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Community Counseling Center celebrates 50 years, moves to new location 

A cream-colored house with a lilac-colored sign sits on Marsh Street in San Luis Obispo. Aside from the sign that reads Community Counseling Center, you wouldn't know at first glance that the little house is a safety net contributor and preventative care provider for professional affordable psychotherapy.

Executive Director James Statler said the center is unique because it doesn't just focus on one mental illness but addresses depression, anxiety, grief, phase of life, couple's issues, and trauma. The center also focuses on providing a service to low-income residents within San Luis Obispo County.

click to enlarge NEW SPACE Community Counseling Center is moving its main headquarters to a historical house on Pismo Street in San Luis Obispo. - PHOTO COURTESY OF COMMUNITY COUNSELING CENTER
  • Photo Courtesy Of Community Counseling Center
  • NEW SPACE Community Counseling Center is moving its main headquarters to a historical house on Pismo Street in San Luis Obispo.

"There isn't another agency that is saying, 'Hey if you're disenfranchised or socioeconomically challenged or don't have insurance, we'll cut all the red tape out and still say come in here,'" he said.

The center is celebrating 50 years and will soon move to a new location in San Luis Obispo, increasing the number of clients it can serve. The Counseling Center focuses on a short-term model when treating patients. It consists of about 10 to 15 counseling sessions for individuals with mild to moderate illnesses.

"It's not long-term care, and we're not fostering dependency," Statler said. "We're looking for people to get better, move on, and maybe see them six months later in the community with new skills and a better life."

He said while their program helps individuals with mild mental illness, if someone needs more than just the 10 to 15 sessions, the center refers the individual to an agency that can better assist their needs. The center also serves as a reference point, taking calls or walk-in inquiries. If staff can't help you, they'll point you in the direction of someone who can.

Betty Purify has been volunteering with the center since October 2014. She's now an intern and conducting counseling sessions. Purify said she's happy when she's helping families and couples and can see them learning communication skills, listening to each other, agreeing on goals and creating priorities.

"One day I was downtown just driving, and all of a sudden, this couple jumps out in the middle of the street and just yells, 'Betty, thank you for giving us our life back,' like six months after they completed their counseling session," Purify said.

What really drives her to come in every day are the opportunities she helps give people.

"Everyone is given that opportunity; it doesn't matter. Race, color, income, socioeconomic status—none of that matters," she said.

Purify said that when people walk through the door of the center, they're always treated with respect, and confidentiality is a priority.

"We're in 100 percent support of their goals, but I also let them know that getting here is a big part of achieving those goals," she said.

The Community Counseling Center is not only a safe space for those seeking help with mental illness, it's also a place for people to learn how to help others.

Clinical program manager Sheila Lassegard said the center has about 15 to 20 trainees at any one time. Students from schools like Cal Poly and the Pacifica Graduate Institute come to the center for training or internship experience.

"With full supervision, interns and trainees can work with clients from 2 years old to senior citizens," Lassegard said.

The Community Counseling Center has offices in Paso Robles, Grover Beach, Atascadero, Santa Maria, and Cambria, with its headquarters at 1129 Marsh St. in San Luis Obispo. In August, it will move its SLO office to a therapy center at 676 Pismo St.

To learn more, visit cccslo.org.

Fast fact

San Luis Obispo County library system is now offering passport application acceptance services at its three regional locations: Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, and San Luis Obispo. By appointment only, anyone applying for a passport for the first time can visit one of these locations to submit their application. These library branches are the only San Luis Obispo County facilities to offer passport acceptance services on Saturdays. To schedule an appointment, call the appropriate library branch or visit slolibrary.org to learn more about the service. Δ

Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to strokes@newtimesslo.com.


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