Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Counseling in New Orleans 10 Years after Hurricane Katrina: A Commentary on the Aftermath, Recovery and the Future

Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Counseling in New Orleans 10 Years after Hurricane Katrina: A Commentary on the Aftermath, Recovery and the Future

Article excerpt

10.15241/tpr.5.4.431

Pausing to assess counseling and other mental health services in New Orleans 10 years after Hurricane Katrina has been a worthwhile endeavor. Many people are curious about what has happened to New Orleans since the hurricane, and counselors are particularly interested in how counseling and other mental health services have changed. The unique challenges due to Hurricane Katrina faced by New Orleans counselors who live and work in the city have not been forgotten or put aside since the storm.

The state of counseling and other mental health services in New Orleans a decade after the hurricane are presented in this article along with some of my own observations. This article does not report a qualitative study, but instead offers a summary of the impressions of counseling and other mental health services from a select group of professionals who were providing services at the time of Hurricane Katrina and still working in mental health agencies in New Orleans 10 years later. Rather than presenting only my observations of the state of counseling in New Orleans today, I asked several others to share their impressions and I have attempted to summarize their experiences.

Scholars have examined the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and studied numerous aspects of the results of the devastating storm (Chan, Lowe, Weber, & Rhodes, 2015; Wang et al., 2007; Weisler, Barbee, & Townsend, 2006). Specific areas of investigation have included a school-based disaster recovery program for children (Walker, 2008), the precipitation of suicide (Kessler, Galea, Jones, & Parker, 2006), the disruption of mental health treatment (Wang et al., 2008), and the differences between people who were displaced and those who returned to New Orleans (Priebe, 2014). Analyses have been completed of leadership in the city (Gohl, Barclay, Vidaurri, Newby, & Arquette, 2015), the restructured education system (Lazarchik, 2015), the social capital and repopulation of New Orleans (Rackin & Weil, 2015), and tourism (Thomas, 2014; Vernet, 2015). Similarly, to obtain an up-close and personal perspective of the changes in counseling and other mental health services, I contacted professionals who were working in mental health agencies in the New Orleans area before or at the time of Hurricane Katrina and were still at a local agency today. These individuals also had a perspective and analysis regarding the effects of the hurricane, having had a major role in the continuation of counseling services at their agencies after the storm. And, like all residents of New Orleans, they also had to rebuild their personal lives following the hurricane.

The Changed City

New Orleans 10 years after Hurricane Katrina is different from the New Orleans that existed in August 2005. While the French Quarter, Uptown and other affluent neighborhoods appear hardly changed, at a deeper level the city is not the same as it was before the hurricane. The most obvious change, aside from the areas where houses are still boarded up and abandoned, is the population. New Orleans now holds 93% of the number of people it had prior to Hurricane Katrina (Shrinath, Mack, & Plyer, 2014). However, it is important to note that for several months after Hurricane Katrina, the city was still covered in floodwaters and had almost no people. Although the population has been reduced by 7%, a number of people living in New Orleans are new to the city. Many residents who lived in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina did not return. The population loss affected the dayto-day lives of both the people who relocated to other areas of the United States and those who stayed behind and lost contact with relatives, friends and neighbors. Shrinath et al. (2014) provided a review of the changes in the New Orleans population that have occurred since Hurricane Katrina based on data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. Overall, the population has become smaller, older, more educated and a bit poorer. …

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