Women’s Center Brings Healing
For more than 20 years, Tammy LeFils, 45, of Jacksonville, went through life feeling like a doormat for the abusive men in her life. Then, in 2012, Tammy’s father died, and, at the same time, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Realizing she needed help, Tammy enrolled in the counseling program at The Women’s Center of Jacksonville. Almost immediately, counseling helped Tammy release the emotions that she locked away during decades of abuse. Within days of her first session, she started painting, and it has become her passion, as well as a tool for working toward an inspiring future. “I was lost when I arrived at the center,” says Tammy, beaming with pride after selling six of her works at a recent local art show. “Counseling was my light through it all. Now I want to help other women use art as therapy.”
More than 400 women each year receive counseling from The Women’s Center, and many experience transformations like Tammy’s, says Lori Beard, her counselor. “We listen, and we remind our clients of their strengths,” Ms. Beard says. “We help them identify goals for their lives and paths toward their goals.”
“Most of our clients don’t have insurance or funds to pay for their care, so we’re especially dependent on grants and philanthropy,” says the center’s director of counseling, Jan Gallagher, LMHC. “With Baptist’s support, we’ve moved a part-time counselor to full-time, which makes a big difference in our ability to help more women.”
That addition may be especially powerful now, as more women are recognizing the benefits of counseling. “A mental health injury is just like a physical wound,” says Ms. Beard. “It requires treatment, and treatment can heal. More women are realizing that now, and, like Tammy, they’re choosing help, not silence.”