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Turning education into action

Counseling student segways college career training, helps break stigma of mental health in Bulloch County 

Taylor Folsom is pictured welcoming the families to the fist Communities in Action workshop.

Graduate student Joseph Folsom takes a full load of classes, works as a graduate assistant for Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation’s student leadership program and is completing an internship at Bulloch Counseling Center. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the workload, Folsom is exhilarated and eager to help others with what he’s learned.

“Not only are these invaluable experiences, but I am enjoying it,” said Folsom. “Right now, I’m working toward becoming a counselor who can work with a variety of client populations and their related needs. And I am getting experience working with career readiness for high school students at Gulfstream and the general public with an array of needs at Bulloch Counseling.”

A clinical mental health student in the M.Ed. Counselor Education program at Georgia Southern University, Folsom recently used the training and preparation of his studies at Georgia Southern’s College of Education, as well as his assistantship and internship experiences, to help create a new opportunity for Bulloch County students and parents.

“In the past Bulloch Counseling has done open, broad events,” explained Folsom. “I took their scheme and narrowed it. This event gave us an opportunity to really focus on the needs of students and parents in the community.”

In collaboration with the administration at Bulloch Counseling Center, his faculty mentor Kristen Dickens, Ph.D., and fellow counseling classmates, Folsom created the Communities In Action (CIA) series, which will be held quarterly for the public. The first workshop of the series was hosted January 25 for children ages six to nine along with their parents or guardians.

“Joseph approached me and the student leaders of our academic honor society, Chi Sigma Iota, to help put together a philanthropic event for the community,” said Dickens. “We worked together to develop a plan for the event and solicited volunteers through the counselor program and service organization. I supported his efforts by helping with initial steps and mentoring him through the process, but he really took charge and made this event a great success.” 

The inaugural CIA event provided separate workshop experiences for the children and adults. The kids participated in several mindfulness activities to assist with anxiety, stress, concentration and overall health. Adults attended a session on active listening, hosted by Folsom.

CIA Workshop Volunteers

“We talked about the types of responses we get from children and how our active listening can help us to get the responses we would like to have,” said Folsom. “Active listening, giving your full attention and physically being present with your child are basic counseling skills. Not only are you speaking back to them, but you are looking at them, not a device, and demonstrating that with actions such as verbal response, eye contact and leaning in.”

Folsom offered the example of telling a child to clean their room.

“Instead of making a general statement like, ‘go clean your room,’ concisely tell them what to do,” explained Folsom. “Tell them more specific expectations such as, ‘fold your clothes and put them in the dresser.’ Tell them what is not correct or what they are doing that you expect to see differently. Sometimes we think we are being clear, when we really are not.”

Folsom also expressed the importance of letting the community know what services the Bulloch Counseling Center offers and helping them have some insight as to what counseling can look like.

“CIA gives the community a glimpse of what mental health workers do outside of the stigma of talking about depression or anxiety,” he explained. “We also assist with family-building skills that we could all use. This place is not only for mental health diagnosis.”

Thanks to a grant received by the Bulloch Counseling Center, Folsom is able to provide the CIA events free of charge and provide incentives for families that participate. For the first event, adults received a $25 Walmart gift card, and the children were able to take home materials from the activities they participated in during their workshop.

“Larger communities have more of these types of events going on,” said Folsom. “This community doesn’t see a lot of this. Sometimes people are not as willing to say they will participate, but I hope that will change.”

Folsom says it is thanks to the work he is doing at Gulfstream and the Bulloch Counseling Center that he has a clear path for his future. 

“It wasn’t until after I started the counselor education program that I realized it was the counseling aspect that I was looking for,” said Folsom. “I started learning the counseling techniques, and I realized this is it. I enjoy being able to help people know themselves just by reflecting back on what they are telling me.”

When Folsom completes his degree this summer, he hopes to continue working at Bulloch Counseling Center to complete his counselor licensure. 

“One thing I want to do is open a community-based clinic,” Folsom said. “Private practice has its limitations. Practicing community health has allowed me to help a wide range of people. I cannot express how rewarding it is to have someone come in and I am able to give them the help they needed. Many of these individuals did not think that help would ever be available to them. They thought they were going to have to live with the difficulties they were facing. But I am there to show them that it can get better.” 

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