New Year – New Start

Amazing new opportunities that come from learning

By Pamela Feldman

We all are a work in progress, never more so than when we intend to make progress.  Beginnings seem to always have an allure of freshness, even in 2021 when there’s more continuation than new.  Yet, we may be poised exactly where we need to be to make positive changes that we might not have thought we needed or have thought about at all a year ago. 

Flexibility helped my shift to telehealth!

For me, this is a time to reflect on what has happened in the past year and how I am dealing with it.  There are some amazing new opportunities that come from learning new things, such as telehealth.  Though not seamless in the transition, there are many ways that telehealth, and technology in general, have expanded my knowledge and given me a new perspective.  

Change comes from need and sometimes from desire.  I personally embrace change, especially if I think I have some control. Sometimes I just need to think that I do.  So, what change are you going to make? Could I make some suggestions?

Keep your body limber!
  1. Journal.  It’s not an assignment and doesn’t need any kind of consistency.  Just sometimes, it’s nice to write about thoughts, dreams, good and bad things.  I like to record things that interest me, like a podcast that was meaningful, a poem I liked, or a song and artist that I want to hear again.
  2. Practice mindfulness.  Take 10 to 20 minutes to meditate, relax with your breathing, listen to meditative music.  Use an app or YouTube video. Stretch, tune in to your senses, smile.
  3. Learn something.  There are virtual tours, master classes, free Coursera classes, and a plethora of ways to stimulate your thinking.  Try something you’ve never done before.
  4. Reach out to someone you have neglected or someone who made a difference in your life, even if it was a long time ago.  A phone call, a note or email may reestablish a connection that enhances your life. 
  5. Give away more than you bring in to your home.  If you are able, make someone else’s life easier while reducing the heaviness of things in your own life. Sharing really is caring.
  6. Move your body.  In whatever way you are able, keep your body moving and limber.  
  7. Believe.  Whatever you embrace spiritually, take some time to get or stay in touch with that powerful force that helps you feel you are not alone, that you are loved and are precious.

This list is entirely incomplete, so feel free to add to it.  Take each day as it comes and do what you can with it. Things may not be all we wish them to be, but we can work to do the best we can with the day we have. I wish you peace in 2021. 

Depression:  How to Support a Family Member or Friend

You could save a life

By Pamela Feldman, MS, LIMHP, LPC

What can you do when someone you know suffers from depression?  You may notice the changes such as lack of motivation or enthusiasm, irritability, withdrawal or pervasive sadness.  Someone who is depressed already knows they’re down, but they may not be aware that others notice or care. Depression often makes a person feel unwanted and unloved, even though that is not the case. So, it is helpful to talk to them about your concerns in a caring way. For example, “I’ve noticed you haven’t wanted to participate much lately which is a change for you.  I’d sure like to help if you’re having a hard time.”

Reassure your person that you just want to listen and be there for them. Despite your good intentions, offering suggestions can be shaming. No one accepts depression without trying to get better. People who suffer from depression can do all the right things without relief.  Being able to talk about depression without judgment is powerfully helpful.

Treatment consisting of counseling and medication is generally the most effective means of alleviating serious, clinical depression. Other medical conditions may be a factor, so the person’s doctor should be involved.   Do offer to help the person find resources or to stay in treatment.  It takes time and patience. Offer to check in with them periodically to just listen and give support. It’s okay to just be there without talking.

It is important to ask directly if they have thoughts of hurting themselves or taking their life. If they do, it’s important to seek immediate help at the nearest Emergency Room or you can call 911.  Let them know that you do not want anything bad to happen to them and that you will stay with them until they are safe.  Check to see if their home environment is safe from firearms and medications.  Make sure they have the 24-hour suicide hotline number at 1-800-273-8255(TALK).

Doing these things can be intimidating. But it may save a life.

 

Stress, Pandemics, and Resiliency

Resiliency

From Pam Feldman, LIMHP:

This article from the New York Times helps us to understand how resilience is important in how we deal with adversity.  We face troubling times and it is more important than ever to look for ways to bolster our ability to stay on course and manage through crises.  We have options of how we handle the many challenges that face us.  I hope this article encourages you to find ways to stay positive.

From the NY Times:

“… the tools common to resilient people are optimism (that is also realistic), a moral compass, religious or spiritual beliefs, cognitive and emotional flexibility, and social connectedness. The most resilient among us are people who generally don’t dwell on the negative, who look for opportunities that might exist even in the darkest times. During a quarantine, for example, a resilient person might decide it is a good time to start a meditation practice, take an online course or learn to play guitar.”

Access the full article here

Covid-19 response

Telehealth services – limited face-to-face

As of January 18, 2021, we are starting to see some clients for face-to-face sessions – based on medical necessity (for services that can’t be done via telehealth). It is our hope that we will enter the next phase of our reopening once the number of Covid-19 cases maintain a downward trend, and we are vaccinated.

We made this decision based on our commitment to your safety and continuity of care. The pandemic continues, as we simultaneously wait for vaccinations to become more widely available to area residents. Providing you with telehealth-based services will allow us to continue your treatment, while minimizing exposures that might interrupt your care. We know that this can be disappointing to many people. We encourage you to express your thoughts and feelings with your therapist. This can be an important component of your care.

We’re happy to be able to return to some limited face-to-face office sessions. This will be for those who are participating in medically necessary services – those that cannot be conducted satisfactorily using telehealth services. Examples:

  • Blood pressure measurements or weigh-ins with our Nurse Practitioners.
  • Specialized psychotherapy services for trauma survivors.
  • Specialized psychotherapy services for young children.

As always, talk this over with your therapist, so you can receive the services that are best for you.

Useful resources to explore:

Douglas County Health Department

The Washington Post – Free Access to Coronavirus Pages

Centers for Disease Control – Coronavirus Information

Our Facebook Page – where you’ll find a regularly updated collection of news and posts about coping with the Covid-19 Pandemic


Online video and/or phone sessions are available. Call us at 402-334-1122 for scheduling. For medication refills, please contact your pharmacy.

All of our therapists are able to offer telephone or secure internet sessions. You may want to check with your insurance provider to see if they are covering telephone and/or telehealth sessions. Call your carrier for details.

Alternatives to office visits

All of our therapists are able to offer telephone or secure internet sessions. Some of the staff use a service call Doxy for video telehealth visits. Find more information here. Most of us have developed an interest in a great alternative: Zoom for Healthcare, the HIPAA-compliant version of the video call software almost everyone has been using for family, education, and business.

Instructions for video [internet – telehealth] sessions:

  1. You’ll need a fast internet connection, and a device with a camera and microphone.
  2. Even your smartphone will work in most cases. Tablets, laptops, desktop computers with webcams/mics are better.
  3. If your therapist is using Zoom, you’ll want to download the Zoom app onto your device before your session. It’s free! https://zoom.us/
  4. What browser to use with Doxy.me? iOS users will need to use Safari 11+ exclusively.
    On Android device, or on a computer:  Doxy.me officially supports Chrome, Firefox, Safari 11+, Microsoft Edge (if running Windows 10) and the Samsung mobile browser.
  5. If you have a headset, earbuds, or microphone, that will help. And a private place to talk for about 45 minutes.
  6. Make sure that you have provided us with current phone numbers and email addresses, so we can stay in touch with you.

Some insurance plans allow for phone and/or secure internet sessions, and will reimburse ACP. Call your carrier for clarification. As of June 2020, it’s our understanding that secure video sessions are covered services with BCBS, UBH, Cigna, TriCare, and Medicare. Others may be added later. Also, some carriers have allowed phone sessions to be reimbursed, but some carriers are expecting all of us to switch over to video at some point. Call your carrier, or talk to your therapist.

Additional details here —> how-to and special consent forms.

Workplace Bullying

Have you ever been subjected to Workplace Bullying by a boss or co-worker and not sure what to do about it?

Or have you ever witnessed or been subjected to what appears to be ridicule, intimidation, humiliation, or blame?

These behaviors are not okay at home, nor are they okay in the workplace. The link below will take you to the full article on the Insead.com website. It identifies Workplace Bullying as a silent epidemic. You’ll find out what it is and what you can do.

Kerry Matuszek, MS, LIMHP, CPC

Here’s the link to the full article.

After you’ve read it, do your best to put some of the ideas into motion. Need more help with this? Please call us!

25th Anniversary! – How we got started in 1993

How we got started

Associated Counseling Professionals opened its doors for business on August 2nd, 1993, but the story goes back to earlier roots in the mid-1980s. By the way, on August the first, we were still hanging pictures and sharpening pencils. Everyone worked hard right up to our opening — and the construction crew remained onsite for some additional days. Our first clients undoubtedly brushed up against uncured paint and stepped over boxes that had not yet been unpacked.

Remember your first flip-phone?

The 1980s

You remember the 80s, don’t you? Computers were just starting to be a thing in our homes, mobile phones where luxuries and awkward. We all still watched TV on a television, maybe using a cable box. We drove larger cars that burned copious amounts of fuel. When people went to work, they dressed up. Cargo pants and flip-flops and taking your dog to work just because it felt like it could be fun had not yet come on to the scene.

Most therapists back in the 80s worked in hospitals, large agencies, or university affiliated clinics. It was a bit uncommon to move into private practice, given that most of us were not trained in the world of business, even though we spent long hours over many many years sharpening our clinical skills. Among the best private practice groups in Omaha in the 1980s was a group known as the Hudson Center for Brief Therapy. It had been originally started by a pastoral counselor, Lofton Hudson, Ph.D. It was later led by his daughter, Dr. Patricia Hudson.

Patricia Hudson, PhD, was a clinical psychologist and an AAMFT clinical supervisor. She was one of the earliest people that I know of who embraced the study of marriage and family therapy in Nebraska – and did a lot of training and clinical supervision back in that era. I [Terry Moore] was the Administrative Director for a while, too.

Everyone involved in the formation of Associated Counseling Professionals in 1993 had originally been affiliated with the Hudson Center. In early 1993, Dr Hudson began reconfiguring the business model under which her Center operated, and it opened up the active thinking amongst many of us to consider starting our own practice. It was a tough decision, but once there was a core group of us that wanted to venture out into the business environment of opening our own practice, several elements begin to fall into place. Each of the first group of owners of Associated Counseling Professionals brought an element of expertise or energy to the enterprise. Practice management systems, marketing, interior design, setting up an office – we needed it all!

It was a bit challenging!

Over the course of several weeks in mid 1993, we located suitable office space, sketched out remodeling plans, bought furniture, and all the other things that a state-of-the-art office needed in ‘93. Given the environment of leaving one practice for another of one’s own design, the carpenters and painters we’re still working when the first clients were checking in at the new clinic. We were located at 128th and Augusta Avenue just adjacent to a 9-hole golf course, which gave us a nice pastoral setting. And a sloping parking lot that proved to be quite icy and slippery in the winter. And the opportunity for a few of us to have golf balls leave little dimples in the hoods of our cars. But, hey, this is the environment we went for!

Yikes!
Today, PCs and phones are relatively easy to use. That wasn’t always the case!

The original formation group for ACP was:  Sue Williamson, Janelle Weeks, Julie Jurich, Linda Schaefer, Terry Moore, Sandy Kutler, and Karen Stacy. We were very fortunate in being able to offer employment to some of the support staff that have been at the Hudson Center, as these administrative people knew our habits and preferences and understood the territory of private practice mental health. Both Bridget Weide and Tracy Polito were instrumental in getting us started.

We also had a licensed psychologist come along with us from the Hudson Center. Dr. David Carver, a psychologist who had been working predominantly at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in the Student Counseling Center there, agreed to come along and be our clinical supervisor. This was back in the days before independent licensure for mental health practitioners, so this was essential for our practice.

Looking back, I’m able to see with some clarity now as to why we were successful from the get-go:

  • Each clinician was excellent and well prepared to provide Professional Services to his and her clients.
  • Each owner was able to bring an element of personal expertise, whether it be working with a specialized population of people or, or expertise in an area of business such as contract negotiation, computer configuration, or carpet cleaning. We had to know it all!
  • Our support staff was terrific, as well, in helping us set up the day-to-day business practices that allowed us to keep our focus on the clinical work that attracted us into the field in the first place.
  • We continued to receive referrals from Physicians, school counselors, other therapists, and former clients. Without everyone’s support, we wouldn’t have had clients. No clients, you get no fees. And we would have closed about as quickly as we had opened.

Expansion

We continued to work in that original space at 128th and Augusta for 15 years. Over the time, both administrative and clinical staff changed a bit here and there. Janelle Weeks got married and moved to another city. Sandy Kutler divides her time between summer living and winter living cities and has a smaller practice elsewhere in Omaha. Karen Stacy consolidated her practice at Therapy Resource Associates. Dave Carver, as well, consolidated his practice to his work with students and teaching for Nebraska Medicine. Bridget Weide completed her college degree and started her own public relations, marketing and promotional company known as Image Building Communications. Additionally, over the years, we’ve had the privilege of having worked with at least a dozen terrific people from every age cohort helping us run our front office. Some stayed for a few months and others have stayed for a couple decades.

The original site...
Our original location – below this pediatric practice. We were below street level – but people found us!

Each time one of our original owners has left the practice, another outstanding clinician has taken his or her place as a co-owner.  We are now delighted to have the addition of Glen Fineman, Pamela Feldman, and Kerry Matuszek.

A great guy lends a hand!
Rita’s husband, Dan, helped us set up our PC network in early 2009 – at our newer location.

This would be a good time to honor Rita Eisma, our office manager, for having served Associated Counseling Professional for 20 years. She has assembled a good process for our office and a terrific staff to augment what she does. Mary Palik has added 17 years to our efforts, and Lexi Trantum has been with us now for about a year. Each member of our support staff handles hundreds of little details for the counseling staff and our clients every week. They’re awesome!

Before the end of our tenure on Augusta Avenue, we began to add independent contractors and Psychiatry consultations to our staff. When we moved to our current location, at THE Athletic Club [formerly the Prairie Life Fitness Center] building, just North of 132nd and West Center Road, our expanded space availability enabled us to add several independent contractors to our clinical staff. We now have three part-time nurse practitioners, along with 5 licensed mental health pratitioners. This allows us to provide more comprehensive care to a wider range of people across all age ranges.

We appreciate everyone’s support: our support staff, the clinical staff, the people in the community who pass along our practice information or individual therapist’s names to friends, family, neighbors and coworkers. We’re grateful to each and every one of you!

 

Terry Moore, MSW

Service Animals

Service Animal documentation

We frequently get asked to provide a letter for someone wanting to travel with an animal – or to have clearance to bring an animal into group housing, such as an apartment complex, dormitory or care facility. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Summary by:
Scarlett Shockley, LPC, LIMHP

Do you have an Emotional Support animal or a Service Animal?  It’s important to know the difference! I reviewed an online post from Kimberly Duff LPC, CRC, and I’ve distilled out the main points for you.

Service Animals

service animal is an animal that has received special training to help a person with a physical, sensory, cognitive or psychiatric disability.

These animals are protected by Title II and Title III of the ADA.

The work of the service animal must be directly related to the person’s disability and certification and documentation of this specialized training is required for purposes of the ADA.

A letter from a doctor or other professional does not make the animal a verified service animal. Examples of service animals include guide dogs, animals that assist persons with a hearing impairment, and animals that provide a signal of an impending seizure to persons with epilepsy.

Service animals are specially trained to help a person with a disability and are protected by the ADA.

Emotional Support / Comfort Animals

An emotional support animal, sometimes known as a comfort animal, may help provide support to an individual by helping mitigate symptoms of depression, relieving loneliness, and / or providing companionship. 

Because emotional support animals are not trained to provide a service to a person with a disability, these animals are not covered by Title II and Title III of the ADA.

Emotional support animals do not have specialized training and these animals are not protected by the ADA.

When it comes to living and traveling with service animals, it is clear that the ADA protects the owners’ rights. However, a comfort animal can be more challenging, if allowed at all. Comfort animals are not protected by the ADA and should not be allowed in public places unless the establishment permits pets or other animals.  If you have a comfort animal, and are wanting to travel or move into a residence that allows comfort animals, you may need documentation from a health care professional supporting the need for your animal.  Ask the travel venue or the residence administrator if they have a form for you to fill out. If they do not, then speak to your healthcare provider about a letter of verification that includes:

  • The professional’s license, state or jurisdiction of the license
  • The date(s) of the license
  • The individual’s clinical diagnosis
  • A statement that the individual is under the care of this professional
  • That the animal is necessary for the individual’s functioning & treatment plan

 

Device overload item – could it be happening to you?

When the average American looks at his or her smartphone between 90 and 165 times per day, this average American is doing much more than practicing highly questionable personal hygiene.A spate of recent studies suggests that people constantly looking at their smartphones — or, even scarier, simply sitting near their smartphones — have lower rates of the following things: cognition, problem solving, creativity, attention span, sound sleep, affinity, trust and empathy. Basically, we are making ourselves demonstrably dumber and less happy.

Source: Hansen: We are slaves to our smartphones. We are the Facebook Zombie Army. We are the Walking and Tweeting Dead | Matthew Hansen | omaha.com

from Pam Feldman, LIMHP

Is cell phone addiction really a “thing”? If everybody’s doing it, how can it be so bad?

Matthew Hansen’s article in a recent edition of the Omaha World-Herald, is a great example of how our children are becoming affected.

A recent issue of the Family Therapy Networker challenges therapists to address the effects of being constantly connected to cell phones, addicted to gaming, laptops, tablets and watches. Are we losing ourselves without recognizing it?

Next time you’re on your device, ask Siri how cell phones use is affecting children, marriages and other relationships. She’ll plug you in.

 

How Smart People Handle Difficult People

Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus — an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small “arms” that brain cells use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons. Stress is a formidable threat to your success — when stress gets out of co

Source: How Smart People Handle Difficult People

Chances are that you’ve encountered challenges in your work relationships, or elsewhere. The research evidence suggests that it quickly can take a toll on us. Sound familiar? We can help. 402-334-1122

Talking To Kids About Fear And Violence

Kids Get Worried

With everything that happens in the world, your kids will — potentially — get the idea that the world is a dangerous place. They will ask questions. So, you’ll want to be ready to talk about it with them calmly.

“Parents can help children gain a sense of personal control by talking openly about  violence and personal safety.” Recent acts of violence in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin schools have stunned the nation. Children, in particular, may experience anxiety, fear, and a sense of personal risk. They may also sense anxiety and tension in those around them — friends, family members, loved ones, caregivers and other adults who have a direct impact on the well-being of children.

Source: Talking To Kids About Fear And Violence | Mental Health America