Social Welfare Community Counseling Program
Social Welfare Community Counseling Program: Project Completion and Reflection
Communities dwelling in rural areas grapple with various c
hallenges posed by mental health conditions.Hence, the need for social welfare community counseling programs within these communities cannot be overemphasized. In particular, in rural areas of Alaska, U.S., the Hispanic communities have limited access to mental health counseling services. However, creating a functional community counseling program can be a daunting task for community counselors. A community counseling program is vital for mental health care advocacy for this population. The program will help in developing and offering mental health care services in areas of gerontopsychiatry, family counseling, and adolescent education. The problem is that many community counselors develop programs without prior needs assessment, involvement of local leaders, lack of a comprehensive plan, inappropriate budgeting, and inadequate knowledge and skills for implementing the program.A detailed summary and reflection on the project shows the experience of creating a mental health counseling program within a Hispanic community in rural Texas.
Summary of the Community Counseling Program Developed
The Community And Social Issues
The community in which I work is a Hispanic community in Madison County, Texas. Madison county forms part of the 7-county region called the Brazos Valley. According to Grimmettet al. (2018), the area has been categorized as a mental health and primary Health Care Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) because the nearest medical facility is not less than 40 miles away for most of the residents. A considerable proportion of residents in the area (30%) have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses (North, 2018). Worse still, approximately 45% reported that they have limited access to the required mental health counseling services given the long distance to the closest hospital.
Over the past decade, Hispanic population in Madison County has been growing steadily, especially in the rural areas. As the population grows, the percentage of the elderly in this community has also increased significantly, thereby putting pressure on homecare services and increasing the burden for home-based caregivers (Korhtet al., 2018). The members of this community are unfamiliar with the mental counseling services available and offered in hospitals. Further, they have demonstrated reluctance in seeking medical assistance due to their distant location from the nearest medical facility. Consequently, most of them have resorted to using alcohol and other substances as a way of coping with their mental health conditions. These activities have plunged many residents into further mental health problems such as hopelessness, depression, stress, anxiety, and trauma (Castillo et al., 2019). These are the major mental health issues that the program sought to address in the identified community.
The Assessment Process
The needs assessment process I developed was a survey approach that was conducted within households. First, defined the goals of the assessment as identifying the mental health challenges. After that I articulated the purpose of the assessment then identified the target population for the assessment of the mental health needs and counseling services (Korhtet al., 2018). The next step involved identifying the type of data that would be collected and how they wouldbe used. I then developed a timeline for the assessment and defined how the findings would be used in the project.
The Community Setting
The community setting is Hispanic community in Madison County, where Hispanic population has been growing steadily, especially in the rural areas. As the population grows, the percentage of the elderly in this community has also increased significantly, thereby putting pressure on homecare services and increasing the burden for home-based caregivers (Korhtet al., 2018). The members of this community are unfamiliar with the mental counseling services available and offered in hospitals. Further, they have demonstrated reluctance in seeking medical assistance due to their distant location from the nearest medical facility. Consequently, most of them have resorted to using alcohol and other substances as a way of coping with their mental health conditions. These activities have plunged many residents into further mental health problems such as hopelessness, depression, stress, anxiety, and trauma (Castillo et al., 2019). These are the major mental health issues that the program sought to address in the identified community.
The Planning, Budgeting Process and Challenges
The planning and budgeting process was important for creating the program. Collaboration and participation of stakeholders was used in the process to determine the human resources, skills and practices, budgetary requirements, and best practices for managing fund for the project (Castillo et al., 2019). One challenge encountered was anxiety and uncertainty from community members who are reluctant to seek counseling services. Also, managing opposition from the mental health system was a problem as the program was perceived as a parallel program to services offered in hospitals. Other challenges were opposition from neighbors, how to initiate a new project to be supported by local leaders, and financial constraints. These challenges will be addressed by increasing advocacy for the community, engaging local leaders more, reaching out to families, seeking donation, and explaining the purpose of the project further.
Therefore, the program was developed to provide family counseling, group counseling, psychotherapy, social support, and education. The program was inspired by the desire to provide counseling to older people and behavioral healthcare solutions to children and adolescents with the aim of improving their lives while strengthening the community (North, 2018). The program is designed to be a compassionate, culturally competent, and responsive service that offers quality mental health and substance abuse service to the community. It focuses on prevention, treatment, education, rehabilitation, and recovery needs of the community.
Then Advertising Tool and Targeted Audience
Advertising strategies will be mainly through a newsletter to the community (Grimmettet al., 2018). The “YOU CAN DO IT” newsletter on alcohol consumption and smoking cessation helped sensitize young people and the community on the dangers of smoking and alcohol intake on mental health. The target audience are both active and passive users of drug and substance, while the target population is the Hispanic community within which the project was developed.
Reflection on the Experience
When beginning to create this project, I was a bit optimistic about making progress. There was no doubt that the Hispanic population in Madison need more mental health counseling services (Korhtet al., 2018). Also, I expected support from the local leadership, the community, the private sector, and government agencies. Additionally, I was hopeful that counseling professionals would volunteer their services and support the noble course. I can report with utmost certainty that the experience of completing this project met my expectation. The community accepted the project after three months of campaign and soliciting with the support of local leaders. The project team I developed was able to identify key cultural competency areas that the staff would be trained on. The support from the community during fundraising was unwavering. The funding support received from well-wishers, donors, and the government was immense. Research has shown that many community counseling projects fail due to lack of support from local communities and key stakeholders in development (Castilloet al., 2019). Although there are a few areas that may require continuous improvement, everyone participated and cooperated adequately.
Worries and Concerns
Projects targeting a specific community are often characterized by worries and concerns. The program was intended to provide mental and behavioral health care services to the Hispanic population in Brazos Valley. The main concern was that members of this community have their perspectives about mental illnesses and ways of addressing them (North, 2018). As such, I was worried about how they would receive professional an evidence-based services that fall outside the purview of their cultural norms. I was also concerned about whether they would support the program and provide land and other resources required for developing it. Resistance to the program occurred and the project team engaged local representative to help explain the benefits of the project and members later supported it fully.
Information, Knowledge and Skills Gained
This project was more of a learning experience than a professional endeavor. It was fulfilling to learn about the beliefs and cultural practices of the Hispanic community. For instance, their approach to mental illness and care for the elderly was very insightful, especially the presence of social support groups. Moreover, I gained social skills, interpersonal and communication skills that every community counselor require to work with minority communities in the U.S. I also acquired analytical, negotiation, planning, budgeting, and managerial skills. After the project, my perspective about the counseling profession changed significantly. It shaped my view regarding counseling advocacy in that I now understand that counseling is about championing and supporting the needs of at-risk populations for mental diseases and drug abuse.
The important takeaway from the project is that community counselors are representatives of people who have lost their voices in the healthcare sector. My future career as a counselor will be on working with communities ravaged by alcohol and substance abuse. Besides, I have learnt that people do not resist social welfare community counseling programs out of thin air. Instead, they have not been made to understand the benefits of community-based counseling initiatives (Lau et al., 2018). Many projects fail because the project managers do not realize the great potential that lie within local communities in rural Texas. Nonetheless, it is vital for future counselors to develop cultural competencies to enable them provide culturally-competent counseling services to the populations (Lammers, Zhang, Povieriena, & Pipe, 2018). I firmly believe that the project was a great success and should be implemented in other parts of the country to help people with mental health needs.
In summary, the project has been a great success. I had many expectations going into the project and most of them were met. Besides, I was concerned about resistance to the project from the community, especially leaders. However, the support I received was overwhelming and I addressed some of their concerns through collaboration with their representatives. The planning and budgeting process was through participation of the community members and key stakeholders in the health sector. Advertising was mainly through newsletter to persuade them of the benefits of the project. As a future counselor, I believe completing the project has equipped me with knowledge and skills to provide culturally-competent counseling to clients.
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Lammers, D., Zhang, Z., Povieriena, I., & Pipe, A. (2018). Students working against tobacco: A novel educational program to improve Canadian medical students’ tobacco counselling skills. Canadian medical education journal, 9(2), e72.