A Holistic Approach to Mental Health Treatment

SouthLight's Community Support Team

By Abigail Kaufmann MSW, LCSW-A, LCAS-A 

This is the first in a series of profiles on SouthLight’s wide array of programs and services, ranging from outpatient substance use and mental health treatment to community-based services like our Community Support Team, featured here.

The Community Support Team (CST) is a community-based team that supports clients in addressing mental health, substance use, housing, safety, employment, education, social, financial and physical health challenges by connecting them to various resources in the community and providing therapy and substance use treatment.   

Holistic approaches to mental health treatment are so important, specifically for clients who have complex mental health challenges along with impairments in multiple other domains that can heavily influence the likelihood of progress in treatment.  

Studies show that housing insecurity is usually met with food insecurity, unemployment or inconsistent income, and poor health conditions. Given that it is so common for these challenges to exist together, we must consider how this influences mental health treatment.

3 Barriers to Treating Mental Health

Being displaced

It is incredibly difficult to fully commit to standard mental health treatment and substance use recovery when you don’t know where you will lay your head at night or where your next meal will come from.

number two

Lack of health insurance

It is nearly impossible to gain access to quality physical healthcare without insurance, which is typically attached to employment.

number three

Maintaining employment

When someone is unable to address serious physical or mental health challenges, keeping employment is incredibly challenging. 

The way these pieces are connected cannot be ignored. The constant cycle of barriers exuded on an individual affects the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of the person.  

Mental health care cannot exist without whole-person care.

When we are sick, tired, hungry, in pain, unable to sleep, experience a traumatic event or loss, are unable to take care of ourselves, or lack support from others, mental distress is heightened. When you face many of these challenges at once and struggle with them daily, the effects are devastating. More is required to address the distress in these situations. 

Addressing Diverse Mental Health Needs

The Community Support Team has multiple members with different roles to address the diverse needs of those we serve. The team consists of: 

One of the coolest things about CST is that it is not a one-size-fits-all service.

Our clients have a wide array of needs and challenges, and the work is tailored to the unique goals and needs of the client. Often, among those we serve, we see diversity in housing status, substance use recovery stages (some clients have no substance use history), employment status, race, culture, ethnicity, nationality, physical health status, age, legal status/background, life experience, education level, and mental health diagnoses.

7 Ways We Address Clients’ Mental Health Needs

Our Community Support Team works together to address multiple pieces at once, in an effort to support clients in navigating and climbing over barriers that they face. We do this by:

  1. Going with clients to a housing authority
  2. Supporting them in filling out applications
  3. Walking through applying coping skills in situations that leave them feeling distressed
  4. Supporting them in connecting with community resources
  5. Providing crisis intervention
  6. Building healthy problem-solving skills
  7. And building positive social supports

Empowering Clients in Their Mental Health Journeys

Our hope is to empower people to achieve the goals that they have, by being by their side with each step and setback.  

I am so grateful to have been able to witness the positive impacts that this approach has. There is immense power in having supports that do not stand passively on the beach as you brave the waves but brave them with you. The people I have built relationships with in this work inspire me to be brave too. 

It takes immense courage to step into deep waters you have never navigated, or back into waters that have nearly drowned you before. Nobody learns to swim on their own.  

Abigail Kaufmann

Abigail Kaufmann MSW, LCSW-A, LCAS-A 

Abigail Kaufmann began her career at SouthLight as an intern in 2020. Two years later, she returned to Southlight and accepted a position as the team lead for the very team that shaped her so deeply as a clinician and helped her connect to her passion for community mental health. Abigail is Team Lead for the Community Support Team at SouthLight and is passionate about making the Triangle a better place for mental health and substance use recovery.