Local clinical psychologist co-founds HopeNation

Dr. Dan Williams is working to provide “hope” to a very specific and woefully underserved group.

The licensed clinical psychologist from the Choto area recently assisted in founding Tennessee-based HopeNation, a completely online telehealth movement dedicated to the mental health needs of children, teens and young adults up to age 26 — this is especially relevant in May, which is observed as National Mental Health Month.

“We have decided, as a practice, to focus on kids and young adults because there is such a need,” said Williams, who has been in the field since 1996, has been a licensed clinical psychologist since 2006 and is chief clinical officer for HopeNation. “When you start to look for therapists, in this area, a lot of them don’t see kids.”

He also mentioned an East Tennessee mental health association survey conducted last fall among private practice therapists in Knox County, in which Williams noted, “They found only 10 percent are actually accepting new referrals right now – everyone has a wait list.”

Williams provided some additional sobering statistics, including “according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six children in the U.S. between ages 2 and 8 have been diagnosed with a mental, behavioral or development disorder; 9.8 percent of children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; 9.4 percent of children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with anxiety; and 8.9 percent have been diagnosed with behavior problems.”

Additionally, “15.1 percent of adolescents reported experiencing a major depressive episode, 36.7 percent of adolescents reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness; 18.8 percent of adolescents reported seriously considering suicide; and 8.9 percent of adolescents reported attempting suicide.”

With so many youngsters confirming serious mental health issues, Williams notes, “When you can catch problems early in life, it can make such a difference later on — the earlier you can intervene the better.”

HopeNation has built a network of therapists, which “specializes in working with children, teens, young adults and their families,” said Williams, noting the group has “immediate openings.”

Regarding the online telehealth component, he said, “Today’s children are growing up with computers, the Internet and smartphones, so tele-therapists work with kids in ways that are already familiar and comfortable.

“We were very intentional to look at how can technology help to bridge that gap that exists right now in taking care of the mental health crisis that exists in the country,” Williams added.

The program also works with the client’s families as a component of the program.

“We also host parent workshops and work with the parents at no extra cost to help them connect with their child, understand what they are going through and how they can help,” Williams said.

HopeNation does not take insurance currently, he said, but added, “That may change.”

However, “There are so many rules and regulations around insurance, it really takes away from the work,” the co-founder said.

Williams and his wife, Kristin, have three children.

For more information, e-mail dwilliams@hopenationcounseling.com or visit hopenationcounseling.com.