Counselors help others find healing, wellness and hope
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. At LCS Northwest, our counseling teams help people heal from trauma, regain wellness and find hope. Last year, we provided 63,349 counseling hours to 4,565 Northwest neighbors in need.
Mustafa Mohammed and Nadia Kolomiyets provide counseling services to refugees and asylum seekers in our Puget Sound office. Mental health conditions are common among people who have experienced violence and persecution and who are separated from their families.
Mustafa has walked in the shoes of his clients. He was a physician in his homeland of Iraq until he was forced to flee as a refugee in 2008. He is a seasoned member of our counseling team with nearly eight years under his belt.
“I understand the agony and struggles my clients are experiencing. I have been there myself and I want to help them heal,” he said.
Fresh out of college with a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Nadia joined the team in January of this year. She immigrated to the US from Ukraine with her family as a child. After trying other career paths, Nadia believes she has found her calling.
“I want to better understand myself and others,” she said. “I like helping people and this feels like the right place for me.”
The counselors agree that working with a culturally diverse population is both rewarding and challenging. Language is a barrier and there are times that counselors must rely on the interpretation skills of others. As a new counselor, Nadia is also learning about how cultural differences impact client behavior. Mustafa, as an experienced counselor, is sometimes frustrated by program requirements and oversight.
Witnessing their clients heal and build new lives is their reward.
“We are saving lives,” Mustafa said. He has helped clients overcome feelings of suicide. He’s watched his clients grow and flourish. He’s seen them become proud American citizens.
“It’s a privilege to be part of their journey,” Nadia added.
Because of COVID-19 concerns, the counseling team conducts their weekly meeting virtually. They discuss cases, share information and try to support each other emotionally. Mustafa acknowledged that he misses in-person interactions with his colleagues. The pandemic has been especially isolating for him. As the caregiver for his sick father, he limits his social contact more than most people do.
Practicing self-care is as important for mental health practitioners as it is for their clients. Nadia focuses on a healthy diet, regular exercise and getting enough sleep. She also stays connected with family, friends and church, reads, and enjoys arts and crafts, as well as various outdoor activities. Mustafa practices breathwork, spends time in his garden and routinely works out at home.
Fun fact about Mustafa: He loves infants! “They are so cuddly,” he said.
Fun fact about Nadia: She loves international travel and has visited 11 countries so far. Morocco and Spain are next on her travel agenda.