As a college student, Thomas Pough made the discovery that counseling was for him. A series of positions and moves led him to Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services in Hattiesburg in 1996. An outgrowth of Forrest General Hospital, it’s one of the nation’s most comprehensive treatment centers and Mississippi’s largest.
“I’ve always been interested in helping others. I love to teach and listen,” he said. “I love people, and my professional career has also paralleled some aspects of my personal life as I’ve had to overcome some personal behaviors. I realized the whole counseling thing was a good fit for me.”
He says he figured out what his calling was partly because of things that happened to him. These experiences help him understand and relate to those who come for counseling.
At Pine Grove he currently serves as senior clinical therapist in the Gentle Path program where he works with people dealing with sex addiction. He conducts one-on-one counseling and workshops and gives lectures. Prior to this position, he worked with men’s drug addiction in the Next Step program.
The rewards of helping others and knowing he’s made a difference in their lives are numerous, but counseling also has challenges. “I must accept that everyone is not going to make it,” Pough said. “I realize I’m just a tool. Their recovery is based more on them than on me. I can help, instruct and do what I can, but ultimately it’s up to the person and to a higher power.”
Intensive workshops are the newest part of the program. Pough facilitates one called Facing the Shadows, a week-long, out-patient workshop attended by people from all over the country. They stay in area motels and their spouses can also attend.
Although sex addiction is more openly discussed now, he says it was identified 30 years ago with Dr. Patrick Carnes’ book “Out of the Shadows.” “More people are accepting that it exists, but it is still questioned by some,” he said. “Science proves it’s very similar to other addictive behaviors.”
Pough adds that part of being a human being is being a sexual being, and he believes it’s an area of human behavior that will become more important for people to understand. “Many people have problems and we need to deal with it,” he said. “A lot of people have shame around sex. The more we can make it a topic of discussion, the better off we will be. Children need to hear these things from their parents rather than on the streets.”
Pough was born in South Carolina but at age one year moved with his parents and older brother to Brooklyn, N.Y. The family also lived in Jamaica Queens, N.Y. where he attended college and earned a bachelor of arts degree in community health services from Queen’s College. After working in Delaware, Georgia and Florida, he moved to Mississippi after marrying Gloria Jean Thompson from Columbia. She also works at Pine Grove in the Women’s Center.
He also has a master’s degree in counseling psychology from William Carey University and is a licensed professional counselor.
This busy professional also works in an out-patient practice at the Hope Center in Hattiesburg and is a minister, although he’s not serving as a pastor at this time. There isn’t much time to relax, but when he can, he enjoys reading, traveling and sports.
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