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Will You Give Up the “C” Word?


Will You Give Up the “C” Word?


Will You Give Up the “C” Word?

“Crazy Hair Day” at school.  “Crazy Daze Sale” at the mall.  “Crazy fast cars” on the Avenue.  “Crazy people” living at the homeless shelter.  “That’s crazy!”  If you pay attention, you’ll be amazed at how frequently you hear these comments.  Perhaps you’ll even catch yourself saying it.  So what?

According to my Google search ( of the word “crazy,” it is used as an adjective: “mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way.”  It is used as an adverb: “extremely enthusiastic.” And it is used as a noun: “a mentally deranged person.”

The deinstitutionalization movement of the 1960’s failed to live up to its promise of moving individuals living with mental illnesses out of institutions and into community-based, supported residential environments.  Instead, the community-based residences never materialized, and people were left with nowhere to go.  They ended up in jails, prisons, hospitals, city parks and dumpsters.  “Mentally deranged” people became more visible to the general public and referring to them as “crazy” was common.

So what?  The answer is STIGMA.  Continuing my Google search, “stigma” is a noun: “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”  A mark of disgrace.  Associated with a person.  It’s easy to see how a person who can be stained by a mark of disgrace is not likely to openly speak about the source of that mark, and this is especially true of individuals who experience symptoms of mental illness.  It’s a secret people learn to keep.  Like any secret, it’s a dangerous (and deadly) one.

Stigma is blamed for the reluctance of individuals who experience symptoms of mental illness to tell anyone what they are going through.  A 13-year old begins hearing voices from the lamp—who will they tell?  A 20-year old feels so worthless that ending their life becomes a real solution—who will they tell?  A 75-year old man has lost his partner and his friends, and his children don’t visit; he sees no point in living—who will he tell?

Words matter.  Those who serve individuals who live with biological brain disorders, commonly referred to as mental illnesses, have a duty to advocate for the just and respectful treatment for those they serve.  Consider yourself challenged to pay attention to what you say and what you hear, and challenge others to do the same.  Try using one of the many, many other words that describe what you want to say.  You’ll likely find it a wild and outrageous and unique and silly and irrational and outlandish and ridiculous and peculiar experience!

Karen J. Aspenson, MSW, CAPSW, is a former clinician with the Wellness Screen program. She serves students in the Hortonville Area School District through the E3 program. E3 is a comprehensive school-based mental health services collaborative that combines mental health education, support, screening and treatment.

Five Steps to Manage Anger

Anger has a reputation as a “bad” emotion that people try to avoid. Anger can certainly be uncomfortable to feel and is often accompanied by a strong urge to “do something” about it.

This urge to act, and not the emotion itself, is where anger can get us in trouble. Acting on anger with aggression can be damaging to relationships, finances and our bodies.

Here are some tips to channel that strong emotion into healthier communication and activities.

  1. Take a “time out.” Athletes, for example, take time outs from the game when it’s high pressure to think clearly and make a plan to respond to the stress.
  2. Distract yourself with something calming. You might listen to music while you take a drive to combine the “time out” concept with distraction. A time out is less effective if you spend that time out focusing on what caused your anger, so make time for pleasant distractions until you feel calm enough to analyze the situation.
  3. When you are ready to come back and reflect, separate the event that triggered the anger from the meaning you derive from it. For example, think “I was cut off in traffic” versus “That guy cut me off and disrespected me.”
  4. Anger is a secondary emotion. It often comes after a different, unpleasant emotion. Self-reflect on your hidden emotions. Did you feel disrespected? Scared? Embarrassed? By coping with and resolving these feelings, we often alleviate our anger as well.
  5. Find a trusted person and talk about what you’ve learned during your self-reflection. Start with the words “I feel…” and then insert the feeling you’ve discovered was under your anger. An example: “I felt disrespected when I was cut off in traffic this morning. I felt scared that there would be an accident or that I wouldn’t get to work on time.”

One final tip on anger: When times are tough, we do what we practice! If you typically cope with anger with an aggressive distraction like hitting a punching bag, throwing things, and breaking things, research shows that this is most likely how you’ll deal with struggle –  even when there isn’t a safe or legal place to do so. If you’d like to change the way you handle anger, try practicing these tips during times of low anger so that it will come easier to you during times of high stress and anger.

Courtney Pohlman, MA, LMFT, CSOTP, T4C, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She uses a systematic approach to grow and heal families, couples and individuals recovering from trauma, anger, domestic violence and other struggles.

Courtney enjoys walking with clients on their healing journey, offering new perspectives, support, flexibility, humor, empathy and positivity. She believes passionately that we are always making new bonds and creating families.

Courtney is trained in many therapeutic methods, including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). She serves clients age 5 and up in our New London and Menasha locations.

3 Steps to Ongoing Calm and Peace

Posted on by Jill Harp

Photo courtesy of Pat Mahoney.

“Deep breathing is a mental health life hack that any person can use anytime, anywhere. It helps reset our stress response (also known as the sympathetic nervous system) when we feel frightened, angry, or just plain overwhelmed,” says Samaritan Counseling Center therapist Leah Szemborski.

“Deep breathing doesn’t cost anything, it’s easy, and everyone can do it. Give it a try!” Leah says.

Leah’s 3 Steps to Ongoing Calm and Peace

  • Hold breath while you count to four.
  • Slowly breathe out as you completely empty your lungs.
  • Repeat.

“By deep breathing you may find that this little trick will help you stay more calm and peaceful throughout your day. Happy breathing!”

Leah is a new counselor at Samaritan Counseling Center with over 13 years of experience. She has a down-to-earth counseling style that helps people feel at ease. Leah sees clients for a variety of concerns including abuse, trauma, grief and loss, self-esteem, spirituality, parenting, marriage, among many others. Leah works with clients ages 0-99 at the Menasha and Oshkosh offices.

Learn more about Leah on Our Therapist page.


Make Time For Grief

Posted on by Jill Harp

Samaritan Counseling Center therapist Hannah Keesler shares a therapy strategy she uses with clients regularly to help them cope with grief.

“Grief takes time. Easier said than allowed,” says Samaritan Counseling Center therapist Hannah Keesler.

“Grief is painful, exhausting, isolating, and enraging. Often, we want to feel better and get back to “normal” as quickly as possible. However, grief can become complicated when we deny it, ignore it, or try to convince ourselves we are fine,” Hannah says.

“Allowing time for grief is one of the best ways to cultivate healing. One simple strategy I suggest my clients implement daily is “grief time.” The idea is to set aside time daily to grieve,” she shares.

“We do this with several activities in our day already including hygiene, eating, sleeping, and checking the mail. When we set aside time for something and prioritize it, it is less intrusive during other parts of our day,” Hannah suggests.

When you don’t have your lunch planned and you start to feel hungry at 11 AM, with no food in sight, you will begin to feel anxious and your mind will fixate on eating, Hannah explains.

Whereas if you have a plan for lunch, she says you can easily toss the thought and hungry feeling aside and return to your task at hand.

Hannah’s Steps To Implementing Daily Grief Time:

  1. Pick a time of day that you can consistently be present for grief.
  2. Choose the length of time (1 hour, 30 minutes, 15 minutes).
  3. During grief time choose something that will allow yourself to process the grief. (Ideas: writing, looking at pictures, walking, contemplating favorite memories, praying, talking with someone, or writing a letter to the deceased loved one.)
  4. While processing the grief, give permission to all and any emotions that occur.
  5. Once grief time is over, bring your activity to a close and remind yourself that you will return to this tomorrow.
  6. As thoughts/memories/feelings of grief surface throughout your day, remind yourself that you will think/feel/process it at the next grief time.


Hannah Keesler has been with Samaritan Counseling Center since 2013. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and AODA (Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse) Counselor. Hannah currently sees clients ages 7 and up at our Menasha and UW-Fox Valley locations. Learn more about Hannah.


Samaritan Receives Award For Work in Oshkosh Schools

Posted on by Jill Harp

Oshkosh Area School District recently awarded Samaritan Counseling Center with the “Friend of Education” award recognizing individuals and corporations for their support and personal involvement of public schools.

The award recognized Samaritan’s partnership within the District providing the inaugural 2017-18 emotional screening program Rise Up and their previous years of Wellness Screen.

“With your assistance, we’ve been able to identify countless students who may have been struggling socially and/or emotionally and direct them toward appropriate services and supports…Without the service you provide, many of our students wouldn’t receive the mental health support they need…Your organization deserves to be recognized…,” Superintendent of Schools Stan Mack said in a letter.

Samaritan’s Executive Director Rosangela Berbert (on the left) and Wellness Screen Program Director Jen Parsons (middle)  accepted the award earlier this month.

Without the Samaritan Counseling Center wellness screen team or  founding and current partners, along with collaborating school districts, our work would not be possible. Thank you!

If you would like become a a partner in providing this program to your students, or if you would like to donate to its cause please contact Wellness Screen Program Director Jen Parsons.

Samaritan receives accreditation

Samaritan Counseling Center of the Fox Valley has been awarded Full Accreditation for November 2017 to November 2021, The Samaritan Institute, located in Denver, announced today.

“Accreditation is a major accomplishment and demonstrates a Center’s commitment to excellence,” according to Robert Johnson, MS, LCSW, President/CEO for the Samaritan Institute, which is the headquarters for an international network of Samaritan Centers.  “The accreditation process indicates that Centers offer professional services within a framework of quality organizational, administrative, and financial practices,” Johnson said.

Samaritan Counseling Center of the Fox Valley was established in 1970.  Key community supporters of the Center include the J. J. Keller Foundation, United Way Fox Cities, United Way New London, and the Basic Needs Giving Partnership Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs, the J. J. Keller Foundation, and other community partners. Support also comes from First Congregational United Church of Christ in Appleton, First Presbyterian Church in Neenah, United Methodist Church in New London, First Presbyterian Church in Oshkosh, and Immanuel United Church of Christ in Kaukauna.

Samaritan Counseling Center provides a wide range of outpatient mental health services, including counseling in English, Spanish and Portuguese for children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families; Connected Community Wellness Screen, providing youth mental health check-ups in 10 school systems; the Mental Health Ministry Initiative, equipping faith leaders to minister to mental health; and education and consultation for professionals and organizations.

The Samaritan Ministry advocates the concept of spiritually integrated, team-oriented, and cost-efficient counseling, emphasizing the inter-relatedness of mind, body, spirit, and community.

Samaritan Counseling Center’s executive director is Rosangela Berbert, MSE, NCC, LPC. To assure accessibility to community residents, counseling services are offered in the Fox Cities, Oshkosh, New London and Kaukauna.

Through its affiliation with the Samaritan Institute, Samaritan Counseling Center is part of an international network of more than 50 Samaritan Centers with offices in 23 states.

Board president Mary Beduhn said, “Samaritan Counseling Center makes a huge difference in our region. More than 7,000 individuals benefit from our services each year.”  The Center is open Monday through Friday to serve the needs of individuals and families.  For more information, call (920) 886-9319 or visit

Reduce Stress through Mindfulness

Posted on by Jill Harp

Life A Little Hectic?

Need something to help you:

  • stay focused?
  • boost compassion?
  • relax?
  • sleep?
  • minimize stress?

Check out these four mindfulness and stress reduction resources:

  • provides free mindfulness, breathing and meditation guides.
  • provides a how-to guide for meditation and more (free app also available).
  • is a free app with 500+ meditation tracks that will inspire and relax you.
  • Five Minute Journal is an iPhone app that helps you reap the benefits of journaling on the go.

(Resources courtesy of Samaritan therapists Dee Savides, Megan Burdick-Grade and Courtney Pohlman.)

Samaritan therapists offer mindfulness and stress reduction workshops and lunch and learns. Contact Jill Harp to schedule.



Into Every Life Some Snow Must Fall

At today’s meeting of Samaritan’s board of directors, board member Kathy Mahoney shared the following devotion, which she wrote.

The original lyrics say rain, but I thought with our blizzard this weekend the snow was more appropriate. Of course, the snow represents a problem or difficulty or issue each of us will have to deal with from time to time. Things that are difficult to deal with.

So this week, with the snow in mind, a couple things came to me. First, there was an article in the newspaper about a woman who was on the Trestle Bridge, was shot three times, and managed to get two of her kids and herself off and away – but her husband and daughter were killed.  That’s a lot of snow in her life. I can’t imagine going through that. The Neenah High School Arete group was honoring her as an unsung hero. The woman says, “There’s nothing more important than loving the people that are close to you, serving them, giving your all, living life to the fullest, because (I) didn’t see it coming, didn’t know. You’ve got to live for today because tomorrow is not promised.”

And on Facebook there was a post – a rather long one of notes an Australian woman made after she found out she was going to die. She was 26. Her body wasted away ‘til she was 27. I also can’t imagine. She essentially wrote about living for the moment. Forget the minor inconveniences; do what you can to care for others. And she was so thankful for all the loving and caring people in her life during her time of trial.

I’m sure the counselors at Samaritan see many people with a lot of snow in their lives. And do their very best.

On another note, my week last week was kind of hectic. I kept feeling anxious, like I didn’t have time to do what I needed to do. We – my husband and I – had missteps – went to a fundraiser Thursday night for an event we had scheduled from 7-9. We arrived at 7. They were wrapping up. It was supposed to be 5-7. Friday afternoon we went to a program that was to commence at 1:30. The speaker didn’t show. Friday night we went to a play which both of us found kind of upsetting so we left at intermission – there is enough upsetting in the real world.

We planned to go to our cottage in Lakewood for the weekend and woke up to a snow storm. Not good driving. So we decided to stay home. And it was a wonderful decision thanks to the snow. Kicked back, caught up, enjoyed being together, sitting in the dining area watching and feeding the birds in the back yard who were desperate.

The tak away for me is I guess things that happen in your life can be bad – but can also result in good.

Please do what you can today – that is all you are promised. And count your blessings!

Managing Holiday Stress

wreath_Jill's house

“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.