By Amy Kennard
It was Aristotle who said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” While that is true, many of us struggle with issues that prevent or hinder us from knowing our true selves. Situations such as divorce, job loss, or financial crisis can take a front seat to our own personal wellbeing. Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and addiction place a dark cloud over who we want to be — and can be. When this happens, knowing our best selves is not only difficult, but seemingly impossible.
Agape Counseling offers professional mental health care to individuals and families in Central Illinois. This close-knit group of Christian counselors, social workers, psychologists, and support staff seeks to provide a safe, confidential, and healing environment for children, teens, adults, couples, and families.
Agape Counseling’s philosophy is that empowering individuals to heal and grow allows them to become all of who they were created to be. Through the therapeutic relationships they form, the counselors at Agape serve the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of their clients.
Addressing the stigma
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, people experiencing mental health issues often face rejection, bullying, and discrimination. This can make their journey to recovery longer and more difficult. Mental health conditions are the leading cause of disability across the United States. Even though most people can be successfully treated, less than half of the adults in the U.S. who need services and treatment get the help they need.
Greg Skibinski, LCPC, CADC, CSAT, CMAT, is the Executive Director of Agape and says, “For some, it’s about being perceived as weak or having the mentality that, ‘I just need to tough this out or figure it out on my own.’ The option of seeking counseling or therapy might seem like a foreign concept for some. People need to talk through what’s happening in their lives, and finding the right person who is skilled and trained in this area is essential.” “The cause of the stigma of mental health concerns has probably at least partially been about an attempt for some people to have power over others,” says Renae Miller, MS, MFT, LCPC.
“Long ago, when asylums were common, ‘treatment’ providers had a great deal of power over others. Society could easily rid itself of “undesirables” by claiming they had mental illness. Today, I see the power differential play out among teens who bully and torment each other as a way to claim their status on the social ladder. Admitting that there actually is a problem with one’s ability to perceive reality or to tolerate unpleasant feelings requires far more courage and strength than hurling insults at someone.”
Clinical Director Amy Hansen, LCPC, CSAT, believes that the acceptance of mental health issues is slowly increasing. “Mainstream media is portraying a more realistic picture of what it’s like to suffer with issues such as depression, anxiety, grief, addiction, and suicide. Though tragic events like school shootings focus on severe psychopathology, the majority of people with serious mental illness are not dangerous and do not harm other people.”
The “stuff” of life
“We all have stuff,” Greg says simply. “We try to deal with it the best we can, but sometimes we keep doing the same things over and over or we run out of ways to cope. We all need alternative tools and strategies that allow us to move through the issues each of us face.”
Renae agrees. “I like to say that no person can be harmed by therapy as long as they are seeing a good therapist. Seeking therapy for typical phase-of-life difficulties helps you acquire a better sense of who you are as a person, what your strengths and weaknesses are and how you can grow in your ability to cope with life and relate better in your relationships.”
The word “therapy” alone has many misconceptions. Some think it means they’ll be tied to a therapist forever; others are afraid of being told they need medication. Still, others fear they’ll be perceived as just whining or complaining. Renae says, “I like to graduate people, just like completing school.” Success may be defined as effectively applying what has been learned to everyday life situations. We are both working together towards individualized goals.
Regarding medication, Amy says, “We clearly explain that we are not physicians, and we do not prescribe medications — nor do we suggest certain medications. We do offer referrals to physicians and can work with physicians by exchanging helpful information.”
As far as the issues themselves, Renae stresses that we are, in fact, a product of our past. “Our present-day reactions are rooted in where we have come from in life, and becoming more of who we want to be and who we are created to be requires action in the present time.”
“Counseling is a safe, secure, and confidential environment to address what we need to work on and to connect with someone who understands. A therapist is not there to judge or embarrass, but to be objective and caring and to provide direction and hope,” says Greg.
It takes a village
One of the strengths of the Agape team is their ability to provide services for the entire family.
“We can treat each family member individually, we work with couples, and we offer counseling with entire families,” explains Amy. “We have play therapy for younger children, we have therapists who specialize in working with teens and therapists who focus on working with couples. We provide a family-friendly environment with family waiting areas and counseling rooms large enough for groups.”
Finding the right therapist for each person who seeks counseling is of utmost importance. “Our greatest goal is to ensure our clients see the therapist who is the best match for them,” Amy continues. “Our administrative staff is very knowledgeable about all of our therapists across our three offices. They suggest the professional who has the expertise and specialties that fit with each client’s issues and concerns.”
Consulting with each other also helps provide the best possible care. “Weekly consultation time is important for us as therapists in order to discuss different perspectives on cases and topics so that we offer the best clinical care,” says Renae.
There may be situations when a client may not feel a connection with a therapist. Greg says, “We are very client-centered. So, if someone does not feel like it’s not a good match, we are able to refer within the practice to someone who will be a better fit.”
Making the call
For some, the hardest part of seeking help is making that first call. Greg reassures that the person on the other end of the line is compassionate, knowledgeable, and kind. “Our administrative assistants know our therapists and their skills and strengths. So, when a person calls in for therapy, they ask the right questions in a caring way so they can match the client with the right therapist.”
It is often said that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of great strength. Agape Counseling’s therapists welcome people who recognize they can benefit from talking to someone who can help them navigate the issues that are preventing them from leading their best lives and becoming all they were created to be.
Agape Counseling has office locations in Peoria, Morton, and Bloomington, IL. Their office hours are 9:00 am to 5:00pm; however, some counselors see clients until 10:00pm on weekdays, and several offer Saturday morning hours.
To learn more about AgapeCounseling, visit their website at www.agapecounselors.net.
Agape counseling staff’s counselors include:
- Licensed Clinical Psychologists
- Licensed Clinical Social Workers
- Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors
- Licensed Professional Counselors
- Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists
- Certified Sexual Addictions Therapists
- Certified Multiple Addictions Therapists
- Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselors