Stephanie Knott, MA, LPC intern, LCDC, Burke Center Therapist

Poverty and Mental Health

Abstract:  Exploring the role of empathy relating to clients that live at or below the poverty line and how poverty affects mental and physical wellness.

As a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC Intern), I was given the opportunity to come back to East Texas to gain my internship requirements because East Texas is one of the most underserved populations in the mental health field in the state, and the need for therapists and psychiatrists are greatly needed here. My internship is funded by the Episcopal Health Foundation, which partnered with the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas (where I did my graduate studies) to promote employment opportunities in the East Texas areas for counseling graduates from the Seminary of the Southwest to complete internships and provide mental health to underserved populations. After one year of working with such populations in a community mental health setting (Burke), I have noticed the impact that poverty has on the mental and physical wellness of my clients (which includes substance abuse and involvement in the criminal justice system). This experience has allowed me to understand and the importance of empathy when working with those who struggle with poverty. I would like to present a discussion that speaks to professionals and leaders in this very community on the impacts I have observed and how empathy is part of the rapport we build with such individuals that can instill hope and healing.