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COME ON IN: Executive and Clinical Director Andrea Bishop says there’s not currently a waiting list at the Betty and Bobby Allison Ozarks Counseling Center.
TAWNIE WILSON | SBJ
COME ON IN: Executive and Clinical Director Andrea Bishop says there’s not currently a waiting list at the Betty and Bobby Allison Ozarks Counseling Center.

Business Spotlight: Getting the House in Order

Ozarks Counseling Center a ready option for affordable therapy

Posted online

For anyone versed in the work of Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, the lovely brick building downtown that houses the Betty and Bobby Allison Ozarks Counseling Center could not be a better setting.

As a symbol in dreams, a house to Jung was a metaphor for the dreamer’s personality or psyche. There are doors to open and stairs leading to different levels. There are surface treatments and foundations. There are windows to fling open to let in the sun or let out musty air. Every aspect of the house corresponds to a function of the mind.

The Ozarks Counseling Center at 614 South Ave. occupies the Day House, an 1875-built brick building with a dropped French-style roof and a generous portico painted in sunny yellow. It was built by George Sale Day, the owner of a brickyard and kilns, presumably from his own product. The house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was bought by OCC in 2013, and the practice moved in the following year.

While there can be challenges to operating out of a historic building, such as the loss of two mature trees from the grounds in a recent storm, Andrea Bishop, executive and clinical director of OCC, says it is perfect for their purposes.

“We love it,” she says. “It is so much cozier than the strip mall that we used to be in. People come in and it’s homey and relaxing, so it’s actually an advantage.”

The house is old, but the counseling center has deep roots, too, having been established in 1952 as the Greene County Guidance Clinic. Therapy was very different then, according to Bishop.

“Kids were attended to after school, and at that period of time, a lot of it was about managing behaviors at school and guiding people to career paths that were good for them,” she says. “Over time, it expanded as the field of psychology evolved. There was more of a recognition that we could treat adults, too.”

Today, treatment is provided by a team of professional counselors, clinical psychologists and social workers. Graduate students in counseling staff the phones and are equipped to match a person’s needs with the right caregiver. A social worker may help a person think through problems and sort out options, while a clinical psychologist is geared toward assessment and diagnosis aspects of care, according to Bishop.

“The bottom line is that we have these distinctions as to what fields the therapists have come from, but they’re all doing talk therapy,” she says. “It’s all about meeting people in the moment.”

Affordable care
One important aspect of the care provided by Ozarks Counseling Center, a United Way agency, is that it is designed to be affordable, with a fee schedule to suit the needs of clients. Medicare and Medicaid are accepted.

“Our mission is to provide mental health care services regardless of the client’s ability to pay, so we operate on a sliding scale based on household income and the number of people in the household,” Bishop says. “If they have insurance and we can take that, then we do. But if we can’t, we still offer the sliding fee scale, and it’s generous.”

Even then, if the cost is more than a client can afford, they can apply for a grant to cut the fee down further.

“A lot of times, the sliding fee scale is less than their copay on their insurance,” she says.

OCC accepts patients ages 3 and up, and these days, about a quarter of the nonprofit’s clients are children and adolescents, Bishop says.

The center offers individual, couple, family and group counseling sessions. It also offers mediation and psychological testing services.

One of the center’s offerings is a class for parents who are going through divorce.

“It’s aimed at creating the best outcome for children,” she says. “It’s a very child-focused look at what you can do to make this the easiest experience possible for your child.”

Community focus
OCC is an independent organization with a staff of 30 and a 23-member board of directors.

“Our board members are volunteers from the community who serve with us, and it’s a working board,” Bishop says. “They put on fundraisers for us. We have the Not So Newlywed Game coming up in August and our golf tournament in October.”

Both events – one a good-natured couples competition and the other a four-person golf scramble – are labor intensive, with board members providing most of the muscle.

“They’re not just showing up to meet and greet and scrutinize our policies,” Bishop says. “They really are an active part of making sure that people in this community get the help they need.”

It is through grants, fundraisers and individual donations that the center raises money to pay for its sliding fee scale. According to OCC’s annual report, more than half of the center’s clients are low income, and over the last four years, 49% have reported earning no income at all.

Bishop notes it costs $50 to conduct a session, and unlike most businesses, adding clients does not supplement revenue, but rather creates additional fundraising need. The most common level of pay on the sliding scale is $15 per session, Bishop says.

“That creates a $35 gap between what it costs us and what the person pays – and so we write grants and hold fundraisers and have individual contributors as well,” she says.

Board member Andy Scholz, an attorney with Rooney McBride & Smith LLC, says OCC has faced a lot of challenges in the past three years, including the pandemic.

“They handled it excellently and managed to keep everything going while providing counseling at a time when it was really, really needed,” he says.

He adds that Bishop and her staff do an excellent job.

“Ozarks Counseling Center is run by consummate professionals who are dedicated to the purpose of providing counseling for this area,” he says.

As someone who works in family law and divorce, Scholz says he sees the need for the center’s services.

“In my opinion, we’re at a crisis moment in this community and people are going through family turmoil – especially kids,” he says. “Andrea sets a proper tone, and she understands the system and how it affects families.”

Bishop says at present, there is not a waiting list for the center’s services, and that has not been the case for a while.

“The worst is behind us,” she says. “We pride ourselves on being able to get people in.”

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