“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.”
This quote – spoken by Carl Rogers, a prominent American psychologist in the twentieth century – is listed on the homepage of the Blue Sails Counseling and Consulting website.
The clinic, conveniently located in Lusby, Maryland, in the southern portion of Calvert County, offers personalized therapy for a wide range of emotional and behavioral issues such as anxiety, depression, grief therapy and parent support. Carl Rogers believed in humanistic psychology, an approach that studied the whole person. He found that for a person to grow and reach self-actualization, people need an environment that provides them with genuineness, acceptance and empathy. Like a flower that blooms to its full potential when the conditions are right, so can a person.
For all intents and purposes, Velea Kelley, LCSW-C, the Clinical Director and owner of Blue Sails, opened her practice based on the same philosophy. Blue Sails provides a comfortable and supportive atmosphere for clients who need help to attain the personal growth they’re striving for. “A person does not require a mental health disorder to receive counseling. I’m certified as a life coach, too,” says Velea. “Counseling offers each client, family and couple, a person who has no invested interest other than to meet your goals – where else can you find that? We are trained professionals, licensed and board certified.”
A knowledgeable therapist with more than 17 years of varied experience, Velea takes a very empathetic approach to her work, reminding clients that she’s human. It’s this openness – this authenticity – that has allowed Velea to grow her counseling practice so quickly. “Being real, being genuine, and being truthful with people is key. Transparency is key.” However, opening a clinic was never the plan. As Velea reminded me – “I didn’t choose this profession. I believe I was guided to be where I am today. It chose me.” Velea has always been motivated and driven growing up – class president her junior and senior year in high school, a cheerleader, and vocational school attendee – she never intended on getting her masters or working first-hand with clients. In fact, it was the persuasion and references of two of her college professors who really motivated her to go to graduate school.
While obtaining her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Velea worked at the Adrian Training School, a rehabilitation center in Michigan for felony adolescent offenders ages 12 to 21. She worked with females and males. The males in the program were charged as sex offenders and the females had committed miscellaneous felony offenses ranging from attempted murder to habitual theft. In 2001, Velea graduated from the University of Michigan with double master’s degrees in Statistics and Mental Health, but even still, she thought, “I wanted to observe people’s behaviors, reactions to external stimuli and create statistics, research really.” Her life had other plans.
Two weeks after graduation, Velea was hired as an addictions counselor at McCullough, Vargas, and Associates, a dual-diagnosis program out of Michigan. “They were fantastic clinicians. Gary McCullough and Roy Vargas provided me with a lot of knowledge.” But it opened her eyes to more than just that. “I thought I wanted to do research and write about it, but then I met people in addiction, and it was heartbreaking and I liked the people. I fell in love with them and I wanted to continue.”
In 2005, Velea moved to Southern Maryland with her husband who was relocated here due to the Navy. Once in Maryland, she began work for the Department of Social Services and Asbury Solomons, a retirement community and senior center. Throughout this time, she was also diagnosed with breast cancer and had to take a medical leave of absence. After six chemotherapy treatments and 34 radiation treatments at Calvert Memorial Hospital, now known as CalvertHealth, Velea was finally feeling better and medically able to return to work by the summer of 2009. “Not only did Calvert Memorial treat me, but they hired me,” Velea said, who soon after became a social worker on their psychiatric care unit.It was here that Velea’s inspiration for Blue Sails began. “I love to work with people, especially, families. I have treated a lot of people suffering from thoughts of suicide or those who have attempted it. My clients started asking if I could see them outside of the hospital. It resonated with me.”
Blue Sails opened in October of 2012 – a mere five years ago – with Velea as the only therapist. She shared a three-room suite with three others, and crossed her fingers for the best. Her counseling practice has quickly grown to now include nine therapists and a multitude of support groups. Blue Sails also hosts internships for master’s degree social work students from Salisbury University. Velea and her team are very close and consider themselves to be like family. “We do a lot of associate bonding events and exercises,” she said. “Most of our clinicians on staff were not born or raised here in Southern Maryland. We don’t have family here, so our office is our family. We’re close, respect each other, and look out for each other.”
This relationship and mindset is wonderful for their clients as well, as they often grow their services based on the needs of their clients. Velea gave the example of a few individuals who wanted a Rheumatoid Arthritis (self-supporting) support group. “Since our patients’ physicians didn’t have a referral or resource, we created one.” Every Saturday at 4 p.m., a group of individuals facilitate their own support group, with six members to date.Other unique services offered include group counseling for students in middle school, high school, and those transitioning to adulthood. Recently, they even started a Saturday Kids Night for their clients’ children. “We have so many families that are not from this area and need time to nurture their marriage or have some time to do things without their children, but have a difficult time trusting/finding others to watch their children,” she said, “so we created a Kids Night. We watch a movie, process the meaning of the movie, break out into three groups with varied learning activities, eat pizza, and popcorn. It’s been a hit with our clients and their families. It is actually a social skills group, which is held once a month on Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. This way parents can spend time alone, go to dinner or a movie, nurture their relationship.” Once again, the idea stemmed from their own clients’ needs. “Our couples in therapy expressed no ability to nurture their marriage due to lack of support, friends or family. It’s been a great service to offer!”
At Blue Sails Counseling, they believe helping the whole family has a greater impact of change and for a longer period of time, than working with one individual alone.Of course, therapy is provided in a private setting as well. No matter the type, each new patient is required to get a full assessment prior to joining. “Assessments are usually completed within the first or second session, but assessments are always ongoing,” she said. “The number one thing I tell my clients and my staff is that we are not here to give advice, we are here to help a person process what they are going through. I believe an individual has their answer, I just think that there are a lot of barriers or challenges, whether in their current situation or from the past.”
Often times, Velea finds people wait too long to seek help for themselves or loved ones. “Denial runs deep and it sounds like, ‘I’m fine. I’m just really stressed out right now,’ or, ‘our marriage is fine, we’re just not happy because we just haven’t taken a vacation,” she said. “This is denial and the things we tell ourselves. We let these things build up, and once they get to a certain point when we really start to notice, it leaves us feeling extremely out of control.”Velea says it’s important to seek help quickly and Blue Sails offers individuals a way to express their feelings to a non-biased, neutral party. “That is when we see people come in; when they’ve let something go on for too long and now they don’t know how to fix it.” Velea went on to say, “When you first feel that each day is the same, and internal pressure for change, seek help.”
To get to the core of the problem, the Blue Sails team emphasizes a priority focus. Clients often don’t know where to start, so in order to work through those layers, Velea asks them to simply say the first thing that comes to mind. “We work down from there with individualized plans. Our number one rule is to always go where the person is.”Velea’s therapists generally focus on treatment plans for a specific goal and have seen many success stories over the years. “This is an ongoing process called life. Hopefully, we provide a great experience so no matter where a person resides geographically or emotionally in their life, they seek help because they had a great experience previously.”
Blue Sails feels strongly about access to care and therefore accepts all insurances and works with employee assistance programs. Her team recognizes that it’s less of a financial impact and burden when people don’t have to pay fully out of pocket, therefore they work with each client to develop co-pay plans depending on their insurance. With access to coverage information as providers, they also use this ability to educate their patients on the insurance process overall. Blue Sails Counseling and Consulting also spends time teaching and helping to establish other local practices in the area. In her next engagement, Velea is a guest speaker for a seminar on ‘Documentation in Mental Health’ hosted at the Holiday Inn on Solomon’s Island May 11. Mental health professionals who would like to attend the seminar can register at the Blue Sails Counseling and Consulting website, and interested new clients should give them a call at the number below.
DON’T WAIT, FIND RELIEF TODAY
Call 410-231-0488 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Blue Sails Counseling and Consulting 225 Town Square Drive, Suite 3, Lusby, MD 20657