Diveristy in Friendship
by Antone R.E. Pierucci
First it was the weight of isolation. Then it was the stress of reentry. All along, there has been the strain of living with fear and loss, inside a pressure cooker of change. Now, the effects are catching up with everyone. “The pandemic has impacted all of us differently, but no one’s been spared,” says Masonic Center for Youth and Families marriage and family therapist Kimberly Rich. “We all need emotional support right now.”
When Rich says “we all,” she really does mean everyone. As executive director of the Masonic Center for Youth and Families, she’s seen people at every stage of life struggle with the challenges of life in the pandemic. At MCYAF, Rich and her team work with children as young as 4 and seniors in their 90s, as well as everything in between: adults, families, and teenagers.
That may come as a surprise to some Masons. In fact, a common misconception is that the organization focuses exclusively on young people.
Masonic Counseling for All Ages
It’s true that MCYAF does specialize in supporting kids, teens, and young adults with psychological and behavioral challenges. And the center employs specially trained clinicians skilled at working with school kids to overcome academic difficulties. But it also offers a full range of services for adults, too. For instance, MCYAF provides individual and couples therapy, along with family therapy, for people of all ages.
That includes seniors. As of this year, each campus of the Masonic Homes of California has a full-time mental health clinician on staff.
That means that MCYAF is available to help just about anyone, anytime, with challenges like anxiety, stress, burnout, and depression. In addition to that, MYCAF helps couples keep their relationships healthy. They help families cope with change. And they help kids and teens manage the extraordinary challenges of growing up in the 2020s. These services are completely confidential and available virtually as well as in person. No one is turned away based on their ability to pay, and anyone with a Masonic affiliation receives a discount. (Additionally, MCYAF is now Medicare certified.)
“We’re here to go through the heaviness of life with you,” says Jodi Mikel, the center’s program manager.
In MCYAF, a Benefit Hiding in Plain Sight
In MCYAF, California Masons have an extraordinary resource at their disposal—and one that Mikel wants to see put to even greater use.
Elsewhere, counseling and mental health services can be hard to come by or prohibitively expensive. Especially since the pandemic began, several community-run mental health programs are filled beyond capacity, and private-practice therapists have in many cases stopped accepting insurance. The cost of a single session can be shockingly expensive. Then again, many people never get that far. “At most places,” Rich says, “the wait lists are outrageous.”
That’s not the case at MCYAF.
“We never turn a Mason or their family member away,” Rich says. “No matter how full we are, we will find a way. We will be here for you.”
Nothing Too Small for Emotional Support
A person or family doesn’t need to be in the midst of a full-blown crisis to call, either. That’s why Mikel stresses that it’s OK to reach out even for problems you might be tempted to dismiss as too minor for the professionals. “I think a common misconception is that people need to stay in therapy for years,” she says. “Short-term support allows people to check in as needed to navigate a specific challenge.”
Rich agrees. “Problems tend to get smaller after therapy,” she says. “Sometimes you need another person, a professional, to help you sort it out. Some of us are still dealing with feelings of loneliness and isolation from the pandemic. Other folks are anxious or depressed. But we’re here for all needs, great and small. We know how to help.”
Over the past two years, more and more Masons and their loved ones have tapped into that help. Time and again, Rich, Mikel, and the rest of the MCYAF team hear a common refrain: “I wish I knew about you sooner.”
Now, they’re on a mission to change that.
“It’s really important that every Mason knows they have this invaluable resource waiting for them,” Rich says. “Life has a lot of ups and downs. You never know what’s going to happen around the bend. You may not need us now. But in case you need us in the future, you should know we’re here.”
We’re Here to Help
RELIEF FOR CALIFORNIA MASONS AND THEIR FAMILIES
- Information and referrals
- Senior communities in Covina and Union City
- Statewide Masonic Outreach Services for members of all ages and their families
- Transitions short-term care for neurological and post-surgical rehabilitation (Union City)
- The Masonic Center for Youth and Families in San Francisco and Covina – with telehealth services now available everywhere
- NEW! Shared housing for seniors in Covina
Contact us today to access your member benefits and services:
(877) 488-6293 (San Francisco)
(626) 251-2300 (Covina)
More from this issue:
A history-spanning, forward-looking celebration of the fraternal and cultural connections between California and Mexican Freemasonry.