PYM’s Friends Counseling Service (FCS) brings forward a spiritually sensitive, clinical expertise to care for the mental health and wellness of individuals in the wider Quaker community.
Janaki Spickard Keeler was recently appointed as the FCS Coordinator. As part of her daily job, she interacts with local Quaker communities, supports present counselors, recruits new counselors, helps promote the service, and attends events throughout the yearly meeting to speak on matters related to mental health and wellness.
Here is our conversation with Janaki about FCS and the services they provide:
As the FCS coordinator, how would you define and characterize the importance of counseling services?
We are living in a time of heightened anxiety and grief. As both a therapist and a Quaker, I believe that it’s important that we feel these emotions fully — and not get stuck in them or hide from them. Part of what we’re called to do as Quakers is to build the beloved community here on earth. Along the way, we may need help working out personal issues that are blocking us from living our most authentic lives and doing the individual and collective work we’re called to. Friends Counseling Service offers spiritually sensitive psychotherapy and consultation to help overcome the challenges our members and meetings face.
Tell us more about the services provided by counseling services at PYM. Can you tell us how a person or a meeting pastoral care committee who wishes to secure counseling help would go about doing it? How would they choose a therapist? What does that process look like?
Friends Counseling Service offers psychological services to members and attenders of PYM meetings. We provide individual psychotherapy, couples counseling, and family therapy across a range of mental health concerns, including substance abuse.
Our therapists are active members of PYM, and we are committed to providing financial assistance to those who need it. Each therapist has their own area of expertise, so individuals and meetings can reach out to the Friends Counseling Service Coordinator — that’s me — to match them to the clinician who can best meet their needs. Or they can take a look at the counselors’ biographies and request the person who seems like the best fit. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-241-7019.
With COVID affecting everybody in the world, the need for such services is more imperative than anything else. Can you share how the community as a whole can make use of the services? Would an individual need to go through their meeting? Do groups, like care and counsel, access the therapists to provide expert advice in tough situations?
Currently, all of our clinicians are seeing people via telemedicine. While there are new challenges in moving online, it means that community members who don’t live near one of our counselors can now access services. Services are strictly confidential, and individuals don’t need to go through their meeting. Some meetings subsidize the financial aid FCS provides to their members and attenders, but no names are released to the meeting. Meeting pastoral care committee members also approach us for advice when they are having challenges relating to a member or attender’s mental health needs, or challenges around pastoral care or elder-ship in the meeting. We are available for consultation, and sometimes we do workshops for a meeting’s committee or the whole meeting.
How do you typically reach out/engage with the community? What do you think the community needs more of?
Friends Counseling Service provides workshops as part of the Ministry and Care Thread Gatherings. For example, in March, we held a Thread Gathering on Trauma and Healing on how meetings can support the Quaker tradition of elder-ship as it relates to the mental health, conflict in meeting, and the wellness of individuals and community.
We also offer other supportive workshops such as the current 5-week free online series on mindfulness meditation.
We give our thanks to Janaki (and Ken Brick before her) for taking on this important position in the Quaker community! Many meetings and other local Quaker communities have come to rely on this service in the course of ensuring safe, vibrant, whole, and healthy spiritual homes for all.
To learn more about FCS: Contact George Schaefer, Care & Aging Coordinator, with any questions or concerns — pym.org/contacts.