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Psychotherapist Michelle Essary

Michelle Essary, MA, LPC

Michelle is a licensed professional counselor.  She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Cross-Cultural Sociology from Lee University in 2004 and a Masters of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Denver Seminary in 2012.

Michelle has training in individual, marital, premarital, couples, family and group therapy.  She specializes in depression, anxiety, stress management, cultural adjustment, women’s and relationship and identity issues.  She is acting director of our team working with member care.

Addictive Behavior by Doug Feil

Addictive Behavior

Something addicted people don’t understand is how ritualized their addictive behaviors are. This applies to all addictive behaviors. The process from temptation to the addictive behavior through its action and the fallout afterwards are often predictable, repetitive, rationalized in similar ways and include minimization of any consequences.

One useful strategy to increase self-awareness is to outline by separate steps the journey through the repetitive behavior. Include actions, thoughts, and feelings. An example of an addiction to pornography might be: I feel alone think looking at porn will be exciting wait until no one is nearby pick the device on which I can hide my “tracks” start to “just look” visit my typical websites get aroused etc.

Put in as much specific detail on each step. Be sure to do this outline into the next day. People are frequently surprised at how predictable and dysfunctional their ritual is. Hope for change comes in part by knowing the arrow between each step represents an opportunity to do something different and healthier, and actually help break out of this addictive pattern.

Doug Feil, MS, LPC

On-line Safety for Children and Teens, Dr Joan Jones

On-line Safety for Children and Teens

Students use the Internet for academic purposes, and all persons use the Internet for exploring the web and contacting friends and family. These are valuable opportunities for keeping in touch with all aspects of our society and our world. However, the Internet can be dangerous due to inappropriate material and online predators who seek victims of all ages.

Here are some ideas that can help insure the safety of members of your household when using the Internet:

  • Passwords. On-Line account ID and passwords should be kept private and not even shared with close friends. Passwords should be changed if there is a possibility that someone else knows it.
  • Personal Information. Never give personal information On-Line. This includes phone numbers, addresses, work or school locations, credit card numbers, or social security numbers of anyone in the family.
  • Photos. Don’t share photos of yourself or your family with anyone you do not know. Provocative photos should never be posted on-line – once they are on-line you have no control over who sees them or what is done with them.
  • Accountability. Keep computers with Internet access in a central place in the home. Computers in private places, such as bedrooms, can be more easily used for dangerous Internet activities.
  • Limits. Decide with your children what on-line activities are age-appropriate. Chat rooms, instant messaging, and websites such as YouTube, My-space, and others can be especially dangerous for anyone under the age of 16. Any Internet location at which strangers could contact a child is a “hunting ground” for predators.

For more information on Internet protection go to http://www.netsmartz.org.

Joan Jones, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist

Acceptance and the Path to Transformation-Julie Valenziano

Acceptance and the Path to Transformation

According to David Benner in The Gift of Being, my spiritual transformation requires that I accept myself, just as I allow God to accept me. Until I accept myself, I can never truly know myself and so cannot enter fully into a knowing relationship with God.

My self-acceptance must include those parts of me that I wish to change; in fact I can begin to change them only after I have accepted them. How good it is to know that God “made us accepted in the Beloved,” Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV). Self-acceptance is not denial or permissiveness; it is a reflection of God’s overpowering, transforming Grace.

Julie Valenziano, MA, LPC

Shame and Body Image-Allison Motsenbocker

Shame and Body Image

Dissatisfaction with body image is an incredibly common struggle. It is no wonder that discontent, distress, and shame are so frequently present with regard to the views we hold of our physical bodies, as our image of our flesh was tainted from the moment sin entered the world: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Genesis 3:7).

One of the very first experiences of separation from God was the feeling of shame and humiliation with the physical body, rather than comfort and confidence; a feeling that lives on just as strongly today. We live in a culture surrounded by the pressures of unattainable ideals and overwhelming beauty standards which infiltrate the measures we place on ourselves and the value we believe we hold. Eating disorders develop for a number of reasons, but are certainly encouraged on by the shame we hold within and the pressure we feel from outside.

When we expand our understanding of our worth and identity beyond physicality, we are able to broaden our sense of self and work toward finding acceptance and peace with our bodies.

Allison Motsenbocker, MA, LPC

Step Into Beauty-Jodi Top

Step Into Beauty

“We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves.” - C. S. Lewis from The Weight of Glory.

I find this quote so true it is hard to express at times. True beauty, not the high gloss, high fashion, air brushed kind, but true beauty has a way about it. It stills, it restores, I think it even redeems. Think of this, your beautiful spouse tucking her hair absent-mindedly behind her ear, or a father’s gentle way with his sleeping child, and the silent swirls of a peaceful blooming rose.

True beauty has a way of almost making me hold my breath, or lose it. And I seek it for its nourishment, hungrily.

Jodi Top, LCSW

Is That What You Meant? Joel MacFarland

This is what I heard...Is that what you meant?

Communicating with the people in our lives can often be like one big game of "telephone." The messages we interpret from one another can be very different from the message the speaker intended to send.

This problem is only magnified by the expansion of technological communication, where complex messages are conveyed in short phrases and texts. When an offense occurs, rather than assume that the message was automatically interpreted correctly, we are wise to first clarify the message.

Confirming that the message received was interpreted as the speaker intended it to be can decrease those destructive games of "telephone" and increase true understanding.

Joel MacFarland, M.Div, MSW

Guilt the Ultimate Magnifier-Elizabeth Dodrill

Guilt: The Unltimate Magnifier

I have found over the years in working with people experiencing depression and anxiety that guilt has a sneaky way of weaving itself into the mix. People more than likely feel an extreme sense of guilt over feeling sad or worried about something. Often Christians will slip into the thinking of “if I had enough faith or trusted in God I would not be feeling anxious” or “if I was really living as a believer I would be experiencing joy in my life and not this sadness.” This kind of thinking spirals people deeper into the anxiety or depression that they are already legitimately experiencing.

In reading the Psalms it is safe to say that there were seasons where David experienced feelings of depression as well as anxiety. My hope is to encourage people to feel the freedom to acknowledge what they are experiencing and to let go of the expectation that if they were “doing things right” they would not feel sad or anxious. The removal of this kind of thinking can free us up to move forward. Guilt always magnifies and always keeps us stuck.

Elizabeth Dodrill, MA, LPC

Your Focus: Watch Where You Point It-Todd Challis

Your Focus: Watch Where You Point It

How we think or ponder about things or circumstances affects how we see life. If we are tuned into the negatives around us, there is a very good chance that we won't even notice when good things happen. This is what CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is all about.

"whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." Philippians 4:8

Using a set of binoculars helps a person look more closely at something of interest, but it also limits the other distractions.... Choose what you would prefer to focus your attention on!

Todd Challis, LCSW