By Amy Talcott
What if there was a place you could go and sort through where you’re stuck or what’s holding you back in life, and figure out a path to get you back where you want to be? That’s exactly how Jenn Bovee, LCSW, describes the Mental Wellness Center, a practice she founded in 2017 that offers therapeutic services to individuals, couples, families and groups.
It’s also a place where everyone is welcome without judgment or labels. “We see children, adolescents, adults, the elderly, the LGBTQIA population, people who are in open or poly relationships and more,” she said. “All humans are accepted – all of them.”
A Healthy, Nurturing Group Culture
Jenn always had a dream of starting her own practice, and it was her husband who was the driving force behind her making the leap. “I was working for a community mental health practice in Pontiac, then at a psychiatry office,” she explained. “My husband has a life coaching and hypnotherapy practice and kept encouraging me to go into private practice, which I had always wanted to do.” Once Jenn started working for herself, it was clear there was a huge unmet need. “I was working six to seven days a week and getting more and more referrals, and the comments I kept hearing were that other therapists they contacted weren’t calling them back and that I was their ‘last hope’. That’s when I knew I had to expand into a group practice, and once again had a lot of support from my husband.”
But Jenn didn’t want just any group practice. “I wanted to create a healthy, nurturing group culture for clinicians so they could feel valued and appreciated, and in turn, provide the best care for their clients.” Jenn slowly built her team by referrals, seeking people out or having clinicians reach out to her. “One of our therapists, Jessica Pippin, LCPC, refers to us as ‘the island of misfit therapists’,” she joked. “We all come with our own level of stuff, yet we all fit together in a unique and wonderful way.”
What is Mental Wellness?
Jenn prefers the term ‘mental wellness’ to ‘mental health’ or ‘mental illness’. “I suffer from Chronic Neurological Lyme disease,” she explained, “and I learned very quickly that if I focus on the disease portion, it’s just going to suck me under and I’ll get sicker. I needed to focus on the wellness portion. When I look at clients I’ve worked with over my 25 years in this field, I know when they focus on getting better, they do better.”
She continued, “In the same way, I want people to have a place that gives them hope without being surrounded by the negative connotations that sometimes surround the issues they face. Wellness is the cornerstone of this practice; every time they call or go on the website or check out our Facebook page, I want them to have a constant reminder to focus on their wellness.”
Mental wellness also doesn’t mean you have to know what’s wrong. “Sometimes people do know what their diagnosis is if they’ve been to a previous therapist or are on medication to help with it,” said Jenn. Others simply say things like, ‘I can’t get out of bed’, or ‘I’ve just been in a series of broken relationships’ or ‘I just don’t like myself anymore’. They don’t always have a name for what’s wrong; they just know something’s not right. I want those people to know that it’s not their job to diagnose what’s wrong – it’s ours. We just want them to walk through the door with a goal to get well.”
Striving to Stop the Stigma
While the subject of mental health is becoming less taboo, stigmas still exist, said Jenn. “It’s definitely notable in certain groups more than others, as far as how they’re perceived as ‘weak’ for seeking treatment,” said Jenn. “Moms with post-partum depression are still victims of stigma, and I also still see it among the African-American community, first responders, the male population and even other therapists. There’s a whole unspoken stigma around children – that if your child needs mental help, you somehow screwed up as a parent. In fact, it’s a show of great strength to acknowledge that you – or your child – needs help and seek it out.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jenn saw a marked increase in individuals seeking help for anxiety, eating disorders and substance abuse. “Unfortunately, the stigma isn’t decreasing proportionately to the increase in mental health issues,” said Jenn. “All we can do is continue to educate people using the right language to help them understand that mental wellness is just as real and important as physical wellness.”
Taking the First Step Toward Wellness
Jenn understands it’s hard to take that first step toward getting help, which is why the Mental Wellness Center is designed to be as comfortable and accessible as possible. For instance, there are multiple ways to contact the Center. “For some people, picking up that phone is the hardest part,” said Jenn. “That’s why we offer two ways to contact us and make an appointment – by phone or via email. Either way, you’ll be asked a series of questions to ensure we can pair you with a therapist we feel would be the best fit.” However, Jenn stresses that if you decide the therapist you’re seeing is not a good fit for you, they make it easy to switch to another that might a better match.
Once you’ve made that appointment, Jenn realizes that coming in for the first visit can be anxiety-inducing. That’s why she posted a video on the Center’s Facebook page showing what it looks like to walk in to the Center. “I want clients to know what they can expect when they get here to help decreases their anxiety as much as possible.”
Currently, patients have the option of coming in to the Center or conducting their sessions via teletherapy. “This could change, since it’s up to insurance companies as to how long they’ll cover teletherapy,” said Jenn. “However, clients always have the option to pay the cash rate to continue having virtual sessions if their insurance doesn’t cover them.”
What Jenn ultimately wants people to know is that mental wellness is as vital to your overall well-being as physical wellness. “As humans, we spend a lot of time and money every year on our physical wellness, like workouts, weight loss, hair and skin care and plastic surgery,” she said. “Just think if we spent just a fraction of that time and money on our mental wellness. It would change the world! And as humans, we’re all worth it.”
Treatments for Every Person
There is often a misconception that ‘therapy’ is simply sitting across from a therapist who is a ‘good listener’ and that’s it. “Listening is an important component,” said Jenn. “But there are also techniques and modalities we use that have been proven to be effective treatments for a variety of mental health issues.”
Some of the therapies the Mental Wellness Center uses include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps patients become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so they can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way. CBT can be a very helpful tool—either alone or in combination with other therapies—in treating depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or an eating disorder, or simply to help individuals learn how to better manage stressful life situations.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR uses rapid sets of eye movements and other types of bilateral stimulation to help change how people hold on to traumatic experiences. EMDR focuses on the brain’s ability to constantly learn while taking past experiences and updating them with current information. “EMDR is also effective in treating issues other than trauma like anxiety, grief, depression, phobias, sleep issues, and stress,” said Jenn.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
ACT uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies mixed in different ways with commitment and behavior-change strategies to teach patients healthy ways to react to their feelings. “It’s a method of acknowledging a feeling and letting it pass without judgment,” explained Jenn. “In fact, some of my clients who effectively practice this will note a feeling and say jokingly, ‘I’m not judging it, I’m just noticing it!’”
Trauma-Informed Yoga Therapy
This therapy promotes the ability to self-heal, self-soothe, and self-regulate by creating a welcoming, supportive space that emphasizes safety, empowers choice, and shares tools for resiliency and self-regulation. This program is offered via telehealth, said Jenn, since women who experience trauma are more likely to have self-esteem and body issues. Jenn said the practice is working to start a yoga wellness group for all genders in the near future.
Attachment-based therapy taps into early influences of a person’s attachment experiences, such as the bonds that develop between children and their early caregivers, in order to resolve resulting feelings, thoughts, and behaviors they may have adopted as avoiding coping mechanisms. “Sometimes these experiences are a result of trauma or behavioral issues that can manifest as relationship issues, addiction, and others,” said Jenn.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
The term ‘dialectical’ comes from the idea that bringing together two opposites in therapy—acceptance and change—brings better results than either one alone. DBT uses a multistage approach that includes distress tolerance, emotion regulation, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness to help change negative behaviors. “This is another good fit for people who have experienced trauma,” said Jenn.
The Gottman Method is an approach to couple’s therapy that includes a thorough assessment of a couple’s relationship and integrates research-based interventions designed to help them strengthen it in three primary areas: friendship, conflict management, and creation of shared meaning. “This therapy helps break down miscommunication and other barriers to connection, intimacy, and understanding that couples need to help foster a healthy relationship,” explained Jenn.
Motivational Interviewing (MI)
“MI helps people make decisions for themselves with conviction based on motivation and positivity rather than being ‘talked into’ a decision,” explained Jenn. This therapy is often effective with those who engage in self-destructive behaviors, despite acknowledging the negative impact of them on their health, family life, or social functioning. MI helps raise awareness of a problem and adjusts any self-defeating thoughts surrounding it in order to increase the confidence in one’s ability to change.
Play therapy is primarily used for children ages three to 12, who often express themselves better through play activities than through verbal communication. Play therapy encourages free expression and allows the therapist to observe the child’s choices, decisions, and play style. The goal is to help children learn to express themselves in healthier ways and discover new and more positive methods to solve problems.
Somatic Experience Therapy
Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is designed to alleviate the symptoms of PTSD and other manifestations of trauma. “When you have a trauma,” explained Jenn, “you disconnect from your body.” SE sessions focus on creating awareness of the inner physical sensations, which are seen as the carriers of the traumatic memory. The goal is to release traumatic activation through increased tolerance of bodily sensations and related emotions.
This therapy uses empowerment to help clients become more goal-oriented rather than being paralyzed by the problem. “When I’m working with an individual, I might ask something like, ‘If a miracle happened tonight and your problem was solved, what’s the first thing you’d notice would be different when you wake up in the morning?’” This treatment highlights an individual’s ability to solve a problem rather than ruminate on how and why the problem was created.
The Mental Wellness Center recently expanded into their new location at 205 N Williamsburg Dr Suite A Bloomington, IL 61704. Visit their website at www.thementalwellnesscenter.com for information on services and providers. Individuals may contact the Center by phone (309) 807-5077, by email at email@example.com or by filling out and submitting the contact form on their website.