Today is World Mental Health Day, notes Dr. Jenny Long, adding she and her staff firmly believe mental health is as important as physical health — if one suffers, the other likely will, too.
Long is a psychologist and the owner of Midwest Counseling and Assessment (MCA), 412 Washington Ave. in West Plains, and she’s on a mission to destigmatize and demystify the therapy process.
MCA opened in 2017 in a single office inside of the Ozarks Small Business Incubator (OzSBI). Just two months later, Long moved her practice into a three-office suite in OzSBI’s storefront and hired administrative assistant Susan Falkenrath. The practice joined the Greater West Plains Area Chamber of Commerce in November 2017.
Long and Falkenrath were joined in April 2018 by a second therapist, Jessica Foster. The office has remained small intentionally out of deference to the atmosphere valued by their clients, but continue to work on making a big impact on the community through education, advocacy and relationships, said Long.
The attitude cultivated in Long’s practice is one of understanding that mental health does not mean freedom from mental health problems like depression or anxiety. Good mental health, she says, means good coping skills for life, ability to achieve potential and full engagement in relationships, work and community.
“This is why many of our clients come to us, not because life is bad, but because they want to enjoy life more, function better and match who they are with who they want to be,” Long explains.
MCA offers counseling, psychological testing and life coaching in a private setting. As it is primarily an out-of-network practice, clients have more control over their treatment, greater privacy and are not require to have a mental health diagnosis, said Long.
The therapists at MCA are fully licensed and have 30 years of combined experience in the mental health care field, she added.
As the only psychologist in the vicinity, Long said, she is able to offer psychological testing such as IQ tests, pre-adoption evaluations and surgical clearance for medical procedures like weight loss surgery and spinal cord stimulator implants. Individuals do not have to go outside the area for these services, she notes.
“The second thing that differentiates MCA, we are a ‘boutique’ counseling office, not a behavioral health clinic,” said Long. “We strive to create a comfortable environment and experience where clients are at ease and feel at home.”
For clients who might be worried about who might see them come and go, she notes the practice’s location in OzSBI can be an asset.
“Confidentiality is paramount in any healthcare setting, but it is more than securing records,” she said. “Located in OzSBI, with an outside entrance of our own, clients can easily come and go without standing out.”
MEET THE THERAPISTS
Long provides testing for adults and children, however, her counseling practice is focused on adults. She said helps working professionals create harmony between home and work life.
“Many of my clients have waited to try therapy because they are too busy giving of themselves to everyone else in their life. They feel selfish to let the focus be on theirselves,” she explained. “But it’s like in the case of an emergency landing on a plane, you should put on your own oxygen mask before you try to help someone else.” Long also works with weight loss surgery patients coping with the many psychological and physical changes after surgery.
Foster, a licensed professional counselor, sees clients age 7 and older, but she has a natural ability to connect with teenagers and kids who are experiencing anxiety, depression, anger, difficulty in relationships or the effects from traumatic experiences.
She also works independently with Whetstone Boys Ranch as the Admissions Manager.
Both Long and Foster are trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) for the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and multiple other problems such as anxiety.
EMDR is a specific psychotherapy that helps the brain process negative experiences in a more effective way which can lead to healing and improvements at a faster pace than some other forms of therapy, Long explained. Several studies show 75% to 90% of individuals who underwent EMDR sessions no longer met criteria for PTSD, she notes.
“For us, the personal relationship is at the core of what makes change happen,” said Long. “It relies on mutual respect that is earned: We understand the client is an expert on themselves and the client acknowledges the therapist may have some insight or observations they can’t see because they are too close to the situation.”
The therapists at MCA take the position that clients want to know their therapists genuinely care about them and what they are dealing with, she added. They want to demystify and destigmatize the therapy process, and, Long points out, counseling can be for anyone and is usually not as terrifying as clients might first fear.
The practice uses technology throughout, such as a form of biofeedback with a brain-sensing headband which helps clients learn relaxation skills, or testing administered through iPads.
Business hours for the office are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and by appointment only on Fridays.