Hoping to offer an affordable option for counseling in Payson, Linda Wilkinson has opened an office on Main Street.
Wilkinson’s office, at 700 W. Main St., has comfy chairs, the Serenity Prayer embroidered in cross-stitch by her mother on one wall, artwork on others and her degrees hang over a small desk.
After working at Southwest Behavioral Health’s Payson office for a year, Wilkinson, a licensed professional counselor, decided to open a private practice.
Wilkinson rents space in Penny Navis-Schmidt’s building. Navis-Schmidt, a licensed clinical social worker, also practices out of the space.
“I’m really retired,” said Wilkinson. “I’m 76, so my business is part time. The reason I’m still working is I love my profession.”
She said that education is important, but life experience is an invaluable part of counseling, something a person fresh out of college might not yet have.
Wilkinson’s rate is $60 an hour for counseling, but she offers a sliding scale down to $20 for those who cannot afford it. She does not take insurance. Wilkinson also volunteers at Payson Christian Clinic on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month.
Her schedule is flexible to accommodate people who work. She is available on weekends and evenings if necessary, including Sunday.
“My goal is to make counseling affordable,” said Wilkinson.
Wilkinson worked as a licensed professional counselor in Arizona for 23 years. She had a private counseling practice in the West Valley before moving to Payson a year and a half ago.
Professional counseling can often be costly, the length and type of treatment defined by a person’s insurance. Insurance companies often require a diagnosis for reimbursement. Private pay practices do not.
“I’m new in Payson and I am huge on confidentiality,” said Wilkinson. “The insurance companies take that away from you.”
Wilkinson noted that, “insurance companies have access to a person’s private information which may be sold, exchanged, or shared without your knowledge or permission.”
She has a world of experience and education to share with her clients.
“We’ve traveled all our lives, since we were young,” she said. “We always travel on a budget because we’re not wealthy. We’ve learned to travel on less.”
Wilkinson and her husband, Stan, lived in Jamaica for two years, Panama for seven years and Puerto Rico for four years. They lived for years in the tropics as missionaries.
“I’m emphasizing ‘lived in,’ we’ve visited many other places as tourists,” she said, “but when you live somewhere, you live the culture with the people and do what they do.”
Wilkinson and her husband both had careers in teaching for many years.
“I taught all grades from first through high school then at the college level for 15 years,” she said.
The couple have three children, all boys. One is adopted.
“I’m an adoptive mother,” said Wilkinson, “so I’m familiar with attachment issues.”
When all their kids were grown and they were in their 60s, they decided to provide foster care for teen boys. They provided care for 10 years.
“Encouraging hope and enthusiasm for life is a primary goal of my counseling philosophy,” Wilkinson said. “Self-agency is another. People can solve their own problems with the skills they already possess together with the skills and expertise I offer. I will listen to their own unique story in a caring, nonjudgmental manner, meeting them where they are and walking forward with them.”
Wilkinson said counseling should be comfortable, quiet and leisurely, not rushed.
“This isn’t a business where I have to fill all my slots and be busy all week,” she said. “It’s my retirement job, I hope I can do some good.”
When Wilkinson is not counseling or traveling, she enjoys art, music, carving, good discussions and reading. Her husband volunteers at the Time Out Thrift Store, the Humane Society of Central Arizona and the food bank at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Wilkinson said the things she loves best about Payson are the mountain community, getting out and hiking, the elk, views, Green Valley Park, and the Tonto Apache pool “because swimming is my favorite exercise.”
The best way to book an appointment is by texting 623-628-9332.