in a non-threatening environment.

“Play therapy allows the child to manipulate the world on a smaller scale, something that cannot be done in the child's everyday environment,” explained Dupre.

Typically used in children ages 4 to 10, but also utilized for children up to age 12, play therapy taps into a child's natural means of expression as a therapeutic method to assist the child in coping with emotional stress or trauma, according to Dupre.

“By playing with specially selected materials, and with the guidance of a counselor, the child plays out his or her feelings, bringing these hidden emotions to the surface,” said Dupre.

Regardless of age, the clinical staff’s goal is to provide clients the opportunity to learn, change and develop through personal growth experiences. Dupre said the clinic offers a sliding scale for clients who feel they might not be able to afford the $15 counseling fee.

For an appointment with Mental Health Counseling, call 318-342-1263. The Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic may be reached at 318-342-9797.

The ULM counselors and therapists in both programs ensure the confidentiality of all clients and are committed to providing a quality experience for those in need.

Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic:
Think about what constitutes a “healthy lifestyle,” and an image of excellent physical conditioning may instantly come to mind.

To be certain, eating less junk, incorporating exercise or simply going for that long-overdue check-up are important factors in finally achieving a healthy lifestyle, but the picture is incomplete if one’s mental health is neglected.

And in a slumping economy, when layoffs and job insecurity are rampant, the toll on individuals isn’t simply physical – or fiscal.

“Economic problems always bring about depressive behaviors,” acknowledged Lamar Woodham, Ed.D., director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Programs at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

“It plays out in a family unit, sometimes there is hitting or screaming arguments that may not be identified as stemming from financial stress,” Woodham continued. “But the lack of a job or income … can be a major issue.”

Woodham said that the idea that only those with a mental illness stand to benefit from therapy is a myth, since life-changing events inevitably occur in every person's life.

ULM Marriage and Family Therapy graduate students – under the guidance of American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy-approved supervisors who are also licensed therapists – offer mental health services to those whose problems may be influenced by his or her inability to relate to others, whether they be friends, lovers, spouses, parents, children, siblings or even work associates.

“All behavior occurs within some kind of context,” said Woodham. “We want to look at the strengths in a family unit to help the individual recover. If we can treat the whole unit, the chances of lasting recovery are so much better.”

The MFT clinic is located at 3404 Bon Aire Dr. Their services are offered to the public for a reduced fee.

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