Volunteer Counseling

Volunteer Counseling

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.


  Lay people are professionally trained and supervised to provide high-level accessible, affordable counseling and family services to clients with 'life problems' as opposed to serious emotional disturbances.


About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Many people have no insurance coverage for mental health counseling and can not afford to pay out of pocket. The county mental health center has limited resources, constrictions dictated by insurance companies, long waiting lists and high fees. More accessible, affordable counseling is needed. Our volunteers also see people close to their homes if they do not have transportation to our office. We are also able to recruit and train volunteers from different linguistic and cultural communities, thus offering clients compatible counseling experiences. Our county mental health center often can not accommodate different ethnic groups
About You
VCS Inc.
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name


Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

VCS Inc.

Organization Phone

(845) 634-5729

Organization Address

77 South Main Street

Organization Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on
What makes your idea unique?

VCS has been pioneering the use of lay people to provide skilled direct counseling services since 1970, our nationwide search has not revealed any other agency similar to ours. Although volunteers are often used to provide ancillary counseling services, our counselors provide primary counseling for a wide range of clients from many diverse communities in Rockland County NY. Our agency has become an established part of the human service delivery system. The county mental health center relies on us to serve uninsured and underinsured clients.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had?

VCS has had an enormous impact on the delivery of mental health services in Rockland County. Hundreds of people each year who could not otherwise afford counseling are served at VCS. Our use of professionally trained volunteers allows us to offer services that are either free (funded by grants) or on a very generous sliding scale ( a few dollars per week). In addition, about 75 volunteers per year take our highly acclaimed counselor training class, which enhances their interpersonal and professional skills. Since 1970, VCS has trained thousands of volunteers. Many of them have gone on to become mental health professionals, while others have become more effective in both the home and workplace. Volunteers work with a wide range of issues including: youth at risk, homebound elderly, parents with childrearing problems, abused woman, couples with relationship issues, and clients with low level depression and anxiety. Our counselors have good success with engaging, supporting and facilitating change in our clients.


VCS works in close collaboration with many community agencies and has embraced a social justice mission along with our counseling goals. We train counselors in areas of sexism, racism and homophobia and take leadership in the county around the issues. We also have helped to organize services for the county's burgeoning immigrant populations. This makes our services relevant to diverse communities.


Mental health services in Rockland is more available, more affordable and more relevant to diverse communities. 74-90 volunteers per year are trained and up to 650 people will receive affordable mental health services.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Please address each year separately, if possible. (300 words or less.) VCS would need to add professional hours in order to increase our capacity to train and supervise additional volunteers. We need more volunteers to accommodate the growing numbers of clients who needs our services due to the economic recession, growing numbers of people out of work, increased stress on families and cutbacks of counseling staff at the county and state funded agencies. Our current clinical staff is at capacity and we had to dismiss two part time clinical staff people in the last year due to funding cutbacks.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

Increasing funding cuts would result in staff cuts. Although we work with a large cadre of volunteers who donate their services, the success of VCS has always rested on the high level professional training and supervision which supports our volunteers. We can not maintain an effective volunteer pool without sufficient professional staff.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$1000 - 4000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.


How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Our partners help us raise money, lobby governmental organizations in behalf of our clients, advocate in the community for our clients, collaborate for more effective services, and tell people who need our services that we are here.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

VCS needs 1. more funding in order to 2. secure more professional staff in order to 3. train and supervise more and more volunteers in order to accommodate our growing cadre of clients in need.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

) In 1970, the Ford Foundation was approached by family court judges in NY State. They had many clients of the court who needed timely, affordable counseling. In many communities such services were not sufficiently available. Ford Foundation was willing to explore whether lay people could be trained to fill in affordable gaps in services. Four projects in NY State were funded. VCS was the only project to remain as a free standing agency. The initial project was met with concern by the psychiatric community. They were concerned that VCS would take their clients away and that we would attempt to see seriously ill people who were beyond the scope of our volunteers. In fact, VCS screens all applicants for service with a professional assessment and refers seriously ill people to other services. In addition, it is now clear that our clients have such limited resources that they can not see private psychiatrists. Now the psychiatric community relies on VCS and refers to us often. When the Ford Foundation three year grant ended, the agency was in danger of closing. At that time the County of Rockland determined that VCS was so important to the community, that they allocated funds to enable VCS to continue. This was a defining moment. The county has continued to fund VCS. We also receive funding from United Way, Department of Social Services, the County Youth Bureau and the Office for the Aging. Unfortunately, all of these funding sources have been impacted by the recession.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

1. Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea. (300 words or less) The founding director of VCS, Dr. Stephen A. Shapiro designed the original model used to train lay counselors. He retired in the 1980's. Since that time, the current Clinical Director of VCS Dr. Gail K. Golden, Ed.D, LCSW and the current Assistant Director Phyllis B. Frank MA have worked with the original model, expanded it, and added the strong social justice component. Gail K. Golden is a clinical social worker with many years of experience. She and Phyllis B. Frank have co-authored several popular papers about domestic violence. She is a founding member of the Anti-Racist Alliance and a member of the Northeast leadership team of the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, an anti-racist training collective and has written about anti-racist mental health treatment. She is a co-founder and co-chair of the Rockland Immigration Coalition, an advocacy group. She is a board member of the NY Immigration Coalition. She has received many awards for her work. Phyllis B. Frank is a leader in the field of domestic violence and has done nationally acclaimed work with men who batter. She has brought anti-racist training and programs to the community and has organized programs and events affirming the LGBT community. She has received many awards for her work. In partnership, these two women came from a psychotherapeutic back ground and infused every aspect of their work with a deep committment to social justice. They also made their work accessbile to professionals and non-professionals alike in widely diverse communities. Their work now provides models for people across the country. see www.goldenwrites.com, www.nymbp.org and www.gaypriderockland.org for further information.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through another organization or company

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company


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