2012-11-15 / Community

New counseling center aids patients and aspiring therapists

. Affordable psychotherapy offered on a sliding scale
By Sylvie Belmond


A CARING PLACE—Staff at Caring Place in Calabasas provides counseling services to low-income members of the community while giving pre-licensed therapists the opportunity to compile the hours they need to qualify for the licensing exam. From left, intern Karla Barnett, Caring Place CEO Seth Fenton, and interns Yolande Brizendine and Kellie Sasaki. A CARING PLACE—Staff at Caring Place in Calabasas provides counseling services to low-income members of the community while giving pre-licensed therapists the opportunity to compile the hours they need to qualify for the licensing exam. From left, intern Karla Barnett, Caring Place CEO Seth Fenton, and interns Yolande Brizendine and Kellie Sasaki. A college graduate completing his family therapy license has started a low-cost counseling center in Calabasas.

The nonprofit organization will help low-income patients in need of counseling as well as pre-licensed therapists, who must complete 3,000 hours of internships to earn their psychotherapy credentials from the state.

Seth Fenton, 28, is CEO of Calabasas-based Caring Place Counseling, which offers low-cost services for individuals, couples, families and children under 18.

The mission of Caring Place is to provide affordable psychotherapy to those who are struggling, said Fenton, who earned a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from California Lutheran University.


HISTORY LESSON—Denise McNulty, left, helps Rhonda Kaihara attach a toy zeppelin to a Christmas tree during installation of “An American Christmas” exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Fri., Nov. 9. Twenty-five Christmas trees on display will be decorated in themes covering each decade from 1700 to 2010. The exhibit From Page 20 — will be open from Nov. 17 through Jan. 6. HISTORY LESSON—Denise McNulty, left, helps Rhonda Kaihara attach a toy zeppelin to a Christmas tree during installation of “An American Christmas” exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Fri., Nov. 9. Twenty-five Christmas trees on display will be decorated in themes covering each decade from 1700 to 2010. The exhibit From Page 20 — will be open from Nov. 17 through Jan. 6. Because the therapy practice is also an educational center, interns are supervised by Patricia

Valentine, an experienced educator, counselor and clinical psychologist. Interns receive a split fee, or half of whatever the patient pays for their services.

“The economy is making it extremely hard for interns to get the paperwork required by the state,” Fenton said. “I want therapists to get their hours for licensing and get paid while serving the community.”

Patients at Caring Place pay on a sliding scale based on individual or family income. Potential clients are assessed during a phone discussion and the fee is set.

“We do our best to have everyone pay a fee they can afford,” said Fenton, who previously helped run group therapy sessions with troubled adolescents at Ludington Institute for Family Enrichment in Westlake Village.

He also provided individual therapy for adults and adolescents in conjunction with a family treatment team and participated in presentations on anxiety, drug use and grief at local churches and schools in the Conejo Valley.

“Talking to school counselors, I found out that many students suffer from depression because their parents are struggling or they weren’t able to get into their college of choice even after they studied so hard,” Fenton said.

Many teenagers are turning to drugs. The community was deeply affected by the loss of three young people who took their own lives last year.

“We want to help provide services and help families deal with these situations,” Fenton said.

Caring Place Counseling employs well-trained and altruistic interns who strive to meet the needs of their patients, he said.

Karla Barnett, who recently earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University in Santa Barbara, is one of three interns now working at Caring Place.

“I hope we’ll become a neighborhood counseling center and a varied population will come and get support,” said the Thousand Oaks woman.

Barnett previously interned without pay at a residential treatment center for women in Oxnard. She needs to complete about 1,500 hours of internship to qualify for the state licensing exam. She hopes to start support groups for mothers and teenagers.

Fenton, who lives in Tarzana, said the new practice will fill a range of needs in the community.

The young entrepreneur and therapist is working with a threemember board of directors to oversee the operations of the counseling center. He is also working to establish a client base.

The directors are Jordan Mendler, president and chief technology officer of the Veloz Group, a business development company based in Los Angeles; Melanie Rome, a licensed college counselor; and Elizabeth Ozar, a sociology and women’s studies specialist.

Caring Place doesn’t take insurance, but patients who have coverage can seek reimbursement for the services they receive at the facility.

For more information about Caring Place Counseling, visit www.caringplacecounseling.com or call (818) 457-9563.

West Valley Counseling Center in Tarzana and California Lutheran University’s Community Counseling Centers in Thousand Oaks and Oxnard also provide affordable therapy and family counseling.

Interns at West Valley receive a split fee for their work. The CLU centers allow graduate trainees in the university’s counseling, clinical psychology and doctoral master’s programs to gain experience as they work with patients under supervision by licensed clinicians.

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