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Caring For Grove Park By Valuing Mental Health

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

A few years ago, Christie Pettit was passionate about empowering individuals in the neighborhood of Grove Park in Atlanta by providing counseling services to leaders in the community. What started out as an open support group that primarily consisted of PAWKids staff members has now transformed into a counseling service that is reaching men, women, parents, and leaders across the Grove Park neighborhood. PAWKids Counseling Services has seven licensed therapists that allocate a portion of their time each week to facilitating group sessions and individual sessions with people across the community. Keep reading to hear more from Christie about the growth, vision, and prayers for this ministry!

Christie, can you share a little more about what flipped the switch and caused this program to expand to include more therapists and assist more community members?

There was an ongoing conversation between me, Kevin Morton, and LaTonya Gates about how we could support PAWKids through Christian counseling services. This fall, PAWKids received funding from a private donor that was specifically allocated for counseling services. With the funding, we were able to carefully recruit therapists that had existing connections within the community. There are group sessions with different focus areas that take place on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. With this donation, we are able to pay therapists their normal rates while making counseling free to those who typically would not have the funds to pay for it on their own. These therapists are balancing their own private practices with the time they are allocating towards PAWKids services.

How is word spreading about PAWKids counseling services?

Primarily, people in the community are hearing about counseling services through word of mouth. Since many community leaders have started to participate in counseling sessions and have benefited from faith-based therapy, they are able to use their own stories to encourage people to begin their journey with counseling. Throughout COVID, there has been an increased awareness of the importance of mental health, especially in the Grove Park community. Generally, people begin by attending a group session and eventually may choose to start individual counseling. In addition, there is an inquiry link on our website for those interested in counseling. Richmont Graduate University granted approval for students to attain their required hours at PAWKids Counseling Services. There is currently a Richmont student who is obtaining her observed hours at this center.

What is your vision for this program?

My hope is that we can continue to address needs as they arise, one step at a time. We have seen so much growth in the last couple months and are prayerful that these services can continue to be supported. Rather than recruiting many therapists to provide their services, we want to work specifically with individuals who have connections in the community and are doing the work needed to appreciate the people of Grove Park. In the future, we hope this program is self-sustaining and can continue to grow and support the needs of the neighborhood. In addition, we want to equip volunteers and leaders to truly support Grove Park. We will be facilitating monthly training sessions that provide insight into how volunteers can support the community in healthy ways. This includes sessions on body language, cultural awareness, and trauma.

What moments have sparked your passion for the work being done through PAWKids counseling services?

One of the most powerful things about the work being done at PAWKids is that people in the Grove Park community are able to walk through therapy with individuals that look like them and understand the neighborhood they are coming from. Rather than sending new people in to help, there are counselors who are already engrained in the community and committed to helping it grow. There have been stories of transformation that occur in unexpected ways. As one individual stated "the energy of the room" during a group therapy session is simply incredible. We all desire to connect, be known, and to have a safe place to foster community. I am continually humbled to have the pleasure of working with people across Grove Park.

How can people continue to be involved in PAWKids counseling services?

For those looking to learn more about PAWKids counseling services, there will be more information available on the website soon. We would ask for prayer that the community will continue to have an openness to care and that there would be additional funding so that we can continue carrying out these services. In addition, please attend the training sessions taking place at Atlanta Westside Presbyterian Church and encourage others to do so as well. If you would like to donate, you can donate to PAWKids and note to allocate the money towards counseling services.

We are so thankful for the therapists that are dedicating their time to provide counseling services to the people of Grove Park. Prioritizing mental health is critical. In low-income communities, there is typically little access to therapy.

Please pray for PAWKids counseling services as we continue to reach more people across the Grove Park community.

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