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September is National AODA Recovery Month


September is National AODA Recovery Month


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)


Got A Serious Case of SAD? Seek Professional Solutions.

Posted on by Jill Harp

September is approaching, and with it comes the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) for many in Wisconsin. During the past two weeks, I’ve blogged about SAD symptoms and strategies to self-treat mild SAD cases.

If your case of the “winter blues” seems severe and you find yourself unable to handle it on your own, I would highly recommend seeking professional help.

  • Start by talking to your doctor. He or she may suggest medication or psychotherapy to help you with SAD.
  • Light therapy is another option. However, it is important that you speak to your doctor first before trying to treat a severe case of SAD on your own.

If you end up seeking professional help for SAD, you still can benefit from the self-treatment tips in my previous post. Those techniques can be used in combination with any other treatment you receive. Using those skills, you may eventually be empowered to manage the “winter blues” on your own.

I hope you now better understand the “winter blues” and SAD. If you notice the symptoms, apply the self-help techniques, and reach out for help when you need it, winter can be just as enjoyable as summer. I encourage you to be attentive to your mood so you can feel happy and healthy all year long!

*Information gathered from

Lorenz Kayci 5247


Kayci Lorenz is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Training. She focuses on young adults dealing with a variety of mental wellness concerns, including anxiety and stress management. She sees clients at our Menasha location and at the UW-Fox Valley campus.

Strategies to Self-Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Posted on by Jill Harp

middle aged couple

If, as summer turns to fall, you find yourself feeling depressed or experiencing other symptoms I described in last Wednesday’s blog post, you may have SAD or the “winter blues.”

There are several steps you can take to relieve a mild case of SAD:


Get as much natural sunlight as possible. Try to step outside for a few minutes to get that Vitamin D!

Exercise regularly. Activity will boost the feel-good chemicals in your brain.  Exercise is also relieves stress and keeps your body strong and healthy.

Reach out to friends and family. Isolation may exacerbate your symptoms.

Eat a well-balanced diet. SAD often comes with carbohydrate cravings. Resist the urge to fight the blues with empty calories.

Make time for fun activities. Doing something you enjoy can lift your spirits.

These tips are just suggestions. You don’t need to do them all at once. Try one or two to see if they make a difference for you. It may take some trial and error to assemble your perfect personalized “winter blues” tool kit.

If these strategies don’t provide relief, your “winter blues” may be a more serious case of SAD. Next Wednesday I’ll cover how professional help from your primary care provider and/or therapist can help.

*Information gathered from

Lorenz Kayci 5247


Kayci Lorenz is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Training. She focuses on young adults dealing with a variety of mental wellness concerns, including anxiety and stress management. She sees clients at our Menasha location and at the UW-Fox Valley campus.