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Managing Holiday Stress


Managing Holiday Stress


Managing Holiday Stress

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“With the holiday season in full swing, it can be a joyous time. It can also be difficult — filled with struggles with grief, holiday blues, or heightened levels of stress,” Samaritan resident psychotherapist John Schaller says.

“Whatever emotions the holidays stir, I think we all deserve a happy holiday. That often begins with being honest about what we can handle during this time and setting healthy boundaries around those beliefs,” John says.

To help manage the holidays and the seasons beyond, John suggests using the four “A’s”:  AVOID, ALTER, ACCEPT, ADAPT.


Avoid unnecessary stress

  • Know your limits and learn to say “no”.
  • Limit relationships that seem to stress you out.
  • Shorten your “to do” list. Distinguish between the “shoulds” and “musts.”

Alter or change a situation you can’t avoid

  • Learn how to express your feelings instead of keeping them inside.
  • Be assertive.
  • Learn better time management skills. Prioritize your responsibilities.

Accept the things you cannot change

  • Don’t try to control the uncontrollable.
  • Try to look at challenges as opportunities.
  • Learn to “let go” and forgive.

Adapt to the stressor

  • Reframe problems.
  • Look at the “big” picture. (Will this matter in a week, month, or year?)
  • Change your standards. (Perfectionism causes stress.)
  • Focus on the positives!

Schaller John 2017_7728 retouch LT4x5John Schaller, MS, LPC-IT

John Schaller is a resident therapist who joined Samaritan Counseling late this summer.  He strives to work with his clients wherever they are in their life journey and foster healing and overall wellness of mind, body, and spirit.

John works in collaboration with his clients to help them overcome their challenges and reach their personal goals.  He enjoys working with children ages 12 and up, adolescents, adults, couples and families on a variety of issues including depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship concerns, grief and loss, among others. John see clients in our Menasha Samaritan office and students at UW-Fox Valley.






The Joy of Adoption/Foster Care Includes Trauma, Healing and Recovery

Large nAMNovember is national adoption month, and it only seems fitting to share that adoption and foster care have always been close to my heart.  My passion for adoption and foster care started because I was adopted as an infant.  My parents also fostered children during my teen years.  Prior to having biological children, my husband and I were treatment level foster parents. We later adopted our daughter, internationally.  In addition, I have had the great privilege of working very closely with international adoptees through counseling who were preparing to transition into their adoptive families.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (2015), we can “assume that all children who have been adopted or fostered have experienced trauma.”  In my work and personal experience with foster care and adoption, I have found this statement to be very true.  In fact, a favorite quote of mine that I use to explain this to clients is this: “The joy and the tragedy coexist.  That is the paradox of adoption, and we are all caught up in it.” In other words, you cannot have the joy of adoption without first having the tragedy of the child losing their first family and their heritage. Whether the situation they are coming from is a positive environment or not, it is still a loss for them.

In my experience, so many adoptive/foster families want to provide a stable, loving home for the child in their care.  Unfortunately, love is not enough.  It is a great starting place, but it is not the only answer.  As adoptive/foster parents, we must also come to understand that the trauma exists; then it becomes our responsibility to learn about the effects of that trauma on our child(ren) and to become a part of the healing and recovery process. provides great insights into trauma and how we, as the parents, can help our children heal from the trauma they have experienced.  A part of that healing often includes work with a therapist.  I am always happy to work with families formed through foster care and/or adoption to help navigate the healing process.

Learn more.

Meehan Betsy 2017_0950 ret LT 4x5Elysabeth Meehan, MSW, APSW

Elysabeth is a therapist with Samaritan Counseling Center. As an adoptee, adoptive parent and former foster parent, she has a passion for working with families formed through foster care and/or adoption that have experienced attachment issues, trauma, mental and/or behavioral health concerns. She additionally enjoys working with couples on strengthening their relationships and with parents to help improve their parent/child relationships.  She also has specific experience working with men and women who have faced domestic violence charges. Elysabeth sees clients ages 6-86 with a variety of mental health concerns in our Menasha and New London locations.

September is National AODA Recovery Month

2017-recovery-month-square-web-bannerHere at Samaritan, it is our mission to help those in need “connect mind and spirit so individuals, families, organizations and communities thrive.” One of the ways we do that is to provide AODA (Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse) services to help our clients develop the hope and support they need to heal and move forward from substance abuse and addiction.

Recovery can be painstaking process, and the need for access to AODA treatment in our community is real: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality reported that in a single-day count in 2015, 24,371 individuals in Wisconsin were enrolled in substance use treatment. Given that staggering number, National Recovery Month can serve as a reminder to all of us that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can, and do, recover from mental and substance use disorders.

Our AODA treatment team at Samaritan includes Christy Webster and Dede Bruss practicing at the Menasha and New London locations, Kara Palasz practicing at the Menasha and Oshkosh locations, and Hannah Keesler practicing at the Menasha and UW Fox Valley locations. We are always accepting new clients and looking forward to helping them create new directions in their lives. One way you can help is by letting people know that we are here, help is available, and recovery is possible.

Webster Christy 1377As an experienced licensed clinical social worker and clinical substance abuse counselor, Christy Webster enjoys collaborating with her clients to identify their strengths and concerns and move together toward achieving their counseling and personal goals.

She works with children ages 8 and up, adolescents and adults dealing with a variety of challenges including relationship issues, depression, anxiety, trauma, behavioral problems, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse, and compulsive gambling. She sees clients in the Menasha and New London offices.


Posted on by Jill Harp
Krueger Mari 2017_0630 retouch LT(4x5)

Mari Krueger, MSE, BSN, RN, LPC


As we head into September’s National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Samaritan Counseling Center wants to  reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with treatment that need services.

Samaritan Counseling therapist Mari Krueger says, “Suicide is a difficult, sensitive topic for most but talking about it openly and becoming educated about warning signs, prevention, and support is key.”


Warning Signs of Suicide Risk:

  • Talking or writing about wanting to kill or hurt him/herself
  • Access to lethal means
  • Expressing hopelessness -“It won’t get better.”
  • Dramatic mood changes, rage, uncontrolled anger
  • Engaging in risk-taking behaviors, seemingly with little concern about personal safety
  • No sense of purpose

“It can definitely be scary and intimidating when someone you care about expresses suicidal thoughts, but it is important to take these thoughts very seriously. It’s ok to ask someone if they are feeling suicidal. Open conversations about suicide can truly save a life,” Mari confirms.

“Remember…suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Help is available.”

If you, a friend or a loved one observe someone experiencing the warning signs of suicide, SEEK HELP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a referral.


Use this easy to remember mnemonic and KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS OF SUICIDE:


I           Ideation (hopeless thoughts about ending one’s life)
S          Substance Abuse

P          Purposelessness
A          Anxiety
T          Trapped
H         Hopelessness

W         Withdrawal
A          Anger
R          Recklessness
M         Mood Changes
Source of material: American Association of Suicidology

Krueger Mari 2017_0630 retouch LT(4x5)Mari Krueger is licensed professional counselor with more than 25 years’ experience in mental health nursing. She works with adolescents and adults with a variety of mental health issues including chronic health or mental illness, anxiety, depression, life transitions, grief/loss, stress management, trauma and relationship issues. Mari sees clients in our Oshkosh and Menasha locations.  

Summertime Routines Keep Kids (and Adults) Mentally and Physically Healthy

Posted on by Jill Harp
Palsz Kara 4X5

Kara Palasz, MA, LPC IT, SCAC

Having just about a month in with the kids off from school, families may or may not be settling into a routine or believe structure and schedules are important in summer.

It’s important for both kids and adults to incorporate routine into their lives. Structure provides stability and decreases stress levels, especially during chaos summer sometimes brings as families juggle their jobs and kids’ activities.

Samaritan Counseling therapist Kara Palsz says, “Structure contributes a sense of security, accomplishment, and overall well-being.  It boosts self-esteem. It also provides the extra nudge we need to take care of ourselves when we sometimes take a summer vacation from healthy eating, staying active and spending time together.”


Why keep up with routines during the summer months…

  • Structure is vital for kids’ growth and development.
  • Routinely reading or stimulating kids mentally helps them maintain what they learned during the school year.
  • Lack of routine can lead to anxiety, weight gain and lack of productivity.

How to include physical activity and healthy eating into routines

  • Set expectations and boundaries (i.e. no more than 2 hours of tv or electronics per day).
  • Plan out weekly play dates or encourage older kids to plan activities with their friends.
  • Schedule weekly family outings or time together (i.e. bike rides, watching a movie).
  • Model healthy behaviors and involve kids (i.e. cooking a meal together, going for a walk).

Simple ways to keep structure during the summer…

  • Maintain daily routines — regular wake-up, eating, and bedtimes.
  • Sign up for summer school programs.
  • Get involved with summer competitions like reading programs, sports, etc.
  • Join park and recreation programs or get involved in summer camps.
  • Schedule family trips or activities and involve the kids in planning the day, excursion or event.
  • Find ways to volunteer, help out a neighbor or encourage young adults to find summer jobs.

List adapted from the Seattle Children’s Hospital.

***Kara Palasz is a certified substance abuse counselor and a licensed professional Counselor in training. She sees clients of all ages at our Oshkosh and Menasha locations with a variety of mental wellness concerns, including trauma, mood disorders, anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, ADHD, anger management, self-harm, borderline personality disorder, and substance abuse and/or dependence. 


Nonsuicidal Self-Injury Behaviors

Posted on by Jill Harp

Teens walking

Samaritan’s Connected Community Wellness Screen program provides emotional wellness screens to students throughout 10 community school systems.

It is important for parents, schools and youth mentors to be aware that this year’s screenings are showing a prevalence of students engaging in nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) behaviors.

What is NSSI? It is self-inflicted harm to one’s body without the intent of suicide.

While adolescents tend to use NSSI to cope with anger, depression, sadness, anxiety and other mixed emotions, those who self-injure are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and behaviors, according to Lawrence University assistant professor and Wellness Screen collaborator Dr. Lori Hilt*.

NSSI behaviors, common among teens, can be difficult to detect since the act is often secretive and involves body parts which are relatively easy to hide.

Types/Signs of Self-Harm:

  • burning, cutting, carving, scratching of oneself
  • hitting or pinching oneself, banging on walls and other objects to induce pain
  • embedding objects under the skin
  • interfering with the healing of wounds
  • consistently wearing long sleeves or pants in summer and/or using wrist bands, bandages, coverings

How can you help your teen if you suspect or detect NSSI behaviors?

Not knowing how to broach the subject of NSSI is often what restrains concerned parents, teachers and coaches from probing. However, concern for the teen’s well-being is often what a self-injurer needs most.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Seek professional counseling/medical help for your teen if you suspect /detect NSSI behaviors
  • Improve communication by being direct, persistent and neutral
  • Be willing to listen to the self-injurer, reserving shock, judgment, shame or pity, to encourage teens to use their voice, rather than their body, as a means of self-expression

Teens who engage in NSSI behaviors can, with professional help, learn emotion-reglation skills that can take the place of self-injury, according to Dr. Hilt.

Learn more about NSSI.

*Note: Lawrence University assistant psychology professor Dr. Lori Hilt has evaluated Connected Community Wellness Screen since its inception (2012) in our community. She and her university students analyze the following data and measures: 1) utilization of mental health services, 2) suicide-related behaviors, 3) reported deaths by suicide.

Parsons Jen 0050To learn more about Connected Community Wellness Screen contact Jen Parsons, Wellness Screen Program Director.


Boosting Workplace and Personal Happiness

Siebers Tracy 2955

Dr. Tracy Siebers

Samaritan Clinical Director Dr. Tracy Siebers recently held a brown bag lunch discussion with the Center’s staff.  Tracy shared ways we can increase happiness in our own lives and encourage clients to do the same.

“Simply by expressing gratitude, among other small gestures, we can boost our happiness, personally and professionally,” Tracy suggested.

Taking this one step further, staff members Lisa Strandberg, Cassie Lauters, Jill Harp and Tracy Siebers have since been putting this tip into practice — exchanging daily emails that list three things each are grateful for.

This article from offers three easy, simple and rewarding steps to boost happiness at work and home.

Lisa, Cassie, Jill

Lisa Strandberg, Cassie Lauters, Jill Harp


Reducing Poverty Through POINT

POINT (Poverty Outcomes & Improvement Network Team) is an initiative to improve poverty community wide. Thank you to the Basic Needs Giving Partners including the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, J. J. Keller Foundation, Inc., U.S. Venture Open and Oshkosh Area Community Foundation for sponsoring this program.  It’s shifting the culture at Samaritan Counseling Center and changing the way we do business. Learn more.

“The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.” – Timbuk 3

Posted on by Jill Harp

gc-li-photoIn the words of outgoing Samaritan Counseling Center Board President Gary Cebulski:

Three years ago, if you would have told me that I’d be attending an Appleton Rotary Club meeting, viewing a panel of chief executives discussing questions on ethics, as an extension of a Samaritan-sponsored “Ethics In Business Summit”, I would have considered that the gold standard for what I envisioned would happen with the Summit.

Three years ago, if you would have told me that the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Wisconsin would be scheduled to visit the Hortonville Area School District in January 2017 to review the impact of HASD’s “E3” program – a program in which Samaritan provides wellness screening for teens in school in collaboration with other agencies – as an example of what is possible with a wide-ranging wellness screen program, I would have considered that the gold standard for what I would have thought was possible for Samaritan’s Wellness Screen program.

Three years ago, if you would have told me that Samaritan would take the lead on expanding bilingual mental health counseling services in the Fox Cities, establishing an advocacy and training program to support such services, I would have considered that a breakthrough program for Samaritan.

Three years ago, if you would have told me that Samaritan would be considered a “model agency” in an initiative that the majority of Fox Cities’ non-profit agencies are participating in (the POINT initiative), I would have said, quoting a popular commercial from the 1960’s, “we’ve come a long way, baby”.

As I complete my third and final year as Board President, I’m amazed at the progress the Samaritan Counseling Center has made. It is all due to the consistent, tireless efforts of the Samaritan staff and the contributions of so many dedicated volunteers and board members. And what I am most excited about is the heightened awareness of Samaritan in our community, and the quality of the people that are joining Samaritan’s efforts through board participation and volunteering.

I cannot think of a more exciting time to be connected with the Samaritan Counseling Center, and I am excited to see where it all goes from here. THANKS to all of you for your dedicated efforts to support Samaritan and advocate for strong mental health counseling in this community!

Note: Gary Cebulski served as Samaritan Counseling Center’s board president from approximately January 2013- December 2016.

Employee Incentives Prompt Unethical Behavior? – Topic at Fox Valley Ethics in Business Summit

Dr. Ann TenbrunselEmployee reward systems can be dangerous if not carefully constructed. Just ask senior leaders at Wells Fargo.

The company will pay $185 million in penalties, according to this NPR story, as a result of its employee incentive program gone awry.

Dangerous reward systems and three other ethical blind spots will be Dr. Ann Tenbrunsel’s focus as she keynotes Samaritan’s 2016 Fox Valley Ethics in Business Summit on Oct. 4.

NPR reports that companies need to be careful with employee incentive programs, because they can unwittingly prompt widespread unethical and unlawful behavior, as happened at Wells Fargo. The company has fired 5,300 employees nationwide.

To learn from the likes of Wells Fargo and explore how you can overcome such ethical blind spots, register for the 2016 Fox Valley Ethics in Business Summit.

  • Understand four causes of blind spots:
    • Dangerous reward systems
    • Ethical illusions
    • Ethical fading
    • Motivated blindness
  • Earn 2.5 CLE/CPE/HCRI/SHRM credits (for attorneys, CPAs and HR professionals)