Counselor strives to connect clients with empowering services
When Tony Long-Drew sees counseling clients in his office at Estacada Assembly of God church, he wants to be sure they feel at ease.
In fact, he refers to them as guests rather than clients to create a more welcoming atmosphere. A bottle of water and a box of tissues are available for each guest, but he doesn't pressure people to use them,
"I've noticed when people walk in this door, within the first 30 seconds I can lay the groundwork for them to feel safe," Long-Drew said. "I don't hand guests the water or the tissues. It's there so they can initiate their needs. My philosophy with tissues is that if someone's crying on the couch ... if I give them a Kleenex (I don't want them to think I'm telling them to) wipe it up and get it together. But having them initiate it gives them the freedom to be who they are."
Long-Drew, a licensed professional counselor intern, has a master's degree in counseling psychology from Northwest University in Kirkland, Wash. He began practicing in Estacada in August and is one of several counselors associated with LifeQuest Northwest, an organization that has clinicians in locations around Oregon and Washington. According to its website, the nonprofit organization "provides low-cost counseling services for those unable to afford full cost counseling rates and co-pays."
Long-Drew's practice, like others associated with LifeQuest Northwest, offers Christian, faith-based counseling — but not all of his clients are religious.
"If they come to me and say 'I don't want to do anything with religion, I want to deal with OCD, I want to deal with trauma, that's what we're going to do," he said. "My agenda is not to ram Christianity down a person's throat. Being in the moment with a person what they're bringing into the room is my agenda."
As a counselor, Long-Drew strives to bring empathy into all of his sessions.
"I have a lot of empathy for brokenness. Not sympathy, but empathy," he said, noting that he is partially sighted and grew up in foster care, which allows him to understand different perspectives and experiences. "In my left eye, there's no eye. I was born with blindness and had to have this eye removed because of complications. My right eye is partially sighted. Not only was I a foster child, but I grew up in the partially sighted world."
Long-Drew typically sees clients dealing with anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, among other concerns. He works with youths and adults, and individuals and couples. He's also interested in helping people who have post traumatic stress disorder, which is one reason why he chose to practice in Estacada.
"When I made the decision to come here was when the tragedy happened at the grocery store," he said, referencing the stabbing that occurred at Harvest Market in May. "I just long to work with PTSD and trauma. I've had some friends who've said, 'I won't go back (to the store).' But you can. You can get your life back."
When working with clients, Long-Drew uses cognitive behavioral therapy, a treatment that focuses on problem solving.
"I say that your thoughts govern your emotions, which govern your behaviors," he said, noting that the process involves reframing the thoughts that are causing a person to have difficulties.
When incorporating faith into sessions, Long-Drew typically draws relevant passages from the Bible.
"I have people with identity issues, or they have low self esteem, so I would bring in the scripture, 'You're fearfully and wonderfully made.' This is what your father in heaven says, what do you think about that?" he said. "(If they say) 'I don't accept that right now,' that's OK."
He noted that he never uses the scriptures to shame his clients.
"Some of my clients have come from that, with religious abuse and shame," he said. "I can empathize with that because of my visual impairments. (People told me) 'Well, maybe you'll be healed if you have enough faith.' And that's not what my God says. If I don't have enough faith, guess what that's imparting to that person? Shame. Because if you don't have enough, you're not doing enough."
He noted that when it comes up during sessions, he strives to "integrate the father as loving, as accepting, as kind."
Long-Drew's counseling services are offered on a sliding scale, with fees as low as $20. He's set it up this way to increase accessibility to therapy.
Typically, he sees clients for 3-6 sessions, though long-term therapy is also available.
"I see clients on a weekly basis. We set goals, we collaborate and we do check ins," he said. "People who see therapists for the rest of their lives, that's their choice, but I really want guests to become autonomous. I welcome long term, but I want them to be going in a direction long term."
Long-Drew enjoys practicing in the small town environment that Estacada offers.
"You can make a big impact in a small way," he said. "The benefits are endless. This specific town is friendly. Everybody knows everybody. In that, there's connectedness."
Though he appreciates it, practicing in a close-knit community has also presented Long-Drew with additional considerations he might not have in a larger city, particularly with client boundaries.
"The complication tends to be seeing the client outside, and they want to talk," Long-Drew said. "I say, 'You know what, it would be great to have an appointment. We'll see you next Tuesday and we'll definitely talk about it.' I have a notepad in my pocket, and I say, 'Let me write it down."
Long-Drew hopes his counseling guests are able to find empowerment during their sessions.
"I love (when guests have) an aha moment," he said. "An aha moment is really stating what she already knew. It's something the person already knew but they heard someone else say it, confirming what they already knew. I love it when someone gets it, and they're empowered."