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From Presents to Presence: Reframing Our Holiday Expectations



From Presents to Presence: Reframing Our Holiday Expectations

From Presents to Presence: Reframing Our Holiday Expectations

By Gloria Allhiser, MA, LPC-IT, Samaritan

The holiday season seems to come and go in a flash now that I am an adult (and a parent), but when I was a little girl, I remember the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas feeling like 10 years! When we’re little, time passes so slowly. Now, these same weeks pass in the blink of an eye. And for a season meant to be about togetherness, connection, and traditions, it can feel overwhelming and end up exhausting.

Now is the time to ponder the ways we can reduce holiday stress in the coming weeks, a season that frequently sees increases in anxiety and depression amongst people from all backgrounds. Parents may experience tight budgets amidst ever-growing gift lists. It’s also easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of the season—concerts, parades, gatherings with family and friends, cookie decorating parties, shopping—all while work and school carry on undeterred. As a parent, I know the pressure we feel to provide the “perfect” family holiday. And when something inevitably doesn’t work out the way we planned, whether it’s a sick child, a crabby partner, or not enough money for everything we hoped to buy, we might feel like we’re failing.

When I start to feel this way, I tend to lose focus on what really matters. I confuse my worth with what I can do for my family instead of who I can be for my family. When that happens, I pause and step back from what’s overwhelming me. Here are two thoughts that help ease my anxiety and bring renewed focus. I hope these tips also help you:

  1. Remember what you loved most about the holiday season when you were young. Every December, I think back to what I treasured most about this time of year with my own family, the memories that make my heart swell three times its normal size. When I picture those memories in my mind, it’s the people and the time we spent together that stand out the brightest.
  2. Remember that love is enough. You are enough. There’s a phrase out there that kids need a “good enough” parent, not a perfect parent. The same applies to the holiday season. It’s easy to feel what we’re doing is less-than or not enough compared to what we see in our curated Facebook feed. When it comes to making memories, family togetherness has the most staying power. You’d be surprised how many kids tell me their favorite part of the holiday season was when they all played a board game together and drank hot chocolate, or when the family got lost on the way to grandma’s house and laughed for hours. Simply being together trumps anything we could hope to schedule, purchase, or wrap. It’s okay and good to make that the focus.

It’s okay to feel sad when we can’t get our kids everything—or even that one thing—that they wanted. Our kids might feel disappointed if there’s a present missing from their list, but that’s okay and it will pass. We can only ever do the best with what we’ve got. The myth of more tells us that more means better, but, in fact, more is just more. Things are just things. Love is better, and love isn’t only expressed in gift-giving. Love might be shared in the giving and receiving of presents, but its most powerful form comes from our presence, and that’s the kind of “present” that will last a lifetime.

Making the Case for Elementary Age Mental Health Screening

How to Respond to Parent Questions

By Amy D’Addario, MS, CSW, SAC, Connected Community Wellness Screen Site Coordinator, On-Site Clinician at Samaritan

In the same way we monitor a child’s physical wellness, it is important to monitor mental wellness. Mental wellness enables children to think clearly, develop socially, and learn new skills. It is essential. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends annual mental health screening for all school-age children, a service Samaritan provides through Connected Community Wellness Screen in 11 area school districts. Some parents question the value of their child’s mental health screening; therefore, let’s consider the layers of meaning and value in this important initiative:

  • Parents are vital part of this process. They are excellent observers (and reporters) of children’s feelings and behaviors. For elementary-age children, we invite parents into the Wellness Screen process by asking them about their children’s mental and emotional development. Parental involvement helps everyone understand and feel more confident about the process.
  • We do our job well when we help prevent or lessen problems because young people get help early. It’s almost like working ourselves out of a job, and that’s okay! Most screening is preventative because regular screening helps children and families feel more comfortable about discussing mental health and asking for help or advice when they need it.
  • Wellness screening may seem unnecessary, especially when a parent does not have concerns regarding their child(ren), yet we know most parents are reassured that their child’s mental health is typical. However, approximately 20-25% of children will experience a mental health concern—that’s about five children in a classroom of 20. The good news is most mental health concerns are very treatable, especially with early identification.
  • If a young person is already connected to a medical or mental health provider for a mental health concern, the Wellness Screen is still valuable because it can serve as an annual check-in and used to track progress.
  • The Connected Community Wellness Screen team has gone beyond school-based screenings to help area school districts develop more comprehensive school-based mental health. When a child needs help, a masters-level clinician will contact the family to learn more and make recommendations, then follow up with the family to offer information and support.
  • We are here to help young people and families, no matter the result of a child’s Wellness Screen. After all, parenting is hard work, and it is difficult to know what is “normal.” Samaritan’s Connected Community Wellness Screen Program makes mental health clinicians or case managers available to answer parent questions at any time of year—and that’s at the heart of what it means to be Community and Connected.


Amy D’Addario, MS, CSW, SAC

Amy D’Addario is the screening site coordinator and an on-site clinician with the Connected Community Wellness Screen program for the Neenah Joint School District (HOPE), among seven additional school districts. Amy has more than 15 years of experience serving children, youth, and families in a variety of systems including child welfare, coordinated services, juvenile justice, adult corrections, and private practice. Amy has also managed several county and statewide initiatives focused on mental health screening and services.

The Meaning of World Kindness Day

The Meaning of World Kindness Day
Plus 10 Ideas for Small Acts of Kindness on Any Day

By Missy Klosterman, MSW, APSW, Resident Therapist at Samaritan

World Kindness Day was established in 1998 in Tokyo and has since taken hold of hearts and minds all over the world. Celebrated annually on November 13, World Kindness Day is set aside to focus on good deeds and the common thread of kindness that binds together all of humanity. The founders and supporters of the worldwide kindness movement emphasize that kindness has the capacity to bridge the divides of race, religion, politics, gender, economic differences, and geography—a powerful solution for the challenges of our time.

Why World Kindness Day?

World Kindness Day reminds us to slow down and practice compassion and kindness towards others, ourselves, and our environment. When we make kindness the focus of our day, we are more aware of our actions and what is happening around us. We avoid rushing to judgment and instead practice compassion for the hidden burdens that every person carries. Studies show when others observe kindness in action, they are more likely to carry out an act of kindness, too.

How To Do World Kindness Day

Try putting down your cell phone, unplugging from social media, and instead interacting with those who are in your physical presence. Be present in the moment and notice all that surrounds you, from bustling people, rustling leaves, and warm sunshine, to delicious aromas and unexpected smiles. Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone to complete a simple act of kindness, including being kind to yourself. The day can be used to experiment with kindness in all areas of your life. You will begin to recognize the small joys that lift the human spirit, on this special day and every day.

A List of Kind Ideas for Any Day of the Year

  1. Send an uplifting text to a friend or family member
  2. Share a compliment with a co-worker or friend
  3. Genuinely smile at a stranger—or at yourself in the mirror!
  4. Write a thank you note and send it via USPS
  5. Pick up litter at the park
  6. Deliver needed items to a food pantry, homeless shelter, or animal shelter
  7. Pay-it-forward at the drive-through
  8. Say good morning to the person on the elevator with you
  9. Offer to help someone carry something heavy, return a grocery cart, or hold a door
  10. Leave a grateful note for your mail carrier in your mailbox


Missy Klosterman, MSW, APSW

Missy is a resident mental health therapist. She works with children, adolescents and adults experiencing a variety of mental health concerns including: anxiety, depression, adjustment issues, life transitions and relationship difficulties. Missy serves clients in our Menasha and New London locations.

Today Can Be the Day You Take a Stand

Seven Ways to Combat Domestic Violence

By Dr. Tracy Siebers, Ed.D., LPC, Clinical Director at Samaritan

Nearly two in three corporate executives (63%) say domestic violence is a major problem in our society, and more than half (55%) cite its harmful impact on productivity in their companies.1 What do you think about these statistics? What are the first words that come to your mind when you hear the phrase “domestic violence?” Some people think of aggressors, some think of children and some think of victims and believe victims who remain with abusive partners are weak, which is a huge misconception, among many. No matter your response, domestic violence is a pervasive and powerful negative force in our families and communities.

Domestic Violence is Widespread

Domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. It appears in many forms and exists in all socio economic classes, among all ages and genders, and among people of all educational levels. It can be of a verbal, emotional, or physical nature or a combination of these forms.

  • More than one in three women (35.6%) and more than one in four men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.2
  • Forty-three percent of college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal, or controlling abuse.3
  • One in four dating teens is abused or harassed online or through texts by their partners.4
  • Thirty to 60 percent of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household.5

Why do people abuse others? Abusive people believe they have the right to control and restrict their partners, and they often enjoy the feeling that exerting power gives them. They believe their own feelings and needs should be the priority in their relationships, so they use abusive tactics to make their partners feel less valuable and undeserving of respect. They “win” as their partners seek to fill all of their needs. But there is no victory in an imbalance of power in an intimate relationship. A healthy relationship is when the needs of both partners and their families are taken into consideration.

Help is Available

Relationships exist on a spectrum from healthy, to unhealthy, to abusive. If you feel that you are not in a healthy relationship, please reach out for help and support. There are many sources of help available to you. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233), or click on the link to chat live. We also have excellent local domestic abuse service agencies through the Harbor House in Appleton at (920) 832-1666 and the Christine Ann Shelter in Oshkosh at (920) 235-5998 or 800-261-5998. If you are in danger, call 911. Consider an investment in your mental wellness and seek the support of a trained counselor or spiritual advisor.

We Can All Take a Stand

If you are not directly affected by domestic violence, you are most likely indirectly affected by it in your workplace, school, faith community, or friend groups. In fact, nearly three out of four Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. You can make a difference for individuals and families by supporting domestic abuse services, especially during October, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

  1. Attend the Ultraviolet 2019 on October 11, an immersive art and performance event at the Fox Cities PAC in support of the Harbor House.
  2. Sign up for the 2019 Race for the Light on Dec. 7 in support of the Christine Ann Center.
  3. Support Samaritan’s uplifting Silent Samaritan Campaign and luncheon in May.
  4. Give to your local United Way.
  5. Learn how to support victims of domestic violence, ask questions, and help them find help.
  6. Advocate for victims in Wisconsin to change the laws to better support victims of domestic abuse.
  7. If you need help to develop healthy relationship skills, ask for help. There are people who have the training, skills, and compassion to help you.

Lastly, I want to encourage you to hold the door open for someone at the gas station the next time you go as you never will know how much a difference you will make in someone’s life today who is hurting, discouraged and without hope. Love one another as you want to be loved. If you don’t have the tools to do this please seek help as there are people who want to assist you in attaining those skills.  ?


1,2,3 Statistics – The National Domestic Violence Hotline

3 College Dating Violence and Abuse Poll | Break the Cycle

4Teen Dating Abuse and Harassment in the Digital World

In addition to being the clinical director for Samaritan, Dr. Tracy Siebers is a bilingual English and Spanish therapist. She serves children, adolescents, adults, couples and families facing concerns with depression, anxiety, anger management, behavioral problems, cultural adjustment, mindfulness, trauma and borderline personality disorder. She serves clients at Samaritan’s Menasha and Kaukauna locations.

We Do Weekly Devotions

Sustaining the Spirit in Spiritually-Integrated Mental Health Care

At Samaritan, our mission is to provide spiritually integrated mental health care to the people in the communities we serve. This means we take seriously each person’s faith and spiritual practices, and if they are willing, integrate these beliefs into their mental wellness care. In fact, part of employment at Samaritan is regular Wednesday devotions for all staff members; this is also the day our off-site team members travel to our main office to reconnect with one another.

Recently Jill Harp, our marketing and development coordinator, was the devotions leader. She read a children’s book about mindfulness and then helped lead staff members through a guided meditation. “I keep this book on my nightstand and read it occasionally to remind myself during very hectic or challenging times to be cognizant of the present moment and to enjoy the blue sky, nature, a good piece of chocolate, my kids’ laughter, or a smile from a friend,” she said. The clear and concise message in I am Peace, A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde is an excellent introduction to mindfulness for kids and adults alike. It was a creative and colorful way to share our weekly staff devotional time and a reminder that good children’s literature is inherently life-giving. Let’s all take a peaceful moment to remember that!

Recommended Quit Lit for Recovery Month

Posted on by Jill Harp

Every September, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sponsors Recovery Month to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate the recovery. In honor of those in recovery or battling active addictions, we want to recognize the wonderful possibilities of a life well-lived free of alcohol and other substance use and abuse, so we asked Samaritan staff to recommend their favorite “quit lit.” Be prepared for some excellent storytelling mixed with science, human psychology, recovery research, and humor.

The Naked Mind by Annie Grace: The Naked Mind has ignited a movement across the country, helping thousands of people forever change their relationship with alcohol.  Author Annie Grace clearly presents the psychological and neurological components of alcohol use based on the latest science, and reveals the cultural, social, and industry factors that support alcohol dependence in all of us.  Packed with surprising insight into the reasons we drink, this book will open your eyes to the startling role of alcohol in our culture, and how the stigma of alcoholism and recovery keeps people from getting the help they need. With Annie’s own extraordinary and candid personal story at its heart, this book is a must-read for anyone who drinks. This Naked Mind will give you freedom from alcohol. It removes the psychological dependence so that you will not crave alcohol, allowing you to easily drink less (or stop drinking). With clarity, humor, and a unique blend of science and storytelling, This Naked Mind will open the door to the life you have been waiting for.

Recovery takes many forms and is different for everyone. The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober is a helpful book and a useful Facebook Group. It’s authentic, honest, and full of wisdom and encouragement for people recovering from alcohol abuse or addiction.


Daily Reflections App: Start your day on a positive note with reflections by AA members for AA members. Also track your sobriety date. Aligns with AA literature and meeting format.



Jane Frantz, Development & Communications Director

Featured at Solihten National Conference

Posted on by Jill Harp

Samaritan’s Wellness Screen Serves as Example, Resource

The annual conference of the Solihten Institute, Samaritan’s accrediting organization, was held in Denver August 1-3, 2019. Executive Director Rosangela Berbert and Wellness Screen Program Director Jen Parsons attended to learn and network with colleagues. Jen presented a three-hour workshop for agencies across the country who are considering establishing a community mental wellness screening program similar to Samaritan’s own Wellness Screen.

Professionals from 25 different agencies attended the session to learn of Samaritan’s experiences and earned wisdom. Jen spoke about Samaritan’s Wellness Screen process, program model, successes, and data-driven outcomes. Attendees left the workshop with a readiness checklist to use back at their own agencies. Since returning home, Jen and her team have already been contacted by several agencies who are actively working to adopt the Wellness Screen model or optimize their own. Not only did Jen and Rosangela benefit from colleagues’ energy and affirmation, they discovered a critical need for coaching peer agencies on this type of program development across the nation. Samaritan is moved to embrace this business opportunity and call to leadership!

How to Save a Life

Posted on by Jill Harp

Suicide Prevention is Within Each Person: How You Can Help?
The loss of a person to suicide is especially tragic. For those left behind, the experience is complicated by added layers of guilt, shame, anger, and confusion. People left behind after a suicide are at higher risk for developing major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a form of prolonged grief called complicated grief. The pain of suicide is so intense, it motivates all of us to take action to prevent every potential act of suicide and compassionately care for family members and friends who are affected by suicide loss. You can help.

Get trained in QPR. Question-Persuade-Refer (QPR) is the evidenced-based protocol that prepares any person to intervene and help redirect a person who is considering suicide. Educators, faith leaders, youth mentors, and community members across Wisconsin and the U.S. are trained in QPR, the best-practice for responding to a person in crisis. Request free QPR training for you or your organization.

Support survivors. For every person who dies by suicide, there are up to six more suicide survivors—those left behind to grieve. Contemplate how you can be a companion in their grief. For example, commit to the long-term; save space for them while they are away from their normal roles, and speak warmly of the person they lost—don’t avoid his or her mention. So often we feel the need to do something or say something that makes sense of it all. Do help with practical matters like cooking and household tasks but place a priority on simply being present.

Lift your voice. In recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day (9/10), during the weekend of September 6-8, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention invites faith communities across the nation, regardless of their tradition, creed or spiritual perspective, to pray for those whose lives have been touched by suicide. Save the date and join the National Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope, & Life. Let’s lift our voices in prayer for those who have been impacted by suicide, for those who are dealing with mental health concerns and feelings of hopelessness, and for all the people who love and care for them. Check it out the many excellent resources for faith leaders the Action Alliance has prepared for this special purpose.

Get help for yourself or your loved ones.

Suicide Prevention Hotline
Schedule an appointment with a Samaritan therapist.

Rosangela Berbert, MSE, LPC, NCC

We Have Friends for Reasons and Seasons

Posted on by Jill Harp

By Becky Stellmacher, MSE, MS, LPC, Child and Adolescent Counselor at Samaritan

When you’re young, friends can be easy to find; friendship seems “easy-peasy”—then you and your friends get older. Young girls may have BFFs wearing necklaces that identify them as “Best Friends Forever,” until one gets mad and forever becomes never.

Young boys may hang out in groups and call themselves the “Three (or more!) Musketeers” until one (or more) of them goes rogue choosing to play soccer instead of football or bypasses sports altogether. High school and college friends promise to keep in touch for the rest of their lives. Then they throw graduation caps in the air and all of them go off to live their own lives—and discover social media is not the same as being with real friends.

The common thread is that we all have friends for reasons and seasons of our lives. They teach us how to share our joy and sadness; to forgive and be forgiven; to give someone another chance and embrace the second chance they give us; to support and be supported; and even to care for someone else as much, or sometimes more, than ourselves.

On Friendship Day on August 4, remember your friends in this season of your life and those from seasons past. Be grateful for all the reasons they are, or were, your friends and consider this quote from Christy Evans:

“Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they’re always there.”

Reach for a star…Reach out to a friend 🙂

Becky Stellmacher, MSE, MS, LPC

As a former teacher, Becky Stellmacher has over 30-years’ experience working with youth of all ages and abilities. She has continued her journey working with youth at Samaritan as a licensed professional counselor. Becky works with children and teens facing a variety of challenges including: ADHD, autism, developmental disabilities, adoption, behavior issues, grief and loss, trauma, anxiety and depression. She works in our  Kaukauna and Menasha locations.


In Celebration of Women’s Equality Day: Four Ways to Live Your Life with Intention

Posted on by Jill Harp

By Hannah Keesler, MS, LPC, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselor at Samaritan

Women’s Equality Day is celebrated on August 26 in the United States to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment when women were granted the right to vote. American women have indeed fought hard to gain the same rights as men in several respects, and we continue to work to eliminate many more persistent disparities, including unequal pay and political representation. On a larger scale, we must remember the struggles and sacrifices of the women who came before us and advocate in their spirit and memory for continued progress toward gender equality.

As individuals, we can also have significant influence:

  • Celebrate! When we acknowledge and celebrate progress in women’s equality, we fuel hope, thoughtful discussion, and enthusiasm in our homes and communities.
  • Keep your heart and mind open. Those who embrace possibility, growth, and personal evolution grasp the significance of Women’s Equality Day and the decades of struggle that preceded the 19th  Amendment.
  • Make a concerted effort to embody and support the changes you seek in your everyday life; when you do, you turn dreams into reality for this generation and the next.
  • Delve deeper. Foster self-awareness, healthy families, and supportive communities. In these sacred spaces, relationships are nurtured and collaboration is inspired.


Hannah Keesler, MS, LPC

Hannah Keesler has been with Samaritan since 2013 and is a mental health and substance abuse therapist. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, adults and families for a variety of mental health concerns, including the following — among many others: depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, adjustment, trauma, anger management and relationship difficulties. Hannah not only see clients in our Menasha office, but also works with Samaritan’s resident therapists as their training coordinator.