Maple Clinic closing after four decades of serving northern Michigan | News

TRAVERSE CITY – After hearing stories from sexual assault survivors for four decades, Barbara Cross summarized what she had learned about the people of northern Michigan in three words.

“Wonderful. Clever. Survivors, ”said Cross, the director of the Maple Clinic in Traverse City, which will be permanently closed through February.

Recently, the downtown Traverse City mental hospital hasn’t seen many customers come through its doors due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The face-to-face conversations that Cross has had for 40 years have turned to virtual meetings or phone calls. Customers who may have traveled from Alpena to Traverse City are now meeting virtually with therapists.

“The coronavirus was a perfect fit for three or four of us who were retiring anyway – just a look at it, not ready, but a look at it,” Cross said.

“The nature of our business is to talk to people behind closed doors in a sealed environment. That wouldn’t work. “

Now the building that houses the Maple Clinics Union Street offices has opened. It’s a process that has resulted in the destruction of thousands of reports of sexual assault survivors – many of which Cross said she kept paper records for over the required seven years.

“Our director calls us the worried good,” Cross said. “In other words, we see highly functional people who, like all of us, only struggle with life problems.”

Cross founded the clinic in upstate Birmingham near Detroit and moved to Traverse City for a personal move in 1979.

There weren’t many mental health services in northern Michigan at the time, she said. Outside of the state hospital, there was only one other private clinic in town that was cared for by three male therapists.

In this way, the Maple Clinic’s role in the community became what it was for 40 years. Cross said the main clientele seeing her company were sexual assault survivors, recommended as a coping strategy by courts in Grand Traverse County and the surrounding area.

The Maple Clinic’s services were not exclusively reserved for survivors, however. For 18 years, the Maple Clinic ran a group of sex offenders for adults aged 17 and over. Cross said she frequently saw clients whose lawyers believed they were falsely charged with sexual assault, jailed on a sexual assault conviction, or released from prison for sexual assault.

Cross said the amount of stories she’s heard from victims and perpetrators has given her a deeper understanding of the dynamics of how and why sexual assault takes place.

She said that criminals are often “victims” themselves at some point in their life.

“I’ve seen victims and non-abusive parents for a long time, and then the corrections department asked us to form a group,” Cross said. “That was the piece of the puzzle for me that I needed to understand the family constellation when it came to harassment – every piece of the puzzle.”

Cross said that as the pandemic shifts to virtual therapy sessions, it creates its own challenges for clinics like their own. Victims may be treated within their own four walls for family-related sexual trauma.

But Cross also, in some ways, believes that the demand for mental health services has changed because people are far more accepting of getting help and more willing to reach out.

“It doesn’t have the same stigma as it used to,” she said, and a variety of mental health services and clinicians have opened doors in Traverse City since Cross opened theirs. Because of this, Cross doesn’t worry too much about whether a person will be able to find help when they need it.

That’s because these barriers are common with customers waiting to make that first call. Cross said she called from people after keeping her business card in her wallet for 20 years.

Reported statistics suggest that 40 percent of the world’s population will suffer from depression at some point in their life. That’s around 3.68 billion people, eleven times as many as in the United States.

In her advice to someone who might read this article, Cross said, “Don’t let your fears stop you that someone might help you.”

David Rushlow is a clinical social worker who has performed contract work with the Maple Clinic. He is one of those who are retiring with Cross after 26 years. He spent many of them seeing patients in the evenings.

“Some of my favorite takeaways know someone came into my office and completely trusted me as a total stranger, and I could help them, I could make an impact on their lives,” said Rushlow. “It’s always a good feeling.”

Towards the end of their careers, both Cross and Rushlow say the vast majority of customers they saw were grateful and grateful for the services she provided.

“I think it just made me a lot more sensitive to people’s plight and that neither of us should be judging anyone else,” said Cross. “It is very brave for a person to pick up the phone and schedule a therapy appointment. It’s a very brave thing, so we have a lot of respect for the customers we’ve seen over the years. “

She said the job in some way restored her confidence in the people.

“Everyone hurts about something … everyone,” Cross said. “There is no person who does not go through this life without struggling with some things – life adjustments.”

Follow Andrew Rosenthal on Twitter @ByAndrewR

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