Happy news about animals
She may not be Noah and she may not have an ark, but Carlene Taylor brought plenty of animals with her when she moved to Camden County in February.
Taylor, a licensed professional counselor, recently joined Family Matters Counseling in St. Marys, which offers outpatient counseling to children, adolescents and adults. However, Taylor also brings a unique service to Camden: animal-assisted counseling and psychotherapy.
“I’ve been very attached to and very committed to animals all of my life,” Taylor said. “They’ve been my constant companions throughout life.”
Taylor and her 185-pound English mastiff, Aslan, are a licensed therapy team, and she also offers equine facilitated psychotherapy, which uses the relationship between horses and humans to bring about behavioral or emotional change.
In fact, Taylor said she hopes to soon bring three of her therapy horses, Cisco, Indy and Cash, to be housed at Palmetto Oaks Stables, the county’s only equine therapy center, in Woodbine. She also has a pet cat, Chicago.
“Animals possess very special characteristics,” she said, adding some patients are more relaxed and make better progress with an animal present.
Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in business education from the University of South Florida and a master’s degree from Auburn University. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in her mid-20s and became interested in therapy while teaching art classes at a camp for children with cancer.
“I knew instantly that that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.
Taylor also said she worked for a nonprofit, in-home therapy agency before moving to Warm Springs to become the clinical director for the Good Shepherd Therapeutic Center, which treats adolescents with behavior disorders and offers therapeutic riding and wildlife rehabilitation.
“Good Shepherd is an animal-assisted program,” she said. “We raised deer in the wildlife rehabilitation program.”
Taylor said she then spent five years in private practice before returning to Good Shepherd in 2004 to serve as executive director. Her experience there, she said, wove all the different facets of her career as a therapist together.
However, Taylor grew up in Tampa, she said, and knew she wanted to return to the coast.
“My husband and I visited here in May of last year and fell in love with it,” she said.
They bought a house in St. Marys and planned to eventually retire here, but decided a few months ago to go ahead and make the move.
Now, she said, she hopes to use her philosophy as a therapist to help anyone in Camden who needs someone to talk to.
“The ability to heal is contained in each and every person,” Taylor said. “My job is to help people know who they are.”
Taylor also said that, while she typically does not work with substance abuse patients, she is trained to treat patients who have suffered sexual or physical abuse.
“They need someone to talk to,” she said. “They need someone to confide in.”
Taylor also focuses on counseling patients with depression, anxiety, autism, family problems and anger management problems.
“We all get down at times, we all get anxious at times, we all get scared at times,” she said. “But when those become so severe that they interfere with work, with family, or with being happy, it’s time to seek help. Therapists are trying to help find out what is the root cause.”
Taylor said she hopes to work closely with Ruxandra Mares, a psychiatrist who recently set up her own practice, St. Marys Psychiatry, in Saturday Park on Highway 40. Mares and Taylor can work hand in hand, she said, to treat patients who need both medication and daily therapy.
Taylor holds a National Board Certification and has served on the board of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association. In addition, she was recognized in 2002 as Georgia’s Licensed Professional Counselor of the Year. She has also served as the chairman of the standards and ethics committee for the Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association.
Taylor is approved by several insurance companies, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tricare and Magellan Health Services. She also said she accepts private pay patients.