Counselor Spotlight: Leigh Hines

By Rebecca Smith

One of Leigh Hines’ favorite clients was a teen whose sessions had a rocky start.

“The first eight sessions, we didn’t talk at all,” she said with a laugh. “He tried to get rid of me, but I kept coming back. Now he tells me everything.”

Leigh works for Next Step’s counseling program, which places counselors in schools and juvenile probation offices. She sees students at Bullard High School, Bullard Intermediate, and Anderson County Juvenile Probation Office (where she saw that previously mentioned teen).

“One of my favorite things about Next Step’s program is it removes barriers,” she said. “The parents don’t have to take off work or take their kid anywhere. Sometimes when I have parents who is resistant to giving their permission, when I say ‘Well it is at the school, and it’s free,’ they’ll agree.”

According to the Next Step website, as many as 1 in 5 teens need mental health services. In juvenile probation, that number jumps to more than 1 in 2.

Leigh grew up in the Dallas area, and received her bachelor’s and master’s degree from UT Tyler. She uses a variety of counseling philosophies in her sessions, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

“I don’t believe there is one technique that is good for all clients,” she said. “I do really like to do motivational interviewing, especially with teens. By the time they get to me they are used to being talked to in such a negative way, that motivational interviewing really helps them to open up.”

According to Psychology Today, “Motivational interviewing is a counseling method that helps people resolve ambivalent feelings and insecurities to find the internal motivation they need to change their behavior. It is a practical, empathetic, and short-term process that takes into consideration how difficult it is to make life changes.”

Leigh likes working with adolescents because it can be much easier to make an impact than with older clients, she said.

“As adolescents, you can really change the path that you’re going down before you make horrible mistakes,” she said. “They have the ability to really restructure their whole world if they want.”

Leigh does see themes for issues that she sees students for.

“Anxiety is probably the biggest one,” she said. “I think mental health awareness is kind of a double-edged sword; I think it’s really great that the world is becoming more accepting of it and they’re talking about it more often, but on the flip side, I think with teenagers especially, it’s almost contagious. If their friend is self-harming or they have an eating disorder—friend groups kind of take on the same things.”

And while teens are more accepting of mental health issues, she said sometimes adults can have misconceptions.

“People think that you have to be ‘crazy’ to need a counselor, or entertain the thought of medication,” she said. “But if you had a broken arm, you wouldn’t think twice about going to the doctor and getting a cast. Just because you can’t see mental health issues, doesn’t mean it’s not real. Some people think it’s attention-seeking. They think ‘They’re not suicidal, so they’re fine.’”

Leigh believes everyone could benefit from counseling at some point in their lives.

“I wish people knew that’s OK to struggle,” she said. “Everyone does. It’s OK to admit that you’re struggling and that you need help. You don’t have to do it all by yourself.”