On a recent Friday morning, Chip Ellis and clinician Stephen Washington sat chatting in Stephen’s office at ACMHS, discussing favorite foods and other light topics, because I’m sitting there, after all.  Chip has been an ACMHS client for a few months.  Stephen is his second clinician at ACMHS because, Chip says, the right fit is important.  And it’s clear these two are a good fit – they talk easily and joke often.

Stephen arrived at his office early in the morning; he uses the time before client appointments to collect his thoughts and review his client’s treatment plans and goals.  He likes to begin every session with a plan for what to work on, leaving some time to talk about whatever may have come up.   Key to his approach with clients is to treat them with a great deal of respect; he says it’s one way to combat the stigma of mental illness.  [More on Stephen’s philosophy of care here.Link to Youtube.]

As for Chip, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia about 8 years ago, and also has agoraphobia, anxiety and depression.  It got so bad he literally ran down the street to a mental health clinic one day looking for help (he was living in Utah at the time).  He can no longer drive, due to hallucinations, and he’s chosen to maintain his stability by staying on his medication.  Regular sessions with Stephen to talk through things that come up help keep small issues from derailing his life. After 8 years, he finally feels like he’s making progress, and enjoying life more. [Read more about Chip’s journey here.]

– Photos by Holley Stogsdill, story by Jessica Cochran