MANKATO — Families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing have a new mental health therapy option in the Mankato area.
Therapeutic Services Agency, based in east-central Minnesota, has been providing mental health services for 42 years. A state grant allowed the organization to expand its services into northern Minnesota four years ago.
Now another state grant paved the way for the organization to expand into the Mankato area this year.
Also known as TSA, the organization brought in mental health practitioner Chad Richardson to cover southwest and south-central Minnesota. Through an interpreter, he said he could work with as many as 15 clients and is trying to connect with families who have children or teens in need.
Richardson has a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and previously worked with adults both individually and in groups at a deaf mental health center in Chicago. TSA hired him in February just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Minnesota.
The goal for expanding into southern Minnesota is to provide culturally affirmative therapy, which takes into account how deafness and hearing loss creates a different set of circumstances for the young people experiencing it, said Jacqlyn Davoll, TSA’s program manager. Having a therapist like Richardson who knows ASL, she added, could be more effective for some young people than having a mental health therapist who needs an interpreter to work with them.
“It’s not that the general therapist is bad or incompetent, but they don’t have the same awareness and understanding of the implications of hearing loss and what it does to a kid’s development, language development and social skills,” she said. “In southwest and south-central Minnesota, they just have not had this specialized service available to them; we’re trying to let them know we’re here.”
Many of TSA’s referrals come from teachers, as they’re sometimes the first to notice behavioral or mental health issues among students. With an uncertain school year ahead, Davoll said getting the word out to families about the new therapy option has been a challenge.
TSA’s therapists provide their services in school settings, with therapists traveling from school to school rather than clients coming to an office. The COVID-19 pandemic meant a shift to more telehealth, which Davoll said is more difficult for younger clients.
“A lot of therapy for children is playing, acting out with puppets and hands-on,” she said. “Therapists are working hard with clients and families to adapt therapy goals.”
Face-to-face therapy has since started up again, although a mix of in-person and virtual therapy will remain in place.
Richardson encouraged families in need to reach out to TSA’s program manager at 218-343-6196 or firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the waitlist for therapy.
For more information on TSA, check out www.hoperealized.com.