Kathy Castor Centre for Counseling and Wellness supports the community's growing mental health needs

Congresswoman Kathy Castor stands proudly with a group of women in front of the building bearing her. She cuts the blue ribbon draped across the entrance to mark the grand opening of the Kathy Castor Centre for Counseling and Wellness.

The Centre is a new location as part of the Helen Gordon Davis Centre For Women, a nonprofit organization working to help women in Tampa Bay succeed in their personal and professional lives. Their original counseling center in Hyde Park has helped the Tampa community since the 1970s. 

The program provides counseling services to women, men, families, couples, teens and children over age 9. They provide help and resources to around 400 to 500 clients each year. Eighty-two percent are women. Thirty-eight percent earn less than $14,000 a year. Twenty-four percent are single parents.

Photo by Tashie TierneyHelen Gordon Davis Centre for Women Director of Counseling and Wellness Susan McIntyre.“There are the success stories where you watch people go from being really down or negative or hopeless and then them getting in the driver's seat of life and being able to say ‘I get to determine my own path to my satisfaction,’” says Centre for Women Director of Counseling and Wellness Susan McIntyre.

Meeting a growing need

As the need for mental health support grows, the Centre for Women sees the need to expand its efforts. Castor, who had been working with the Centre for Women for years, spearheaded the move to raise funding for this building. 

“We’ve seen mental health issues increasing for all people, and especially for women who have to take care of families all while trying to put food on the table,” says Castor. “It’s now reached a point where it's all just crushing, and they need an outlet.”

The annual State of the Region report, which the Tampa Bay Partnership puts out in collaboration with Community Foundation Tampa Bay and the United Way Suncoast, sheds light on the community's challenges with access to mental health care. The Tampa Bay region has a ratio of less than 17.4 mental health providers per 10,000 residents, compared to the national average of more than 29.5 per 10,000. In the 2024 report, Tampa Bay ranks 17th out of 19 comparable metropolitan areas for access to mental health providers.

With the help of community support and Castor’s efforts, a $1.2 million federal grant was secured to make the new building a reality and offer a vital community service - free therapy.

Thanks to the grant, the center can offer clients their first twelve counseling sessions for free. Through these sessions, the center supports underserved adults who lack the resources needed to get mental health help. One of them is Bobbi Kingsbury, a client who has just finished her twelve free sessions and wishes she had more. 

When Kingsbury stumbled upon the Centre for Women’s counseling center, she was suffering from the crippling weight of financial insecurity, unresolved childhood trauma and possible impending homelessness. 

Kingsbury says the counseling provided her with newfound validation and coping skills. 

“I don’t feel as powerless, as hopeless, as I did twelve sessions ago,” she says.Photo by Tashie TierneyBobbi Kingsbury says her counseling sessions through the Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women provided her with newfound validation and coping skills.

“When I came to this place, I didn’t really want to live, I was hopeless…I’m not making enough money to even survive and that is so stressful and so depressing,” says Kingsbury. “That’s why having a place that gives twelve free sessions is so important.”

As Susan McIntyre highlights, therapy should not only be available to people who can afford it.

“Most people we see either don't have insurance, or it doesn’t cover counseling, or there's a huge copay, and these are people who might really need mental wellness…It's my job to help those groups of people who are underserved,” says McIntyre. 

Serving the community in several ways

The Kathy Castor Centre for Counseling and Wellness is on Sligh Avenue in the upper edge of Seminole Heights, bordering some communities where residents are underserved, at-risk and often without access to free counseling. Beyond just counseling, the center works to better the communities around it by providing civic groups and promoting mental wellness in schools. 

With over fourteen years of service at the Centre for Women, McIntyre has seen firsthand how important it is to go beyond counseling and support services and also provide the community with mental health education. That’s a core foundational goal of the new center. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the center’s calendar is filled with wellness seminars and events. 

The center will continue to offer community events each month, educating the public about important mental health-related topics such as prevention, surviving trauma, and just letting people know that it is normal to not feel okay, especially during stressful or trying times. McIntyre calls it “healthy mindset” activities. 

The center will also provide graduate students in counseling-related fields of study with valuable training in a clinical setting to fulfill the requirements to earn a degree and gain experience. 

Casey, who declined to give her last name, is one of those students. She has been working with the center since November and says it is a safe space for both clients and counselors-in-training. 

Photo by Tashie TierneyCasey is a counselor-in-training gaining valuable experience in a clinical setting at the Kathy Castor Centre for Counseling and Wellness.“We learn techniques to manage our stressors, but a big part of it is having a community that you feel comfortable talking to,” says Casey. “The counselors feel safe and heard, which is what ensures we can show up 100 percent with our clients”

The Kathy Castor Centre for Counseling and Wellness signifies the dawn of a new, hopeful era in meeting the community's mental health needs through community education programming, free therapy for underserved individuals and valuable training for future counselors.

“I want people to know that it’s here,” Castor says. “There is a lifeline for women and for families. When they don’t know where to turn, they can turn to the (center).”

To reach the Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women’s counseling line, call 813- 210- 9719. For more information, go to Centre for Women Wellness and Counseling.

This story is produced through an underwriting agreement between 83 Degrees Media and The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women to highlight programs The Centre has established to help women in the Tampa Bay region achieve professional and personal success.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Tashie Tierney.

Tashie Tierney has always been an avid storyteller with a dedication of sharing the inspiring humans within this world. Tashie's innate curiosity and affinity of talking to strangers might have stressed out her parents during her childhood, but it ultimately led her down the path of journalism. She graduated the University of South Florida in 2023 with a degree in International Relations and the hopes that it would take her all across the world. When she's not busy writing the latest story, she's probably either traveling, painting, making music, creating videos, or playing with her bunny. Learn more about Tashie at her travel blog or follow her on Instagram @tashies.travels