Getting a better view

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After the opening of A View From Within Counseling Center—a counseling center aimed toward gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgender clients in Blount County, Tenn.—Kathleen Puckett not only has a private practice, but a mission as well.

“Our goal [as the GBLTQ community] is to become part of the community and normalize who we are. People just haven’t been around us, or aren’t aware of us; civic responsibility is what it’s really all about.”

The original impetus for starting AVFWCC was a fire incident—a presumed hate crime directed at a lesbian couple—which took place last September in nearby Vonore, Tenn. This prompted Puckett to move to Maryville from Connecticut several months later to start her business.

The grand opening of AVFWCC, which took place on January 19, showed a positive and surprisingly healthy turnout of around 50 people, including the mayor of Maryville, who has, “openly accepted the counseling center,” according to Puckett. Since then, Puckett has been pounding the pavement in hopes of attracting more clients.

Even with the positive response from the community, and the absence of any “negative energy” thus far, the task of creating a presumably safe place for people to talk is still a challenge. Puckett believes it is also important to offer services to the friends and family of the GBLTQ community, arguing that, “…the ratio is huge of those [family members and friends] who need resources…who need to get over the stigma [of homosexuality]…who need to grieve properly. They need to grieve and re-image a dream for who their loved one was. The world is so closeted around [the south]. Families suffer a great deal and don’t want any help…because they’re not the ones who are ‘sick…’"

Getting them through the door is the challenge. It’s almost like they’re the ones in the closet,” Puckett added with a chuckle.

Clients of AVFWCC have the option of phone consultations or Skype sessions if they would prefer, and Puckett is also willing to meet at locations other than the office.

“I’ve even had a meeting at McDonald’s,” she joked, realizing that for some, it is a concern to even be seen entering a GBLTQ-affiliated establishment.

In addition to counseling sessions, Kathleen Puckett also speaks to women’s and senior citizen’s groups, and offers workshops and presentations at conferences around the country. She presented her series, “It’s Hard to Dance When You’re In the Closet,” in Chapel Hill, NC last month. In this series, she addressed a variety of topics and questions, including, “How does the GBLTQ community move from the back of the bus to the front? What does it look like when we break down the closet door and dance in the larger community? How do we no longer live within the chains of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ in the business world and beyond?”

If you would like more information on A View From Within Counseling Center, you can visit the website at www.aviewfromwithincounselingcenter.com.