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We Have Friends for Reasons and Seasons



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.


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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.

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The Importance of Cultural Competence

Posted on by Jill Harp

July is National Minority Mental Health Month

By Dr. Tracy Siebers, Clinical Director

July is a special month set aside in our realm of work to recognize the special challenges and rewards associated with providing mental health care to people who are members of minority groups. National Minority Mental Health Month was established in 2008 to raise awareness of the distinctive struggles that underrepresented groups face with regard to cultural stigmas, access to services, and quality mental health care.

Multicultural issues are close to my heart because they were part of my specialization in my doctoral program. As part of my studies and research, I was privileged to work with, and learn from, individuals, couples, and families both on the Hopi Indian Reservation and along the Arizona-Mexico border. These experiences helped me learn how to provide better quality care to people in these distinctive communities.

This month—and every month— is a time to consider the stereotypes and other challenges that members of minority groups have to withstand while simultaneously striving to maintain their wellbeing. The list includes lack of culturally and linguistically quality care, external and internalized racism, and lack of knowledge by majority groups related to their cultural values. The complexity of these challenges is multiplied when we consider the varied cultural backgrounds of underrepresented groups. How can we become more culturally competent in our roles as counselors, therapists, friends, and neighbors?

  • Learn as much as possible. Read research and reports like the newly released national survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health from the Trevor Project.
  • Open your heart and mind to the lived experiences of people of different cultures and identities. Watch Strength Over Silence, a three-part docu-series produced by NAMI on the weighty subjects of courage, culture, and community.
  • Respect, respond, and innovate. Provide services that acknowledge and celebrate diverse cultures and world views, like Centro Esperanza, a Spanish-language counseling service for Latino adults, children and families in our community to access effective, high-quality, culturally appropriate mental health treatment and support.

Together we can do more, be more—and be there for one another.

Dr. Tracy Siebers

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.

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Help Your Young Person Blossom With Six Steps to Foster Summertime Mental and Emotional Wellness

Posted on by Jill Harp

By Dr. Tracy Siebers, Samaritan Clinical Director

School’s out for summer, and now our young sons and daughters may need help to recalibrate their schedules to nurture their mental and emotional wellness. A summer spent on screens or without meaningful activities has the potential to stall their development and waste opportunities for insightful experiences and supportive relationships. Dr. Tracy Siebers, Samaritan Clinical Director, suggests that caring adults help guide the young people in their lives to invest in these summertime activities and routines:

Ensure Healthy Sleep

The phrase “sleep to grow” is indeed accurate. It’s a time when our body rests, rejuvenates, and regulates hormone levels that affect many important systems in our bodies. Young people secrete their growth hormones especially during deep sleep. Serious health problems like anxiety, depression, and obesity can be linked to poor sleep. But this does not mean teens should sleep until noon! Expect a consistent waking time after nine to 11 hours of sleep a night. Try to make sure phones are completely turned off at bedtime and put outside their bedrooms.

Explore Nature

Go for a short nature walk or hike with your young person. Bring tempting snacks and pack a water bottle. Talk as you walk, but plan for short stints where you are silent. This will allow your companion(s) to experience the leaves, birds, and sunshine. Without pressing the issue, you are introducing the calming effects of nature and mindfulness, two valuable skills for dealing with a lifetime of complex experiences and stressors.

Foster Intergenerational Relationships

It can be intimidating or awkward for teens and pre-teens to engage with their elders, especially if grandparents or friends are beginning to experience cognitive decline. However, it’s also an enriching opportunity for them to learn empathy, absorb wisdom, and bring genuine joy to others. Accompany young people on visits and integrate them into your conversations. Start with phrases like, “Look what I found. . . .” Or “I’ve brought something you might like …” and then share an old recipe card, photo, or toy. Listen to the fascinating stories! Older children who play an instrument can perform a short concert—that’s always a hit.

Cook Up a New Tradition

Try for regular trips to the farm market with your family. Walk or bike there if you can. Empower young people to choose their own fruits and vegetables. That night, cut and chop together and create a salad or meal.

Get to Work

Make a conscious choice to encourage a strong age-appropriate work ethic over the summer, whether it’s contributing to household chores, volunteering to re-stack books at the library, helping mow grandma’s lawn, or getting paid at a part-time job. Facilitate project-based-learning like gardening. Choosing seeds, weeding, and watering teach valuable lessons about food, flowers, and project management, all with tangible results. Every day should have purpose and reinforce feelings of resourcefulness and self-esteem, even if it’s just an hour or two a day. Also, these interactions help build relationships and references that will support a young person as he or she grows into writing a résumé or job and college applications.

Make Memories

The stories of a healthy childhood do not require lavish trips to Disney. They are written in the small moments you spend with your young children and friends, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. Reading books, making art, listening and talking, baking, going for walks, picking flowers, playing catch, or reminiscing about the good old days will make for a happy and healthy summer and a lifetime of memories.

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.

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Resilient, Naturally: Skills, Relationships and Faith Help Us Bounce Back, Grow

Posted on by Jill Harp

By Executive Director Rosangela Berbert, Samaritan

Resilience is a word we have started to hear more often in everyday conversation. That’s good, because every person has to build resilience skills to navigate life. But what exactly is resilience, and how do we learn to be resilient?

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, or tragedy. It means “bouncing back” from life’s difficulties—and we all experience them! Family relationships, financial distress, health crises, workplace dysfunction and even good things like a wedding, graduation, or a new job disrupt our well-being and require us to call on our resiliency. Without well-honed resiliency, we can respond poorly to life stressors and develop unhealthy relationships, addictions, or depression and anxiety that only increase our problems. Keep in mind, “bouncing back” doesn’t mean you always return to the same place you were before your adverse experience. It may mean that you gain confidence and insight beyond what you had before.

Distress Comes First

Being resilient does not mean a person has no difficulty or sadness in life. In fact, the path to resilience is likely to involve significant emotional distress, not a lack of it. Think of it this way: when someone is courageous in battle, he or she still experiences fear, yet reacts in a brave manner in the face of that fear. In the same way, resilience is having courage in the face of significant emotional distress. It involves learned behaviors, thoughts, and actions to help you react to life’s struggles in a way that will grow your self-confidence and wisdom. And being able to engage your spiritual beliefs or faith in this process can be a great added resource.

Practice Your Skills

People commonly demonstrate resilience; it is an ordinary human ability, not an unattainable super power. You can learn from and adapt to adversity in healthy ways. Throughout your life, work to develop specific skills and relationships so you can turn to them in times of stress and tap into your resilient nature:

  • Nurture caring and supportive family and non-family relationships
  • Befriend healthy role models who offer encouragement and reassurance
  • Develop or expand the capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses
  • Affirm a positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities
  • Make realistic plans and take steps to complete them
  • Practice spiritual disciplines that give you a sense of inner peace and connection with something that is greater than yourself
  • Adopt a belief system that allows you to make meaning out of stressful circumstances

Choose Your Balance

The key to healthy resilient behavior is maintaining flexibility and balance in your life as you deal with trauma and upset. This is an intentional act of engaging with the emotions and changes you must acknowledge in order to move forward, but also consciously choosing to disengage or back away when you have to deal with the demands of daily living or recharge your mind and body. For example:

  • Let yourself experience strong emotions, and realize when you need to avoid them to continue functioning.
  • Take action to deal with your problems and meet the demands of daily living, and step back to disengage, rest, and reenergize yourself.
  • Spend time with loved ones to gain support and encouragement, and nurture yourself with mindfulness, exercise, hobbies, and good nutrition.
  • Rely on others to listen and help you, and rely on yourself to discover your inner strength.
  • Seek the sacred within yourself and with others to find a personal sense of belonging and purpose.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we have made much progress over the last several years to normalize mental health care. The success of our work in breaking the stigma of mental illness presents Samaritan with the exciting challenge to properly welcome and meet the needs of our ever-growing and changing clientele. More than ever, we are called to be nimble and innovative to meet the mental health needs of our communities. We are increasing our staff, reevaluating our space, and expanding our capacity to offer the services that will make our communities mentally healthier. As we approach a half century of successful service to the community, Samaritan remains flexible, balanced—and resilient!

Blog by Rosangela Berbert, MSE, NCC, LPC

Rosangela (pronounced hoe-SAN-gel-ah) Berbert is the executive director of Samaritan. She is a licensed professional counselor. She has been on staff at Samaritan since 2005.

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If I Had a Hammer

Posted on by Jill Harp
If I Had a Hammer: Reflections of a Board Retreat

It’s a bit of a pun to have a board retreat and one result is this creation, an intricately arranged set of silver and gold nails installed on–you guessed it–a board. But stay with me! Our recent exercise in bringing together the board of directors and the executive leadership team of Samaritan went far beyond tabletop games. In fact, this sculpture, and the exercise of building it, is interpreted in a very meaningful way: One vertical nail stands tall in the center, representative of our mission, to help connect mind and spirit so individuals, families, organizations, and communities thrive. There are two gold board-of-director nails that are horizontally oriented to support multiple interlocking silver nails, all of which represent our leadership and operations staff. The arrangement would collapse if any one role is abandoned.

This keynote presentation was given by Bob Johnson, the president and CEO of Solihten Institute (formerly known as The Samaritan Institute). He was invited to our retreat to help us address the significant growth in our Center since the last 5-year strategic plan was developed in 2015, including:

  • In 2015, our Center had 1,000 clients and 7,419 completed counseling sessions; in 2018, that number had grown to 1,470 clients and 9,947 sessions.
  • During the 2015/16 school year, 1,010 students were screened as part of Connected Community Wellness Screen and 227 were referred to services; in the 2017/18 school year, 6,460 were screened and 642 were referred.

During this same period of time, a new leadership team formed and fresh talent came to our board of directors. Together, our group began to thoughtfully consider our individual roles in the context of the Samaritan of the next 50 years.

I mention 50 years because our founders established what has become Samaritan in the Fox Cities in 1970. The year 2020 is meaningful to us and the people we serve because we will not only mark this half-century milestone, but choose and place new stones into our future path. As we’ve expanded our geographic footprint, community collaborations, youth wellness screenings, Spanish-language counseling services, and staff, we know big decisions will be studied and built into the next strategic plan. It’s a good thing we are handy with a hammer and nails.

Blog by Rosangela Berbert, MSE, NCC, LPC

Executive director Rosangela (pronounced hoe-SAN-gel-ah) Berbert is a licensed professional counselor. She has been on staff at Samaritan since 2005.

Reclaim Your Life in the Midst of Depression, Anxiety

Recently my outlook on life has been great—but it doesn’t always feel that way. Since my diagnosis of major depression and anxiety at age 18, not every day is the same, and I’m not the same every day. Early in my mental health counseling nearly 15 years ago, I was also contending with an unsupportive family. When I explained to my mother what I was learning about myself; she didn’t receive it well, nor did she offer help or affirmation. As a result, I was forced to rely on myself to find solutions and make more progress. I became my own advocate.

If you are currently struggling with your mental wellness, it may feel as if you’ve lost control over your ability to speak up for what you need. Giving yourself permission and reclaiming your control will give you back the hope you need to be whole again. You can get better—and you deserve to get better.

Each time I find myself down at the bottom, I bring myself up through counseling, medication, yoga, running, light therapy, adult coloring books, books, movies, music and my very supportive husband and select friends. It took time, persistence, and practice to become a strong advocate for myself, but doing so has made it possible for me to have a rich and rewarding life.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

Blog by Melissa Laughlin Holtz, BS, SW-IT

Melissa Laughlin Holtz is a case manager with the Connected Community Wellness Screen Program and the Hortonville Areas School District (E3).




When You Have the Winter Blues

In the midst of our long cold slog toward spring, you may be experiencing the winter blues. The winter blues, a term that can mean seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is defined by clinical psychologists and medical doctors in different ways. Some experts see the condition as purely psychological, while others believe depression is linked to inflammation in the body. The brain is complex and there’s a lot we don’t know, but there are some things we can infer based on available research:

  • SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons; it begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.
  • If you have one bad winter and bounce back, you’re probably feeling the normal ups and downs of life. However, if you experience more severe symptoms of depression during the fall and winter months for two or more years in a row, you may want to ask your doctor about SAD.
  • SAD symptoms to watch for are carbohydrate and sugar cravings, digestive problems, changes in appetite or weight, weight gain, trouble focusing, noticeable drop in energy, tendency to sleep a lot, sleep disturbances, social withdrawal, persistent sadness, irritability, feelings of worthlessness, thoughts or attempts to harm yourself, lack of motivation, drop in energy, noticeable fatigue, and physical pains, including headaches and joint pains.
  • Specific causes of SAD remain unknown, yet several factors may come into play, including your biological clock (circadian rhythm), serotonin levels, melatonin levels, family history, having major depression or bipolar disorder, and living far from the equator.
  • If this sounds like you, please know it’s not your fault. People who don’t live with depression often think you can just decide to be happy. However, behind the scenes, there are brain chemicals and hormones that make you feel this way.

Help for SAD Sufferers

There are many ways to help you cope with SAD, like natural light therapy; artificial light therapy; cognitive behavioral therapy (AKA talk therapy); exercise; and supplements for brain support including vitamin D, SAM-e, 5-HTP, L-tryptophan, and St. John’s Wort.*

If the winter blues have got you down, reach out and ask for help from your health care provider, counselor, or therapist. There is light at the end of the tunnel—and you don’t have to wait until April to put the spring back in your step!

*If you are taking an anti-depressant, vitamins for depression, or other natural supplements for anxiety and depression, talk with your health care provider about what you are taking to avoid harmful drug interactions.

Blog by Melissa Laughlin Holtz, BS, SW-IT

Melissa Laughlin Holtz is a case manager with the Connected Community Wellness Screen Program and the Hortonville Areas School District (E3).




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How to Help Teens with Holiday Pressures

Teenage people have a lot on their plates during the winter holiday season. School is in full swing, exams are looming, and there are extra activities and work obligations. Teens also live with one foot in childhood and the other in adulthood—they may still feel an attachment to youthful holiday magic while realizing the stress it can cause for their family’s financial and emotional health. Also, big family reunions can add an element of drama. That’s a lot to schedule, and an even bigger challenge to manage in a healthy, life-giving way.

Teens often show their stress with the onset of headaches or stomachaches; trouble sleeping; unusual moodiness, including tears for seemingly minor reasons; and withdrawal from friends, family, or school. As a caring adult in a teen’s life, when you see stress taking a toll, try to limit or adjust your teen’s commitments and create opportunities to relax and rediscover joy. Here are some things to try:

  • Emphasize routines and structure. Make structured holiday plans and communicate them to your young person. Have your teen help you bake, wrap presents, participate in family outings, or complete chores.
  • Prioritize healthy food and movement.  Plan at least one healthy meal for the family every day. Be sure your teen stays hydrated—sometimes bad moods or fatigue are simply caused by “wilting.” Invite your young person out for a short walk. Fresh air engenders conversation and a fresh perspective.
  • Schedule downtime. Allow enough time for your young person to decompress between holiday activities and obligations with a long shower, a good book, or their favorite Netflix series. Everyone needs time to recharge.
  • Get creative. Help your teen discover a creative outlet, whether it’s adult coloring books, building a bird house, cake decorating, or henna art. When humans create, they are naturally calmed and achieve a sense of mastery.
  • Check your attitude. Youth can subconsciously respond to the stress levels around them. Therefore, it is important that we be aware of and manage our own stress during the holiday season.

Courtney Pohlman, MA, LMFT, CSOTP, T4C is a therapist with Samaritan with special interest and expertise in marriage and family dynamics. She serves clients in New London and Menasha.

How to Help Teens with Hurt Feelings

Teens’ hurt feelings can spiral to extremes when they internalize the opinions of others. We can help them put the comments of other people in perspective, so they don’t take them personally and allow comments or remarks to weigh on their hearts and minds.


It helps to explain:

No matter how nice a person is or how they may keep to themselves, no one can control other people’s behaviors. What we can control is how we respond to the things other people say or do to us.

•It is better to thoughtfully respond to a comment instead of reacting to it. A response considers what responsibility we may have in the situation, whereas an in-the-moment reaction does not and can cause a vicious cycle of hurt feelings.

Teens and adults have a tendency to take things on as if it’s “our fault”. If another person has an issue (even if they direct it towards us), it’s not ours to take on even if they’re trying to tell us it is.

•Avoid getting drawn into an argument with a person who hurts your feelings; rather, consider whether he or she is trying to assign blame to someone else, or if the person lacks the skills to communicate constructively about what’s really going on.

The goal is to teach young people how to thoughtfully consider their part in the matter at hand. However, they don’t need to internalize the situation, carry it with them throughout the day, and let it bring down their mood.

Blog by Karen Aspenson

Karen Aspenson is a former clinician with the E3 program at Hortonville Area School District, where she provides youth mental health screening and referrals via Samaritan’s Connected Community Wellness Screen Program.


This blog references material first published by Sam Miller of Parenting Teenagers Academy.


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