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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

A Call for Help: Therapists Needed for VLSP Social Services Project


By Julie Rosenthal, MSW, LCSW Volunteer Legal Services Program


A 45-year old male recently came to VLSP’s Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) seeking assistance with Social Security advocacy. Due to his worsening symptoms of significant mental health disabilities, he could no longer perform hisJulie Rosenthal with client job as a music instructor. He had no recent men-tal health treatment due to lack of insurance and he was not well enough emotionally to take advantage of the city’s free mental health clinics. In order to make a case for disability, one has to have sufficient medical records documenting the disability. Luckily, HAP was able to connect him with one of its volunteers, a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). The MFT was able to meet with him, make an assessment and provide the necessary documentation to support his disability claim. Further, he was able to meet with someone on a consistent basis who could support him in this time of both mental and financial crisis.
The above synopsis is an example of the holistic approach that VLSP takes to legal services, seeking to address the full range of legal and social services issues that prevent clients from retaining stability in their lives.

Many of the clients that VLSP and HAP serve struggle with significant mental health issues as well as multiple psychosocial stressors, a major one being the fact that they have little or no income. VLSP is looking for licensed therapists to provide counseling on a pro bono basis to these clients. While there are some nonprofit agencies in the city that will provide this service, many poor San Franciscans rely solely on the city-funded mental health clinics. These clinics are designed for San Francisco residents who do not have health coverage and would otherwise not be able to afford therapy and/or other psychiatric services such as medication management to get these services. Unfortunately, one can not make direct referrals to the individual mental health providers at these clinics. Instead, clients are instructed to go to the clinic during designated drop-in and wait to be seen. Clients often wait several hours before meeting with someone and there is no certainty that they will be assigned to a therapist. These clinics often have waiting lists.

HAP currently has two mental health professionals who have been donating their time for several years now. This has been an invaluable resource and has helped to stabilize the lives of several clients, but additional volunteers with this expertise are always needed.

HAP is also looking for PhDs or MDs to conduct one-time psychological assessments for the purposes of clients obtaining disability benefits on the basis of their mental health issues.

If you or anyone you know is a mental health professional, please get in contact with us. Change a life. Volunteer today. For all volunteer inquires please contact Jason Luu, VLSP Volunteer Coordinator, at

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