Volunteer counselors help 'stressed-out? seniors

Senior peer counseling free in Placer County
By: Kylea Scott Journal correspondent
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Since 1992 Placer County?s Senior Peer Counseling program has been offering free counseling to Placer County seniors. Trained volunteer counselors are available to provide support and resources to individuals experiencing depression, anxiety, grief, substance abuse, family conflict and caregiver stress, according to Tom Drake, program coordinator. The counseling is provided in-home to any Placer County resident who is 55 or older and has a situation that can be resolved by the volunteer counselors, Drake said. This program was developed in Santa Monica in 1975 and has since been adopted by many other counties in California, according to Drake. The program is supported and funded by the Placer County Health and Human Services Department in Auburn, he said. The counselors complete training programs and are under regular supervision, Drake said. Counselors generally meet with patients weekly to listen, provide emotional support and connect seniors with resources in the community, he added. Drake said the program is there to assist with any issue that a person wants to talk about. However, if the situation is too serious, such as severe mental illnesses or the patient is suicidal, they make referrals where patients can get the help they need. There are no charges for these services and no income screening, according to Drake. ?We see people who have very limited income,? he said. Drake said that most of the client feedback has been very positive. ?People tell us that it has made a big difference in their life, to have someone care about them, listen and help them explore their options,? Drake said. Tom Ricky has been a counselor with the program for 10 years, and his wife Delta Ricky has been counseling for five years. They usually have a few clients at a time, Ricky said. Most of the clients he?s worked with suffer from depression, loneliness, or they?re recovering from a loss of someone close to them, he added. ?We?ve both been retired for some time. Working with this program gives us a way to volunteer and helps us gain an understanding of psychology and senior issues. It helps us keep in touch with what?s going on in that part of our society,? Tom Ricky said. According to Tom Ricky, the program is very well supervised. He said Drake is a key figure, and he supervises all the counselors. The counseling is confidential, Tom Ricky added. ?We are trained to keep confidences, we?re always very careful with that,? Tom Ricky said. According to Drake, counselors complete a training program that is facilitated and supervised by Placer County officials. The training was very personal, Tom Ricky said. ?Most of us had been through a lot of schooling in other areas of our lives, but everything was explained really well, excellent training,? Tom Ricky added. According to Tom Ricky, the training never stops. ?We meet twice a month and talk confidentially about cases. We are constantly being upgraded and updated,? he said. To get involved in the program, or to learn more, contact Tom Drake, program coordinator, at (530) 886-3413.