Samaritan Counseling Center in Port Arthur offers unique counseling for kids, adults

Published 12:28 am Friday, January 7, 2022

Being greeted by Foster is almost an instant spirit lift when entering Samaritan Counseling Center of Southeast Texas — if you’re a dog person, that is. But the almost-2-year-old therapy dog that roams the office on Anchor Drive isn’t just for the staff, but also for the patients.

“There’s a client who comes who absolutely loves Foster,” said Executive Director Robin McCutcheon, who also cares for the animal after hours. “I know if I’m not going to be here on Wednesday mornings, Foster has to be here because this particular client just opens up when he’s here.”

McCutcheon acknowledged that isn’t the best route for everyone, but said it essentially illustrates the point of the office.

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“Nothing here is for everybody,” she said. “But I’m willing to bring as many opportunities to the center that allow even just one client to make progress.”

Samaritan Counseling Center was one of 13 non-profits that, in November, received grants from the Port Arthur News Season of Giving powered by Port Arthur LNG. The application was for funds to purchase electronic devices to help with video therapy, particularly for adolescents and protection during COVID surges.

But the use of electronics to conduct sessions has proven to be so beneficial, it is now part of the services officered.

“We have a mom who sometimes has her appointment when she is in the dance pickup line. She drops the kid off at dance, she hops on for her 45 minutes, and it’s not an hour and a half by the time you leave your office, get to your appointment, get back to where you’re going to,” McCutcheon said. “Or you do get sick — even if it’s just the Southeast Texas crud — you can call and say, ‘I can’t come to my face-to-face but can we talk on Zoom?’ And they just hop on.”

Samaritan Counseling Center, founded in 1984, serves ages 5 and up with various counseling needs.

McCutcheon said the staff of 26 does not write prescriptions, but instead works as a “basic behavioral mental health counseling therapy service. Our mission is meeting your needs — your mental, physical, spiritual health — in a way that brings healing to you.”

One of the newer ways the center has been reaching those that might need help is through a grant-funded program in Nederland, Port Neches-Groves and Hamshire-Fannett high schools. The wellness program allows case managers to go into the schools and screen for depression, anxiety, suicide ideation or home needs such as whether or not the child has electricity in the home.

And if needed, therapy sessions are offered to students in need.

The program, which began three years ago, ends after the next school year. However, McCutcheon said the districts are working to see which parts of the program they want to keep and then fund through school finances.

“And that was the intent — was that we would fund it through grant funding so that we could establish what the work is and what the school districts need,” she said. “Because each school district may need something different.”

Nederland High School counselors Chi Tran, Sara Hooks and Emily Allport said Samaritan Counseling Center has screened more than 275 students in grades ninth through 11th.

“Through this process, they were able to identify students who were in need of counseling or in crisis,” the counselors said in a joint statement to Port Arthur Newsmedia. “They are very thorough with following through with students. If there is a crisis, the Samaritan counselor makes it a top priority to visit with the student on campus. Samaritan has been a great asset to our school counseling program.”

A case manager visits the campus twice a week, and a licensed professional counselor visits once a week to work with students identified as high-risk.

And those who worked with a Samaritan counselor through the school year were able to continue support at the center through the summer.

“Rather than referring students to outside resources, we are able to directly link students to much-needed resources here on campus,” the counselors said. “Samaritan provides flexibility by servicing our students both at school and outside of school at their office. In addition to counseling services, they also gave ten of our students’ food bags to take home during the Christmas holidays. We look forward to continuing this partnership.”

But the center also has resources to cater to younger children.

One is the playroom, where there’s a sand box and a variety of characters that children can use to express their emotions. The room is filled with toys, art and a child-like atmosphere.

“It’s a great space for them to come because it doesn’t have a doctor’s office feel. It has a play feel,” McCutcheon said. “Our clinicians receive training in play therapy and so they’re able to come and use this space. Like with a sand tray, children can tell a story and the clinician will prompt them with certain questions, like, ‘can you find something on the shelf that shows anger?’”

The executive director said all of their therapists specialize in different methods, such as painting or puppets. One is even trained to work with LEGO bricks as a therapy tool.

Other clinical rooms offer small sandboxes or handheld games for adolescents or adults to play with if they find it soothing.

McCutcheon said Samaritan Counseling Center works with patients regardless of insurance status.

“We don’t turn anyone away,” she said.

For more information, call 409-727-6400.