Cohort alumni use graduate school experience to create a therapy group in West Plains
Alumni of the MSU-West Plains therapy cohort are providing important therapy services to their community. The PORCH Therapy Group in West Plains, Missouri brings together six counseling providers to offer counseling services. Dana Fleming, Erin Rigdon, and Audrey Thomas (along with three other licensed counselors) make up the team behind PORCH Therapy Group. The three women studied together within a cohort at MSU-West Plains. After graduating, they based their therapy group from experience gained through this cohort model.
Providing Opportunities for Recovery and Courage for Healing
PORCH stands for Providing Opportunities for Recovery and Courage for Healing.
From the PORCH website: “At the PORCH, we realize that successful treatment begins with a strong therapeutic relationship. Therefore, relationships are our priority. This focus allows clients to feel safe and understood, which is a strong catalyst for progress towards healing and reaching their goals.”
Cohort model important for building a professional and personal support team
In fact, it’s safe to say strong therapeutic relationships are the reason PORCH exists. The therapists who formed PORCH were in the Missouri State Outreach West Plains Master of Science in Counseling program. The key element of the program is the cohort model.
Cohorts are an important teaching modality for programs reliant on human interaction. While coursework can be done online, certain aspects of counseling education benefit from face-to-face interaction. Missouri State Outreach brings the cohort model to students in southeastern Missouri. On the West Plains campus, cohort learning is also available for elementary education. The cohort model makes a strong case for studying in the community where you plan to pursue your professional career. For Audrey Thomas, this was key.
“If I did not receive my education here, I would not have made as many connections as I have in such a short time. I was directly plugged in to the local community. Our cohort was small and intimate and the other three people became like family.”
Dana Fleming echoed, “I think getting to work with two of the people that I went through the whole process with is a testament to how life-changing this cohort was for us. Because of the small cohort size, we got to know each other in a way that is like family now. It is not an easy program and you have to step way outside your comfort zone to be successful. We saw each other succeed and we saw each other fail. A lot. Knowing they went through that with me and they love me despite all the struggle and failures, and now as we move forward into private practice, I know that I will continue to have their love and support. It’s a support and safety net that can only come from experiences like we had in our cohort through the Outreach program.”
The exposure to new ideas was crucial for Erin Rigdon. “I honestly wouldn’t be at The PORCH were it not for my educational experience through the Outreach program. The Outreach program allowed me to broaden my perspectives and find a way to help in our local community.”
How Missouri State prepared the providers
For Fleming, the program helped her focus on her goal for serving clients individually.
“I knew in practicum that I was hooked on meeting one-on-one with clients in a therapy setting and, because it was a program in which we were encouraged to develop a belief system about people and the capacity for change, I was ready to turn that back on myself and not be afraid to branch out and take a chance on private practice.”
The team plays to each other’s strengths. Each provider brings a unique specialty to the group. Collectively, they offer these services:
- Individual Counseling
- Couples Counseling
- Family Counseling
- Play Therapy
- Grief Counseling
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
- Trauma-Informed Counseling
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