Tiny Stress Ball {Capital Area Counseling}

A Local, Affordable Option When Life Throws a Curveball

Words by Xander Peters  Photos by Eric Morales

Life happens sometimes. As fortunate as it is unfortunate, it’s not a finessed fairytale way of looking at things. But it’s an excuse often used in the interim. Like how a strong gust of wind can push a home run ball into the dead center of a foul post, at times the path traveled can go awry, and one finds themselves at the mercy of the elements.

For some, it can turn into a blame game – blame it on timing, blame it on bad luck, blame it on the political climate, blame it on the noisy neighbors upstairs. Others hold this vast, ugly, lovely, charming world responsible for their problems.  For others, it creates an urge to open up—an urge to talk about it, and more often than not, to seek professional help.

The ups and downs and all around, these facts of life are all too familiar for someone like Ruslyn Smith, an executive director with Capital Area Counseling (CAC for short), a local mental health center that offers affordable, accessible mental health services. Unique in its own way, the center prides itself on how the majority of its therapists are post-graduates (who are supervised CAC staff), as well as its no-session-limit policy and income-based fees. In more than 30 years of operation, the CAC has acted as a sort of emotional lifeline for adults, children, couples and families alike, accumulating more than 18,000 sessions last year alone.

Sitting in her office, Ruslyn grabs a tiny stress ball and rolls it around her right palm. It’s the same kind as what CAC therapists give to clients. “It creates an environment,” she explains, referring to how the therapists-in-training provide a certain level of enthusiasm in their work. “Where we’re all working together, and our whole focus is on how to be the best we can be so that we can give our clients the best service that we can give.”

“This is their life’s work. [The therapists] want to help people and support people in finding the best they can, or being who they want to be, or finding a way to get unstuck and metabolize things that have happened,” she continues. “I would say the upside to our therapists is they may not be as experienced, but what they’re getting in school right now is cutting edge. And they feel this is who they’re meant to be in this world.”

Not everyone is a candidate for therapy, of course. Ruslyn is the first to admit how some individuals may find their solace elsewhere, like in nature or going for a long drive, while others prefer gardening or a interesting book, or any number of creative or meditational ways to cope. One-size fits all doesn’t apply to bettering one’s mental health, just like how when life happens it doesn’t always happen in the same way for everyone. But if, and when, it does – “We accept you with open arms,” Ruslyn says as her grip around the stress ball relaxes.

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