Recognizing a need for therapy services in the area, and a desire to invest in the community, Grain Valley resident Melissa Winston opened 510 Counseling Group at 1406 Eagles Parkway in January.
“All of our team members have specialization in working with teens and families. It was a perfect space to be right near the alternative school and the high school. It worked out that this is an ideal space to connect with the community,” Winston said.
Prior to opening her own practice, Winston worked with a nonprofit organization providing direct instruction on healthy relationships to high school health classes. The program opened up a text line for students to text in questions, and Winston, as the trained therapist, answered those questions.
“We got thousands of questions, and heard a lot of heartbreak. You work with kids and deal with their big issues, and I just thought, ‘I want to help at a higher level’,” Winston said.
Winston returned to school while continuing work at the community level, deciding to focus on the micro level, helping families on an individual basis.
Winston stresses therapy is a helpful tool in all stages of life, but the need has increased for everyone due to the stress the pandemic has caused on daily life.
In the lives of teens, the pandemic has intensified issues therapists often see with patients.
“We’re seeing a lot of loneliness and isolation. A lot of conflict with parents over technology, because it is their one way to connect with friends. We also see problems with issues such as video game addiction and self harm,” Winston said.
“We are seeing a lot of kids who would normally be very successful. Kids who are used to being successful in sports, who are used to being successful in the classroom, are really struggling because they just don’t have their coping strategies accessible to them.”
“I think that’s been the case for everyone to a certain degree. You know, I can’t go to the gym, and I can’t talk to people and hang out with my friends. With teens, this turns into trouble managing their emotions, and trouble talking about it.”
“A constant theme I hear is ‘I know my situation is not nearly as bad as XYZ’, and they feel bad for feeling the way they feel. So, we just do a lot of giving people space to feel whatever they are feeling and just talk about it.”
Winston said everyone can benefit from recognizing the trauma we have all faced over the past year and honestly reflecting and talking about it.
“Even though we may have had the best case scenario—no loss of job, no one in your family becoming ill—still as a community, we have experienced collective trauma. Life as we know it is not the same. The uncertainty of the future is looming for everyone. So, I think we have to acknowledge what has happened physically in our bodies..”
“When we don’t feel safe that we can leave our homes, that we are going to get a paycheck, that if my kiddo gets a cold it could be COVID and I may lose them, we don’t feel that sense of safety and we lose a sense of control, our bodies start to live in this heightened state where our nervous systems are on edge. It makes us more irritable, more impatient, and gives us less ability to make good decisions.”
“I really encourage people to take some inventory of where you are. Be honest with yourself, process it and talk about it. When we do that and start to change our pattern of self-care, it can really help.”
“We are not okay alone. As people, we don’t do well alone for long. So, that is why it is so important to find creative ways to engage and seek help when we feel we need it.”
Winston says if it is not possible to connect in person, connecting by phone or via apps like Snapchat can be fun for adults as well as kids.
Janelle DeBlock, MA, LPC, does a lot of work with younger children in her practice and sees the impact of the past year on younger patients as well. While younger children are experiencing the same stresses and disruptions to their lives, DeBlock sees hope in how they cope.
I’m actually impressed with how younger kids are aware and understand the situation we are all facing. This whole generation of kiddos have the intelligence and understanding of how our behaviors individually impact the community,” DeBlock said.
510 Counseling Group does not accept insurance, but staff works with clients to provide documentation needed to request reimbursement from insurers, and offers a sliding scale for Grain Valley students.
510 Counseling Group can be reached online at www.510counseling.com and by phone at (816) 443-5279.