UP CLOSE & PERSONAL WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Jessica McDonough is a mutisystemic therapist with Community Solutions Inc. She also is involved in regional theater. McDonough is a native of Honesdale and is a graduate of Honesdale High School and Grove City College, where she received a degree in music education. She received a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Marywood University. She lives in Scranton.
Meet Jessica McDonough …

Can you tell us a little about the therapeutic work that you do with teens?
I work with adolescents who are starting to show anti-social behavior or difficulties that are a little more intense that your average kid. A lot of our kids come from juvenile parole referrals or Children and Youth. Essentially, what we like to do is go in and work with the adolescent and their family, but we also work with all of the systems in their life, so we talk with the school and, if possible, their peers. We try to connect them with more positive things that can help them get back on the right track.

What do you enjoy about it?
I enjoy empowering children and their families to see their potential. I think it’s really easy to paint those sort of adolescents into a box, and they aren’t bad kids. They’re kids that haven’t been given the same type of opportunities, or maybe their parents don’t have the skill set to help them be as successful. I think what specifically sets Community Solutions work apart is we’re really empowering the family to do it for themselves. For each client that I have, I’ll generally meet with them three times a week for several hours. We’re right in there, and we get to know them pretty well. And ideally, after I leave after five months, they can continue to grow and make progress.

You’ve also been pretty involved with local theater, doing work with everyone from the Gaslight Theater to the Scranton Shakespeare Festival to the New Vintage Ensemble. When did you first realize you had an interest in acting?
I think as soon as I could talk, I knew I wanted to act. (Laughs) I used to put on ridiculous short plays for my family, and even if I wanted to go to the store, I would put on a song and dance number about it. When I first went to college, I had originally planned on majoring in performing arts, but quickly realized I could still do that work, but also get a more viable degree, which is why I did music education. And I actually taught music for eight years, prior to moving into my current field. But I’ve always loved theater.

What has been your most memorable play or role?
My favorite, to date, was playing Ophelia in “Drowning Ophelia.” That was with the Gaslight Theater Company.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I like to go for hikes. I took up crocheting. And I like reading. And I still do some acting. I also DJ with Patrice Wilding. We call it “SaturBae.” We do it every three or four months, mostly at The Bog. It’s really a dance party for ladies. It’s fun to see women be able to come out and cut loose. And it’s not necessarily geared toward younger women. A lot of them are moms, and it’s a big night out for them.

Favorite music?
I love a band called the Dirty Projectors. They’re just beautiful. Their music is just a little off the beaten path. I like the Alabama Shakes a lot, and I love Beyoncé. I also really like Kanye West’s music. As a person I’m not so sure, but I think he’s a very talented artist.

All-time favorite movie?
“The Goonies.”

Favorite TV show?
“The Gilmore Girls” and “The OA.”

Favorite city?
I did a cross-country trip two years ago with my best friend, and I loved Sedona. It’s not really a city, but it’s a cool place to go. Charleston is really cool, and Omaha is really fun.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
There’s something that’s very real about the interactions that I have with people here. People in this area are going to tell you how it is, but they’re also going to support you and be there for you. There’s a candor that I really appreciate, and when I travel out of this area, I miss that. It’s candor balanced with kindness. I really love Scranton.

Favorite food?
I love pizza. My boyfriend thinks I could survive on pizza alone. And I would be willing to try. (Laughs.)

Favorite holiday?
Halloween.

Favorite book or author?
I love the “Harry Potter” series. I use it in my practice a lot, with kids, because I think that Harry’s story is really motivating for a lot of kids that come from difficult circumstances. And I found it motivating as a kid as well.

Any pets?
Two cats: Fred and Ellie. And a foster cat, Smidge. She’s an older cat that I take care of, and she’s been passed around, but I think she’ll probably finish out with me. (Laughs)

Biggest pet peeve?
I don’t like it when people don’t say what they’re thinking or feeling. When people talk around you, or behind your back, or other people’s backs – I have a hard time with that. I just feel that so much time gets wasted by just not being upfront with people. I think there’s a way to have those conversations where it shouldn’t have to be so difficult.

Have you had a moment or event in your life that has helped shape you into the person you are today?
I don’t know if it was one particular person or one particular moment, but a series of events in my early twenties really led to me making the decision to look critically at my life, and how I was choosing to interact with people, and to make a change for the better. I love my family dearly, but I come from a traumatic background. There was some trauma in my childhood, and I was recreating bad patterns with friends and with relationships, and seeking out people who just kind of perpetuated some of the things that I believed about myself, whatever they may have been. And there was a point in my mid-twenties when I just ended a relationship with someone that I knew wasn’t good for me, and it was the turning point for me to say, “I’m scared to ask for the things I really want, but I can’t keep living this way.” At that point I took some time for myself and I went to a really wonderful therapist, who helped me to safely start to work on those things. And it changed not only the course of my life, but the quality of my life. Tenfold.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at
alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

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