Sunday, October 22, 2017


"I'll bet you a nickle I can kiss you without touching you."
The first time I was forced to feel sexualized and  powerless was when I was 12 years old.  He was..?? 50-something and a physical education teacher at my junior high school.  As I have often looked back on that incident, I am aware of the grooming of me that he did prior to that moment.  He was complimentary and friendly.  Always greeted me or waved from across the room. It made me feel special and I liked that I was recognized, (or so I thought), more than the hundreds of other kids in my school.  In my naivete, I trusted him and respected him.  He was a teacher and we were taught that they deserved those things simply because of their title, position, and age.
We were waiting for the bell, that released us to our next class, to ring.  He came over and signaled for me to come talk with him.  Me!  In front of everyone else!  Me!  Then, I remember being amazed at his question.  Certainly he could not kiss me without touching me and he would lose and I would be a nickle richer.  He took me into a storage area and kissed me on the lips and simply said, "I lose" as he handed me the nickle.  My lips were burning, my heart was exploding with shame.  Almost instantly a female teacher walked in and questioned in an accusing tone, "What are you two doing in here?"  She had put the blame equally on me as it was on him.
Sitting at dinner that evening, my lips continued to burn.  I imagined that my mother could tell something was wrong, that I had done something terrible.  Of course, she didn't know, but my guilt and shame were overwhelming. What would have happened if I told her?  I feared I would be punished, so I said nothing.
The teacher continued to harass me by frequently asking me if I wanted to "bet a nickle".  I could not escape it and thought I was powerless to do anything about it.  This was just the first of many unwanted sexual advances, comments, and gestures that I have experienced and the recent news events and #MeToo movement has reminded me of how those behaviors had impacted me not only during my impressionable adolescent years, but well into my adulthood.
The October 30, 2017 issue of Time Magazine's article, "The View" begins with this sentence, "Cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug."  This describes when our culture/society condemns and despises sexual predators but then excuses them and even promotes them to positions of power.  The invalidating message this implies to persons who have been victimized, reinforces our feelings of self blame, shame, guilt and dehumanization.  Our stories are discredited and devalued as we are accused of things that suggest we asked for it, should have known better, or are lying.
Of course, we are all expecting this to be that "watershed moment" that will result in change.  Discussions are being held on many levels as the news continues to cover developing events.  What is the solution and how can this problem be adequately addressed?
A newscast I recently heard recognized the power that other men can have when they address the behavior when they see/hear it.  Objecting to crude comments made "in the locker room" or in the boardroom might be met with resistance from the offender.  Men don't want to be seen as women and are expected to support such inappropriate behaviors.  They might speak up privately afterwards, but by then, the offender goes free.  The newscast emphasized how important it is for men to object to the behavior at the moment they witness it as it shifts the focus to the offender rather than remain on the victim.
Reflecting on the support I would have loved to have been given at age 12, to know that I was not to blame, to have the woman teacher confront the man about his inappropriate behavior and to have grown up in a family where I could have been able to confide in my parents without the fear of being punished would all have had positive outcomes rather than the years of shame and self blame I endured.
And just as a closing thought:  Mine was only a kiss.  Millions of women (and men) have suffered much worse.

Kathy Thome, LPC,  is passionate about using the therapeutic relationship to help you achieve your personal goals.
She is proficient in multiple approaches and will work with you to find that which is best suited to your needs. 
Kathy is skilled in working with many issues.  She has extensive experience helping individuals with depression, anxiety, grief, and the development of interpersonal skills that foster growth and esteem. 
Prior to her counseling career, Kathy was a high school teacher and a school counselor, which gives her a unique perspective and insight related to adolescents as well as parenting.  She worked with suicide prevention groups and also founded the first LGBTQ group (Gay Straight Alliance) at her high school.
Kathy is a state certified Licensed Professional Counselor, earning her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Western Illinois University.

In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, including those with four legs.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


Introducing our Wellness Wednesday feature.  On the first Wednesday of the month, we will post a tip to promote wellness.  Here is the first.

On my journey to becoming a professional counselor, I have learned a lot about myself as a person and a professional. One of the main things I have worked on throughout the last two and a half years is learning to trust myself, to believe that my voice is worth listening to.

In the past, I have struggled with meditation and guided imagery because it forces me to sit in silence with myself. Now that I have become more comfortable sitting with myself, I am beginning to enjoy it. Recently, Kaitlyn introduced me to a meditation called the "Wise Woman.” It has inspired me to more deeply explore what holds me back, and has been a great tool to help my clients who struggle with self-esteem, anxiety, lack of confidence, and negative self-talk.

A meditation like this can be used in many different ways. You can read it to yourself, out loud or in your head. You could have someone else read it to you (like a counselor or friend). You could even record yourself reading it and listen to it. The version I use is below, and you can feel free to adapt it however you would like. For instance, you can change the gender of the wise person so it aligns with you.

Begin by settling in your chair, finding a comfortable position that allows you to take deep, calming breaths. If you feel comfortable, close your eyes and focus on your breath. As you breathe, begin imagining a place in nature that you find peace. It can be a forest, a beach, a mountain trail, or any other place that you feel connected to.

Imagine yourself sitting in a room, looking down over this place of calmness and serenity. Take in everything. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear?

You decide to go outside, so you leave the room and find a path. As you begin to walk, continue to notice what your senses pick up on. Are there birds singing? Children laughing? Is there a breeze? What do your surroundings look like? Try to imagine them in as much detail as possible. The path widens and curves as you continue to follow it. Go slowly and take your time.

Up ahead, you notice a house. Something about the home beckons to you, and draws you in. What does the house look like? What makes it so appealing?

As you approach the house, a woman opens the door. It is as if she has been waiting for you all along, like she knew you would be coming. Somehow, you know she is a wise woman. What does she look like? How is she dressed? Try to picture her as clearly as you can. She smiles, and invites you in.

Inside her house, she shows you to a room, and you instantly feel at home. What does the room look like? What about it makes you so comfortable? Are there pictures on the walls? Comfy furniture? A fireplace? Maybe she offers you something to eat, or to drink. You sit down, and for a minute, there is simply comfortable silence.

While you are in her presence, you recognize how it makes you feel. You feel at peace, accepted, and loved for exactly who you are in this moment. Somehow, you know the wise woman cares for you unconditionally.

After some time, she says something to you. What does she say? You turn to her and respond. What do you say? You have a conversation for a while. What is said?

Eventually, you notice she has colors surrounding her. You had not noticed this before. What colors are there?

As you think about the colors, you notice the sun is setting. You say you are going and you thank each other for the time together.  You say goodbye. As you are leaving, the wise woman gives you something. What is it?

You walk back down the path and watch the colors of the sky. Take your time walking back, and notice what is different. Is it quieter? Does the path look different in the fading daylight?

You see the place you began, so you head towards it. You walk up the path.  When you are there, you will begin to come back to an awareness of this room. Feel your feet on the floor, and your body in the chair. When you are ready, open your eyes.

I will let you in on a little secret. The wise woman you met? She is you. You can call her up whenever you feel alone or in need of some wisdom in your life.

The color and the item she gave you are things that can remind you of the wise woman. When you see them in your daily life, they can serve as reminders that the wise woman is always inside of you, and available when you need her.

Nicki Phillips is a counseling intern at Esprit and a graduate student at UW Oshkosh working towards a degree in clinical mental health counseling. She brings a fresh perspective to her work along with a vibrant personality. She believes everyone is inherently worthy of respect and compassion, and strives to create those qualities in her relationships with clients. She sees clients who are uninsured, underinsured, have a high deductible, or prefer to pay out-of-pocket for a reduced cost. She particularly enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, and has also worked with children (ages 6 and up) and adults. She has immediate openings for new clients! Please schedule online at She can also be reached via email at or by phone at (920) 383-1287.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

“Just Get Over It”: When Your Grief is Not Supported

We all have experienced grief at one time or another. However, while most people associate it with death of a loved one, many other life changes or events can cause grief. Examples of events and transitions where grief typically occurs, but may not be acknowledged or socially supported, include: divorce, serious illness, physical impairment, moving, job loss or change, infidelity, abuse, natural disaster, traumatic events, infertility, pet loss, children growing up, loss of an expectation or dream, loss of a societally unsanctioned relationship, and aging.
Such “disenfranchised” (i.e., unacknowledged or unsupported) grief undermines our normal coping strategies. When grief is viewed as illegitimate, we fail to receive the support and empathy typically given after the death of a loved one. Instead, although we may know something is wrong, we (as well as family and friends) may ignore, dismiss, or play down our right to grieve. We may think (or be told to) “just get over it,” but reminders of loss -- such as missing favorite activities due to a disability or not being able to spend a holiday or birthday with family members due to divorce or a move -- can lead to chronic grief (Doka, 2016).
Grief experienced by children or teens may also be disenfranchised because adults often assume that children are less aware of and less affected by life events. Teens and children may hear, “You’re young, you’ll get over it” after losing a friend, experiencing peer rejection, or enduring a family move. Yet children and teens are acutely aware of and affected by life events and transitions involving themselves, family, or friends. These experiences can be traumatic as well, complicating symptoms of grief (Hooyman & Kramer, 2006).
When others minimize, fail to recognize, or dismiss our grief, we lose a crucial coping mechanism: social support. As a result, we may hide our grief, fearing social disapproval or be influenced to believe we have no right to grieve. Instead, we feel “something is wrong with me,” leading to shame, embarrassment, or a sense of failure. Messages such as “It’s time to move on,” “get over it,” or “it’s not that bad” further compound our suffering because they foster self-doubt, self-blame, resentment, feeling misunderstood, and disconnection. We end up confused by conflicting feelings that make it difficult to sort out our feelings (Doka, 2016).
I personally have experienced disenfranchised grief from various life events: surviving a cancer diagnosis after being given a 20% chance to live, the end of my first marriage, an empty nest (causing mixed feelings of pride for my children’s independence but also loss), death of a pet, moving, and career change all involved feelings of loss.
My own losses have made me realize the personal courage and self-awareness it takes to acknowledge continuing grief when the world thinks you should be “over it,” to reach out for support from others (including professional support), and to be self-compassionate (rather than denying one’s feelings). I have both witnessed and experienced the strength, wisdom, and beauty that can come from acknowledging and working through grief to establish a new normal.

When experiencing disenfranchised grief, have the courage to reach out and get the support you need. Counseling can be especially helpful when you are not getting or feel uncomfortable asking for support from friends, family, and loved ones. Additionally, counselors trained in grief work can provide specific grief interventions to help you process your grief, acknowledge your loss, and cope with what you are experiencing. Further, if you have or are experiencing trauma symptoms related to the grief event, counselors trained in trauma work, can help in identifying, validating, processing, and coping with these as well. In addition, counseling can help loved ones learn how to best support you, when experiencing disenfranchised grief. 

Kathy Glick specializes in working with clients coping with life transitions or challenging life events, including loss, trauma, and relationship issues, and is currently accepting new clients. Kathy has specialized training and certification for working with loss and grief including: loss of a loved one, divorce, relationship changes, empty nest, pet loss, job change, loss of safety or trust, retirement, moving, change in health status, aging, etc. 
Kathy has specialized trauma training, including EMDR, as well as specialized training in couples therapy. She attended training through the Beck Institute for CBT and uses evidence based therapies to help address anxiety, depression, self-esteem, relationship, and confidence issues. Having experienced several of her own losses, life changes, and challenging transitions, clients find Kathy to be both empathetic and insightful.
Kathy holds a Master of Science in Professional Counseling, a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration (providing her with a broader, practical perspective), certification from the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is licensed in the state of Wisconsin. Outside of work, Kathy loves spending time with family, friends, and her dog, Miguel. She enjoys traveling, yoga, walking, biking, cooking, and reading.

Friday, September 15, 2017

National Suicide Prevention Week

September 10-16, 2017 is National Suicide Prevention Week.
    We are advised to be aware of the warning signs that might help us to intervene and many times, individuals who are contemplating suicide ask for help or indicate by their actions and/or words that they have been considering ending their lives.  Yet, there are too many of us who have experienced losing someone by suicide, where no such early warning occurred.  We are left wondering what we missed, because surely this person "told us" in some way.  We go through the checklists of the typical warning signs and come up empty.  We blame ourselves because we didn't pay closer attention.  We feel guilty because we didn't spend those few extra minutes we had with the person we lost.  We didn't tell them we loved them often enough...
     When I worked as a high school counselor, my experiences losing students was especially devastating.  The high school I worked at lost several teens who chose to end their own lives. Feelings of shock and disbelief and overwhelming grief were expressed by students and staff alike. As a school counselor, it was particularly difficult to comfort others while I too was grieving.  
     During my work as a Licensed Professional Counselor, I started seeing one young lady, after her first attempt.  I thought we were making progress, yet after only three sessions, she hung herself. I questioned my effectiveness and doubted my ability to be able to help my clients. I felt as though I had not earned the trust and hope her parents placed in me to help their daughter. 
    Although there are some who plan their suicide, the students we lost acted impulsively.  In a moment of desperation, when they felt as though no one could help or nothing would ever change, they were gone.  Our lives were forever changed by their actions.  Immediately, any of us would have traded that for an opportunity to help, to listen, to care.
How do we learn to bounce back from disappointments?  How do we learn to take things in stride?  How do we learn that it is OK to make a mistake? How do we learn that we will have our hearts broken? How do we learn to tolerate being teased, rejected, and that we won’t always get what we want?
     The Survivors of Suicide and Loss group I meet with monthly (Community for Hope at agree that starting at a very young age, children must learn to be resilient.  They must have their feelings validated as well as experience disappointments so they learn, in incremental steps, how to navigate the full range of our emotions.  They must learn that they don’t have to “take something” to feel better.  Children learn that things can help us feel better by seeing us have that drink when we get home from work, or that cigarette when stressed. The group members also believe the pace of our lives limit our direct interactions with each other and see the impersonal and somewhat shallow relationships that are developed via electronic media. 

     Yes, it is important to be aware of the warning signs of suicide.  But before someone ever considers that suicide is an option, it is more important to be an early and constant loving, supportive, caring, and accepting presence in each other’s lives.   

Kathy is passionate about using the therapeutic relationship to help you achieve your personal goals. 

She is proficient in multiple approaches and will work with you to find that which is best suited to your needs.  
Kathy is skilled in working with many issues.  She has extensive experience helping individuals with depression, anxiety, grief, and the development of interpersonal skills that foster growth and esteem.  
Prior to her counseling career, Kathy was a high school teacher and a school counselor, which gives her a unique perspective and insight related to adolescents as well as parenting.  She worked with suicide prevention groups and also founded the first LGBTQ group (Gay Straight Alliance) at her high school. 
Kathy is a state certified Licensed Professional Counselor, earning her Master’s Degree in     
Counseling from Western Illinois University.
In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, including those with four legs.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The "Firsts"

There are so many firsts in people’s lives. Do you remember when you first entered kindergarten and wondered if you would have any friends?  I cannot remember my exact thoughts that day but I do remember feeling nervous and clinging to my mom’s leg.  Then going to college, same worry!  Or how about the first time you entered the world of work?  Those worries might be, “will my boss and coworkers like me?” or wondering, “can I do this job?”  There are many firsts with buying a house and not knowing the steps to getting a mortgage or hiring a realtor.  Other firsts in day to day tasks can also create anxiety like calling a doctor or picking a bank.  Every day we are faced with new experiences or firsts.

I have recently had some firsts in my life and it made me think about how it must be for our clients at Esprit to pick a counselor for the first time not to mention picking up the phone and scheduling that first appointment.  There is no guidebook to picking a counselor.  Some of it is based on trusting yourself and having a gut feeling about a counselor’s professional online bio  or some sort of connection to the voice you are talking to over the phone.  But what if you don’t always trust yourself or your anxiety spikes because of all of the unknowns with establishing a counseling relationship?

Here are just a few helpful hints to taking the next steps with counselors anywhere and some specifics with our Esprit staff.

1.      Start by setting some time aside to explore options in your area.  Ask yourself if you want someone close to your home or further away to create distance.  There are many options online today to help with your initial exploring.  One website is Psychology Today.  This website categorizes therapists by location, specialty and more.
2.      To help narrow down your search, look for the counselors’ biographies on clinics’ websites to see if a counselor specializes in what type of counseling you are looking for.
3.      The next step may be the most challenging:  Placing a call or scheduling an appointment.  One nice thing about Esprit is that you can schedule directly online and never have to pick up the phone.  Some people like that and others prefer to talk with someone directly.  At Esprit we offer both.  Here is Esprit’s website:
4.      Sometimes just getting that date set takes the anxiety down drastically.  For some, having that appointment as soon as possible is helpful.  Typically, when people are ready to schedule, they want to see someone right away.  Esprit can get people in to see a counselor within the same week.
5.      Paperwork can seem overwhelming for some people.  If you prefer, our therapists will walk you through and explain all of the specifics.  When you register with a therapist, we automatically email the intake paperwork to you and you can fill it out prior to the appointment and not feel rushed on the day of your session.  We also have intake paperwork available for you to complete in our waiting room prior to your appointment.  Allow about 20 minutes to complete it.
6.      Then, the next step is showing up for your appointment.  This might be the biggest “first.”  We want this to be a helpful and pleasant process for you.  Therapists are here to hear your story and help walk the journey with you.  We can help explain our role in more detail during that first session.

In summary, the first time you experience anything, there are many unknowns, and perhaps some anxiety.  We are here to help!  Give us a call!

Hannah Episcopo graduated from Trinity International University with a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. She enjoys working with individuals, couples and families. Hannah specializes in anxiety, depression, co-dependency, faith and self-esteem issues. Hannah’s work includes walking beside clients as they journey through self-exploration, understanding and healthy communication. She values helping clients identify their strengths and create positive coping skills to meet their goals. Hannah also has experience working with children and adolescents and often incorporates play therapy into sessions.  She also enjoys spending her down time exploring and traveling with her husband and daughter.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Helpful Mental Health Apps

Top 5 Mental Health Apps
With the technology of today there seems to be an app for everything. What we don’t always recognize is that we can use this technology for personal growth and development. In other words, there are more enlightening apps than angry birds and candy crush. I took some time to look into many of the mental health apps available and found that there are hundreds available. Below you will find a list and description of the top 5 mental health apps I discovered. All of these apps are free and available on iPhone and android devices.
1.       Stop, Breathe, and Think
This mindfulness app is great for beginners and for those experienced with relaxation and meditation techniques. There is information on learning how to meditate and understanding the basics in order to get started. What I enjoyed about this app is that it prompts you to check in with yourself. So you will be asked how your body and mind are feeling and also what emotions you are currently experiencing. Then based on those responses the app suggests a few mindfulness exercises for you. Most of the exercises are brief anywhere from 3-15 minutes. You can also track your mindfulness progress over time.

2.       Daylio
This app is a very basic mood tracking app. What I liked about it is that is very quick and easy to complete. I find with mood tracking that it can be hard to stick to it daily if it feels too time consuming or overwhelming. This app allows you to track your mood daily, allowing more than one entry in a day, as we know our moods can change throughout a day. It also asks you what you have been doing that day. Then under stats you can look at what your recent moods have been and also what activities are typically connected to those moods. For example, it may show that feeling happy is typically associated with spending time with friends or that feeling sad it usually connected to watching TV. This helps us to recognize connections between our moods and behavior to figure out what helps and what doesn’t.

3.       What’s Up
Here is an app that incorporates techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It has several different components the first of which is a section on self-calming strategies in order to get to a place where you are calm enough to sort through an issue. Then there are many coping strategies for addressing our thinking patterns and better understanding of our thoughts. In addition, there is information about specific mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, self-esteem, anger management, etc. This app could be a useful tool in between therapy sessions to help stay on top of using your coping skills.

4.       Mindshift
An app that is made to specifically address anxiety. It is geared towards adolescents and young adults but can be useful for people of all ages. There is information on understanding anxiety and it then helps you identify the situations in your life that are triggering this for you. Once those are identified, it walks you through a step by step method for gaining skills to cope with your anxiety, providing specific tools and inspiration along the way.

5.       Rise Up + Recover

This app is geared towards individuals with disorder eating or a challenging relationship with food. On this app you can create a meal log to keep track of eating patterns and the app has a feature where you can also email your log to your therapist, nutritionist, or other supports. Along with the meal log it tracks emotions and eating disorder behaviors such as bingeing and purging. Lastly there is a coping skills section for support in between sessions with your treatment team or support individuals

Kaitlyn is a Licensed Professional Counselor who strives to help people find inner peace and healing.  She provides client centered counseling services to children, adolescents, families, couples, and adults.  She values the human connection and creating a safe space for exploration, learning, and growth.  Kaitlyn obtained her Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from The Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, IL. She has extensive experience working with individuals struggling with eating disorders, self-esteem, and body image issues. She also has a particular passion for working with adolescents and young adults. Other areas of interest include grief and loss, anxiety, depression, ADHD, behavior issues, parent/child relationships, and family systems.
Kaitlyn utilizes several therapeutic approaches but specializes in Internal Family Systems Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She often incorporates relaxation and mindfulness techniques into sessions. In her work with children she frequently integrates play therapy and artistic expression to encourage healthy emotion regulation and communication.  In her free time Kaitlyn enjoys running, traveling, camping, and gardening. Kaitlyn believes that happiness is something you create and every individual has the power to make positive change in their life. She is here as a partner on your path 
to creating happiness and peace. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


I cannot forget the first time I learned that someone was intentionally cutting herself.  Two female high school students had asked to talk with me after class.  The friend encouraged “Amy” to tell me what she was doing.  I was dumbfounded.  WHY would you (or anyone) do this?  Amy explained that she was under a lot of stress, didn’t like how she looked, felt misunderstood at home and was generally unhappy.  I would never have guessed she was going through any difficulties by her always cheerful disposition. Unfortunately, cutting has become much more widespread for all age groups but for teens and young adults in particular.  Cutting is only one form of self harm.  Others might burn themselves, punch walls, bang their head against the wall, hit themselves, (and even worse things), all of which, in general, indicate intense emotional turmoil.  Although these actions are not suicide attempts, some individuals who self harm may also attempt suicide.   
Persons who self harm lack coping skills that work in the long term.  Several mental illnesses are also associated with self harm.  One depressed young woman I worked with told me she cut just so that she could “feel something.”  Another had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Other associated diagnoses include, bipolar disorder; major depression; anxiety disorders (esp. obsessive-compulsive disorder); and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.

Do you suspect that someone is self harming?
You might have noticed some of the following:
·         Wearing long sleeves/pants even in warm weather.  (some persons cut on body parts that are always covered by clothing so this is not always a tell tale sign.)
·         Someone who has frequent bruises or scars and has excuses for their clumsiness. (One mother told me her daughter’s excuse was that she accidentally cut herself while shaving.)
·         Having sharp objects in their possession – for no “real” reason
·         Taking excessive amounts of time alone (in bedroom or bathroom)
·         Bloodied clothing, bedding, tissues, bandages –more than what would be typical
·         Low self esteem
·         Difficulty handling their emotions

No matter what the person might be doing to self-harm, it is important for them to have access to other healthy and long term coping methods.  The relief one feels after self harming is only temporary and will continue unless other coping methods are established. 

What to do instead of self harming
I have found that teens have to WANT to stop self harming and will usually not be able to resist the urge when it happens.  (Sounds like a habit/addiction, doesn’t it?)  You can join them in their attempts to try new behaviors and change their negative self talk.  A very good article with suggestions about how to help someone stop the cycle of self harming can be found here:

An additional guide for parents and carers of individuals who self harm:
There is also an app that you can download to your smart phone.  Search for Calm Harm.

Kathy Thome is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Esprit Counseling & Consulting in Neenah, WI.  She has extensive experience working with individuals, couples, and families who want to make changes in their lives.  Kathy believes that you possess the tools necessary to make positive changes in your life, and she offers a comfortable, open, and supportive setting in which to do so. Kathy's experience as a teacher and school counselor also offer a unique perspective when working with adolescents and their families. She is currently accepting new clients. To schedule an appointment with Kathy, please go to and schedule online today.