Byline: Cheryl Chojnacki Daily Herald Correspondent
When someone calls a counseling center to make an appointment, Paul Brownell firmly believes that person needs to be seen right away.
Life has taken an unexpected turn, coping skills are needed, and they're needed now.
In the first days and weeks after a person asks for help, "they become open to making changes that they won't a month from now," Brownell said.
But Brownell and two other counselors, Arnold Woodruff and the Rev. William Clark, recognized 30 years ago that a person going through a difficult time often had to wait four to six weeks to get an appointment.
So, during the drive home from touring a psychiatric center in Indiana, the three men developed a vision for a new agency in Elgin - one where clients could be seen when the acknowledged need was still fresh and the fees wouldn't add to the burden the person was already carrying.
In honor of their commitment to see clients in a timely fashion, they named the non-profit venture Kairos Family Center, "kairos" being one of two Greek words meaning "time."
That clinic, located in First Presbyterian Church of Elgin, 240 Standish St., recently celebrated three decades of service to area families with a dinner in honor of the three founding fathers.
Brownell and Woodruff were on staff for years at Elgin Mental Health Center, and after a short time there, Brownell said, he began to develop an interest in family therapy.
That, along with the no-wait policy and sliding fee scale, became an important tenet of the new agency.
Family counseling often involves bringing in a spouse, siblings or even co-workers as "co-resources," Brownell said, and helps the therapist gain a fuller understanding of the client's situation.
Information is learned in the context of a family interview that would never come up in an individual meeting, simply because it wouldn't occur to the client to say it. Input is solicited from colleagues, too.
"One thing that's very characteristic of our staff is that we meet as a family once a week," Brownell said, "and we review cases and talk about the things that are going on in our clients' lives. We get a lot of assistance that way."
Typically, the Kairos staff considers the family or couple - and not the individual - to be the primary client; and although they do work with individuals, they usually are looking at how the issue at hand affects the entire family.
Over the years Brownell has seen the needs of families change.
Years ago, many families were turned upside down and sought counseling, Brownell said, as women began emerging from …