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3 Steps to Ongoing Calm and Peace



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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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’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 is part of an international network of more than 50 Samaritan Centers with offices in 23 states.

Board president Mary Beduhn said, “Samaritan 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 www.samaritan-counseling.com.

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:

  • Mindfulnessexercises.com provides free mindfulness, breathing and meditation guides.
  • Headspace.com provides a how-to guide for meditation and more (free app also available).
  • Omvana.com 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.

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

September is National AODA Recovery Month

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mari Krueger, MSE, BSN, RN, LPC


As we head into September’s National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Samaritan 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.