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Celebrating Pride: Seattle Counseling Service

Equitable access to affordable mental health resources and programs is a problem that significantly impacts marginalized communities. As the oldest LGBTQ focused mental health agency in the world, Seattle Counseling Service provides mental health and wellness services as well as offers an array of programs focused on substance use, harm reduction, HIV prevention and education, resources for immigrants, refugees, and undocumented individuals, and peer-led support groups. Their community based approach to healthcare builds community and trust for their clients.  

We recently checked in with Al Guerra, Executive Assistant at Seattle Counseling Service, to learn more about their work. See excerpts from our interview below: 

Tell us a little bit about the history of Seattle Counseling Service. 

Seattle Counseling Service (SCS) was founded in 1969 and started off as what was then known as The Dorian Society. Its first space was known as the Dorian House. Since our founding, we’ve prioritized offering high quality mental health services at little to no cost to the low income LGBTQIA+ community. This hasn’t changed as time has passed and we are honored to do this work. 

What  programs and services do you offer? 

We have counselors, peer specialists, and medical service providers on staff. As such, our services range from mental health services, access to resources (housing, food, jobs, etc), and medication management. 

Why is Seattle Counseling Service so important to the LGBTQ communities of Seattle? 

We like to think we are pretty significant, and we try our best to evolve alongside the needs of the community we serve. We understand the space we provide for our community is important and one of the few in the area. We’ve been around for over 50 years and we owe our success to our clients, staff, community partners, and those whose unwavering support has helped us be able to provide the plethora of services we provide today. 

Mental Health awareness is a topic of conversation nationally. Do you feel like government is doing enough to provide resources?   

We are thrilled that the conversation is moving toward normalizing seeking mental health services. It is a good start, and we hope to see this change lead to the various administrations allocating more resources toward community behavioral health centers. 

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your health center? 

Logistically, it delayed our relocation from Capitol Hill to Belltown because of the pause on construction services during the beginning of the pandemic. On the other side of things, it also led to an increase in demand for services. We had to adapt and pivot our services to be telehealth based rather than in-person. 

What type of work does Seattle Counseling Service do for Pride Month? 

Pride month usually means an uptick in demand for services, and we spend a lot of time providing support for clients. 

What do you hope for the future of Seattle Counseling Service? 

We hope to continue growing and expanding the services we provide, as well as the counties we serve. 

If you would like to know more about the Seattle Counseling Service, please visit their website here: