Catholic Charities counselors walk with clients navigating tough issues

Responding to the unprecedented events of the past year — a global pandemic, a deadly tornado, and the Dec. 25 downtown explosion — has kept Catholic Charities counselors busier than ever.  

“We’ve had a lot of people reach out who have not had counseling before,” said Kim Morris, LCSW, Clinical Services Director at Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Nashville. “We’re a safe place for people to talk about what they’re going through. We meet clients where they are.” 

Prompted by the stressors of the past year, especially the collective challenges of COVID-19, more people have begun to be open about their mental health. “To ask for help is becoming seen more as a sign of strength instead of weakness,” Morris said, who has worked with Catholic Charities for 16 years.   

“The current events have helped to normalize the fact that we all go through events in our lives that can feel very challenging or overwhelming,” said Morris. Having “a neutral party to partner with can help get us back on a path of stability, healing and success.” 

Stress, anxiety, and depression levels are high right now, and “that can create a perfect storm,” where people are less able to manage strong emotions and think clearly about solving problems, said Morris. And that’s when a counselor can step in and help individuals and families cope. 

Some of the most common topics they help with are:  

  • Decision making and family communication 
  • Crisis and disruptions in daily life 
  • Depression and anxiety 
  • Grief 
  • Isolation 
  • Personal history of abuse 
  • Changes in family structure 
  • Dynamics and effects of chemical dependency 

Right now, Catholic Charities counselors are meeting clients in person as well as scheduling online telehealth sessions or talking over the phone. Catholic Charities counselors are also available for students in eight of the Diocese of Nashville’s Catholic schools. 

One of the watchwords for the counselors is “flexibility,” said Kamrie Reed, LCSW, who works primarily with clients who have experienced trauma.  

“We can help clients prioritize their need wherever they are in their recovery,” she said. “We walk with them through the process.” 

Counselors not only act as a sounding board for clients to talk with but can also help with the logistics of recovery. They can help clients get connected with food and housing resources if they have experienced displacement due to a disaster like the tornado or the downtown explosion.  

“Mental health services are a key component of comprehensive support service models, such as that of Catholic Charities,” said Judy K. Orr, LMSW, executive director of Catholic Charities. 

Reed also emphasized how she and her fellow counselors are available for immediate and long-term assistance. “Trauma isn’t just one and done,” she said. “Things can feel fine and settled, then something comes up and people may need help again.” 

That is especially true around a trauma anniversary, like the upcoming date of March 3, when deadly tornadoes tore through Middle Tennessee last year. “It’s really normal that emotions come up around a trauma anniversary,” Reed said.  

Catholic Charities is planning to mark the tornado anniversary in some way, “to publicly affirm that we have not forgotten those who still need help,” said Orr.  

People who have experienced a trauma event, like the tornado, or more complex trauma over time, such as spousal abuse, “it makes them feel powerless,” Reed said. “We want to empower people.” 

That starts with giving people choices as simple as how and when to speak with a counselor, she said. If it feels too overwhelming for someone to book an hourlong, in-person session, “we can talk on the phone for five minutes,” Reed said. That flexibility in the length and format of counseling sessions can help draw people in who may be reluctant to seek counseling, she added. 

The affordable cost of Catholic Charities’ counseling sessions is also appealing to people new to counseling. Ongoing support from donors is essential to providing “an extremely generous sliding scale,” said Morris, and some clients only have to pay $5 to $20 per session. “We want to make sure anyone who needs counseling has access,” Morris said. 

As the lead agency in Nashville offering case management and counseling to those affected by the Dec. 25 bombing, Catholic Charities has taken on one of its most public roles ever, and more people are becoming familiar with the counseling services it has offered for many years.  

To continue its service to the community, Catholic Charities is hosting free online virtual meetings on Wednesdays, which started Feb. 17, for anyone impacted by the bombing. Therapists will “create safe spaces where survivors of trauma can find support, reflect on their experiences, and begin healing.”  

Each session will take place from 5:30-6:30 p.m. These free sessions are open to anyone via Zoom.  

“Support groups are a really great way to hep normalize what people are going through,” Morris said. She also suggests the following tips to cope with stress and improve mental wellness:  

  • Exercising, especially “whole body movement,” like swimming, dancing, walking or running 
  • Maintain social connections with friends and family, even if it’s online and not in person 
  • Doing something for others: “It gives you a connection to others. It is also both internally rewarding and empowering when you see that you can have a positive impact on the world.” 
  • Limiting news and social media 
  • Practicing mindfulness, being intentional about the present moment 
  • Maintaining routines and rituals, to create a sense of normalcy and safety 

“We really want to help people maintain their mental health at this time rather than being in a lurch,” Reed said.  

More information on Catholic Charities counseling services is available at www.NashvilleStrong2021.org and www.cctenn.org  


Catholic Charities to commemorate tornado anniversary with art 

Catholic Charities invites the Nashville community to reflect on their Pathway to Recovery on the one-year anniversary of the tornados of 2020.  

On March 3, 2021, from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. three locations spread throughout the community will provide an art canvas for survivors to create, express, and reflect on their experience. Each of these sites is located in a neighborhood that was heavily damaged by the tornado. 

Catholic Charities counselors will be available that day to offer assistance. 

Locations include: 

  • McGruder Family Resource Center, 2013 25th Ave. N., Nashville, 37208 
  • East Park Community Center, 600 Woodland St., Nashville 37206 
  • St. John’s Lutheran Church, 3259 McGavock Pk., Nashville, 37214 

After March 3, the canvases from each location will be brought together to create a central work of art for the community. The art will be displayed at various locations throughout the month of March. 

For more information call 615-352-3087

For Lent, ask if one’s life is centered on God or oneself, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Lent is a time to reconsider the path one is taking in life and to finally answer God’s invitation to return to him with one’s whole heart, Pope Francis said.

“Lent is not just about the little sacrifices we make, but about discerning where our hearts are directed,” he said, “toward God or toward myself?”

The pope’s remarks came in his homily at Mass Feb. 17 for Ash Wednesday, which included the blessing and distribution ashes, marking the beginning of Lent for Latin-rite Catholics.

Because of ongoing measures in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the Mass and distribution of ashes took place with a congregation of little more than 100 people at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis did not do the traditional walk from the Church of St. Anselm to the Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill to prevent large crowds of people from gathering along the route.

In St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope received ashes on his head from Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the basilica, and he distributed ashes to about three dozen cardinals, as well as the priests and deacons assisting him at the Mass.

In his homily, the pope said one must bow to receive ashes sprinkled on the crown of the head, which reflects the “humble descent” one makes in reflecting on one’s life, sins and relationship with God.

“Lent is a journey of return to God,” especially when most people live each day ignoring or delaying their response to God’s invitation to pray and do something for others.

“It is a time to reconsider the path we are taking, to find the route that leads us home and to rediscover our profound relationship with God, on whom everything depends,” he said.

“The journey of Lent is an exodus from slavery to freedom,” he said, noting the easy temptations along that journey, including yearning for the past, or hindered by “unhealthy attachments, held back by the seductive snares of our sins, by the false security of money and appearances, by the paralysis of our discontents. To embark on this journey, we have to unmask these illusions.”

The way back to God, he said, starts with understanding, like the prodigal son, how “we have ended up with empty hands and an unhappy heart” after squandering God’s gifts “on paltry things, and then with seeking God’s forgiveness through confession.

The pope again reminded confessors that they must be like the father in the story of the prodigal son and not use “a whip,” but open their arms in a welcoming embrace.

“The journey is not based on our own strength. Heartfelt conversion, with the deeds and practices that express it, is possible only if it begins with the primacy of God’s work” and through his grace, the pope said.

What makes people just is not the righteousness they show off to others, “but our sincere relationship with the Father,” after finally recognizing one is not self-sufficient, but in great need of him, his mercy and grace.

The pope asked people to contemplate daily the crucified Christ and see in his wounds, “our emptiness, our shortcomings, the wounds of our sin and all the hurt we have experienced.”

“We see clearly that God points his finger at no one, but rather opens his arms to embrace us,” he said.

It is in life’s most painful wounds, that God awaits with his infinite mercy because it is there “where we are most vulnerable, where we feel the most shame” and where he comes to meet his children again.

“And now,” the pope said, “he invites us to return to him, to rediscover the joy of being loved.”