Counseling center has helped valley get through hard times |

Counseling center has helped valley get through hard times

For 22 years the Child and Family Counseling Center has helped people live well-adjusted lives in the Roaring Fork Valley. A few recent staff changes ensure its health into the future.

Founding partner Mary Williams is retiring and has sold her practice to Shanley Donlan Mangeot, a licensed clinical psychologist and pediatric neuropsychologist.

In fact, Mangeot is the only certified child neuropsychologist on the Western Slope, said Child and Family Counseling psychologist Sue Maisch. Mangeot works with children and adolescents to evaluate brain function and learning disorders.

Also joining the staff this fall is Resa Hayes, a 12-year supervisor at the Garfield County Department of Social Services. She is a parent educator specializing in Theraplay, which enhances parent and child relationships through play.

Long-time staff at the center include Maisch, Rebecca Rudner and James Stokes.

Maisch has been with the center since April 1981. Rudner joined in 1994 and Stokes in 1992.

“We have a pretty comprehensive staff,” Maisch said. “We can deal with almost any mental health problem.”

Besides offering individual and group counseling, the staff also consults with the courts over child care protection cases and work closely with psychiatrists.

“The trend has been toward briefer therapy rather than psychoanalysis,” Maisch said.

While they do see a small number of people with more serious and chronic mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the primary problems people seek treatment for are depression, anxiety and stress.

Stress leads to depression

Although the valley has grown over the years, people’s problems have not, Maisch and Rudner said. People still commute long distances to work and the stress of their jobs, plus the economic struggle to live in a resort economy, lead to depression, drug addiction, child abuse and domestic violence.

“I see how parents struggle in the valley to raise their children. They often have far to commute and the kids are left alone. It’s a sad experience; parents feel they don’t have a lot of control and there is a lot of pressure on the kids,” Rudner said.

“What I see are fewer extended families. People move here and they just have their nuclear family. It puts more stress on them,” she said, because they don’t have other family members to go to for support.

“We are seeing more incidence of addiction. It’s a quick fix for stress,” Maisch said.

Treatment improves

But there is also good news in the mental health field. Depression, although very widespread, is now more treatable thanks to new drugs with fewer side effects introduced in the last 10 years.

“We can treat more people. You don’t have to be severely depressed before we give you medication now,” Maisch said. “We’re also better at diagnosing it.”

Depression “is more than a sad mood,” Rudner explained. Symptoms include trouble sleeping, and eating too much or too little, lethargy and difficulty in concentrating.

Depression often has a biological component and that’s where medication can be effective in correcting chemical imbalances.

It can also be treated by teaching people the skills needed to live with the condition.

Depression is caused by the stress of daily living, Maisch said.

“I think the world is a pretty stressful place right now. There is so much information, and it goes so fast. We’re blitzed,” she said. “It’s too hard to process. It’s overwhelming.”

With its longevity in the valley, the center has seen the community through its disasters and hard times. The therapists put in many hours as Red Cross volunteers during the Coal Seam Fire this summer.

They work with community organizations such as YouthZone and the Human Services Commission. And they work with the courts and the schools.

They also face the challenge of keeping their fees from skyrocketing despite the increase in health insurance premiums.

“We don’t have a bookkeeper. We have to fight with the insurance companies ourselves,” Rudner said.

Williams, a clinical nurse specializing in mental health, founded the partnership with Nancy Flood and Debbie McKenna in 1980. She has retired after 30 years in mental health counseling in Glenwood Springs.

In that time, Williams wrote five children’s books and served on a variety of community organizations, including Mountain Valley Developmental Services and the Valley View Hospital board.

She also taught courses at Colorado Mountain College for 30 years and will continue teaching, she said.

“A relationship with a counselor requires a lot of trust . I’ve treasured the relationships I’ve had over the years,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”

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