Since opening their doors in 1999, the professionals at The Counseling Center continue to grow their services and skills to help children, individuals, couples, and families with a variety of needs, including alcohol or drug dependency, anger management, behavioral disorders, eating disorders, grief, domestic violence, learning disabilities, depression, trauma, group therapy, marriage counseling, and dispute resolution among others.
With a tasseled pillow resting on her lap, licensed counselor Tomi Barbour leaned back in her swivel chair and talked shop. Lit by the soft glow of a Zen-inspired, paper lamp, Barbour sat facing the now empty couch in her office where just an hour ago clients had been sitting. Her soft voice and soothing smile, complete with the laid-back vibe in her pleasantly cluttered office full of western art and décor, a nod to her ranching upbringing, automatically makes a person feel comfortable opening up and talking.
She’s good at this, and as one of four practicing counselors in the office, she specializes in counseling teens and adults in a myriad of areas, including one-on-one sessions, teen treatment groups, pain management, mindfulness and guided imagery, domestic violence, anger management, hypnotherapy, and eating disorders.
With a long list of degrees, certificates, and years of experience under her belt, Barbour talked excitedly about her teen art group at AVA Community Arts this past summer. She’s got a big heart for at-risk teens, and in February, she’ll be starting a new Connection and Communication Through Art group for teens.
Groups sessions are held in the large multi-purpose room underneath their second-story offices off N. Highway 14-16 in everything from anger management to art therapy. This spring, they are offering three new groups, two of which will be headed up by her colleague Robin Voigt, with a focus on elementary-aged children.
Beginning on Feb. 3, Voigt’s six-week, after-school Kids Can! group for first through third graders, focuses on relationship building, social communication and emotions. Her second group, Kids Can 2! for fourth through sixth graders, starts on Feb. 5. This group will focus on social skills and emotional needs often experienced by children on the Autism spectrum or with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. The goal is to help these kids regulate emotions and develop healthy communication and coping skills.
Voigt, a former school counselor with degrees in psychology, music education, and elementary education, is excited to launch these two new groups. Working with kids is among her favorite demographic, but she also counsels adolescents and adults, including offering family and marriage counseling.
It’s safe to say the Counseling Center covers the gamut when it comes to helping individuals, couples, and families with their mental and emotional needs.
The trouble is that unlike physical health, people to tend to put their mental health at the bottom of their list based on social stigmas surrounding counseling, which Barbour and her colleagues hope to change.
“People have no problem going to the doctor for a broken foot or sprained ankle,” she noted, “but there’s a negative stereotype that people who seek counseling are either crazy or weak.”
Not so, she said. In fact, she’d argue that taking care of one’s emotional and mental health is just as important.
Their hands-on counseling services helps kids and adults learn how to communicate, identify negative behaviors impacting one’s family, marriage or career, and to develop the necessary skills to solve problems, combat addictions, and learn techniques for navigating rocky emotional terrain.
“People have different needs at various points in their lives, and stressful things come up,” she said. “It takes courage to ask for help.”
Colleague, and fellow counselor, Ann Phillips agreed. With an extensive background working with victims of domestic abuse, Phillips helps survivors with assertiveness and self-esteem. Like Barbour, Phillips is soft-spoken with an engaging smile and open demeanor that immediately puts a person at ease. Along with helping survivors, she also does adult counseling, bariatric assessments, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a technique that enables people to heal from emotional distress as a result of traumatic life experiences by reorganizing memories and experiences in one’s brain.
The Counseling Center also is one of the few clinics that offers faith-based treatment. Part-time counselor, Renee Sullivan, who specializes in counseling children, teens and adults for individual, family, and couples counseling, also has a master’s in professional counseling from Colorado Christian University. Unlike secular couples and family counseling, faith-based therapy uses biblical teachings as the reference point for discussing values and relationships with an emphasis on forgiveness.
“It’s about letting your faith inform your circumstances,” she said, and this type of counseling is becoming increasingly popular among individuals and families in Gillette.
Sullivan also performs substance abuse evaluations and marriage assessments.
Along with the many diverse services offered through the Counseling Center, the group has also recently updated the play therapy room to help children discuss and process emotions through art and play. Two dollhouses occupy one corner of the room, the second added to accommodate children of divorced parents with joint custody. A toybox spills over with dolls and plastic trucks and cars and art supplies are neatly stacked on a table. Because kids lack the language and emotional intelligence to process their feelings, play therapy, Barbour explained, allows them to express themselves on their own terms.
Also new to the room is the “hand tree” painted on the wall with a thick brown trunk and limbs dotted by dozens of colorful handprints in all sizes and colors. The idea for the hand tree was to literally give kids an opportunity to leave their mark wherever they’d like in the color of their choice.
It’s just one more way to make children feel safe and comfortable, Barbour said, in an otherwise chaotic world where they have no control.
This is why they’re here, Barbour said, to help clients navigate obstacles and lead the best lives possible.
The Counseling Center
1401 W 2nd St | (307) 682-6699