Economically depressed people absent from psychologist’s offices

By Gus Bode

Carbondale-based counselors and psychologists said Tuesday they have not treated patients facing economic hardship, which contrasts national trends.

An increasing number of Americans have sought counseling to treat depression caused by the economic recession, according to a report in USA Today. But Carbondale Psychologist Monika Plumb said she has yet to treat someone troubled by the economy.

Plumb, who runs a psychology practice with her husband, said people in need of counseling may not be coming in for a session because they do not have enough money to pay for treatment.

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Psychologist Frank Kosmicki said he agrees.

‘What makes it difficult for people in psychology is it’s a double-edged sword,’ he said. ‘People in stressful situations are more likely to have less money.’

Though most of his clients have health insurance, Kosmicki has made other financial arrangements with patients who are strapped for cash so they can continue to get the treatment they need, he said.

While Carbondale counselors have not seen an increase of patients with economic stress, the SIUC Counseling Center has to treat roughly 1,900 students despite employing only seven counselors.

Rosemary Simmons, director of the center, said more students are seeking help and the economic recession has been one of the main concerns for new patients.

Michael Althoff, also a Carbondale psychologist, said his clients during the past 30 years have not come to him naming financial concerns as their biggest problem. He said clients usually list economic hardship as a secondary concern.

The Rev. Bob Gray of Our Savior Lutheran Church said people have come in to talk with him about their money troubles. In some cases, Gray has assisted them with drafting a budget, he said.

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Gray said people tend to confuse what they need and what they want. A person’s need for warm shelter and food does not mean they should own their own house and go out to dinner most nights of the week, he said.

Gray, who also serves as chaplain for the SIUC and Carbondale Police Departments, said he has not seen an increase in suicide and hopes people do not come to that point in their minds.

‘We don’t like it when life is out of our control,’ Gray said. ‘We look for hope, and many find it in the church.’

Karen Freitag, executive director of the Southern Illinois Regional Social Services, said people may have to wait to get counseling from her agency’s psychologists because of the center’s own economic hardship.

Freitag said SIRSS, which receives most of its funding from the state government, is limited to one full-time counselor because of budget cuts. Though patients with more serious mental illnesses are still able to receive counseling, other clients may not be so lucky, she said.

‘We may not be able to help them,’ Freitag said. ‘They may need to go to another place because of the number of counselors we have.’

Freitag said some patients are referred to the university’s counseling center, which employs half the number of recommended counselors.

Reporter Kathleen Richards contributed to this report.

Daily Egyptian Barton Lorimor can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 263 or [email protected]

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