By Emily Glory Peters
Therapy. Scorned by some, salvation for others—and inaccessible to many who need it.
Back in 1965, a new counseling center sought to change that. Pasadena Mental Health Center (PMHC) opened its doors with one focus in mind: to put high-quality, affordable therapy within reach of the city’s most vulnerable citizens.
Fast-forward fifty-odd years and the center has since joined forces with Five Acres, an Altadena-based foster and adoption nonprofit whose polestar is permanency (a permanent family) for children in LA.
Therapeutic services for at-risk kids and families have become a key focus for the nonprofit based on evidence that mentally healthy families are much less likely to separate—thus preventing kids from entering foster care. But individuals need help, too.
“At Pasadena Mental Health Center we work with individuals to help you through depression, change-of-life issues, anxiety, trauma—anything that’s affecting you and making it harder for you to live your life,” says Kate McGevna, LMFT, who oversees PMHC.
McGevna served as a therapist in a children’s psychiatric hospital in New York for seven years before making her way west. Now as program supervisor at PMHC, she reaches those who may struggle to get affordable care. The center’s mantra? That no one is turned away.
“PMHC is ‘private pay,’ meaning our clients pay us directly for services. We work on a sliding scale, adjusting the cost based on your income and how many people are in your home,” McGevna explains. “It’s especially helpful for those who don’t have insurance, don’t qualify for Medi-Cal or whose insurance has inadequate mental health care. Our lowest fee is about $20 per hour, but we also have something called a fee reduction, which will reduce a client’s cost until they can afford it.”
The need for affordable, high-quality care the community is great, according to McGevna, who has seen an increase in people calling the center for help. Clients benefit from the center’s array of affordable and free programs, including parenting classes, support for survivors of domestic violence, bilingual therapy, referrals for more extensive therapeutic care and more—but it’s not free to operate.
Some government contracts and private grants help cover the gaps in operating costs, and PMHC has also addressed the spike in demand by becoming an incubator for the next generation of clinicians.
“Each spring we welcome graduate-level interns into an intensive year-long program where they learn exactly what it’s like to be a clinician—how to do an assessment, take notes, adhere to clinical timelines,” says McGevna, noting how many comment on their preparedness to practice once their internship is complete. The therapist and her team also are developing clinical training for the staff that work directly with the foster youth living at Five Acres’ short-term residential therapeutic center in Altadena.
“When you can look at a child through a clinical lens, you can discern not only how to help them cope with their behavior, but why that behavior exists in the first place,” McGevna notes. “Clinical training gives them even more tools to help these kids, and I’m excited to be part of it.”
For individuals served by PMHC, the requests for help continue to grow—which McGevna views as a positive sign that the stigma around mental health is slowly melting away.
“Our work is not about ‘fixing’ people,” she says, “but about being solutions-focused and giving someone an unbiased listening ear.” Neither is therapy limited to the most extreme emotional situations.
“Therapy can help whenever you need someone to talk to: when you’ve gone through a divorce, lost a job, lost a loved one, had a child go off to school—anything,” says McGevna. “ I believe everyone can benefit from therapy.”
Pasadena Mental Health Center is currently located at 1495 N. Lake Avenue in Pasadena and will be moving to a new location nearby in the coming months. To learn more, contact Kate McGevna at firstname.lastname@example.org | www.5acres.org/community-based-specialty-division | (626) 798-0907 and follow along on Facebook and Instagram @fiveacresorg.