Good Counsel: Women-owned Lakeview Counseling growing with need for more mental health services

Top: Barbara Cain, Jill Kimball, Laura Slaughter. Bottom: Janet Hughes, Darcy Britten, Michelle Newman.

Traverse City has won numerous accolades over the years as one of the most desirable places to live in America. But the Grand Traverse region’s beauty, its foodie culture and year-round recreational opportunities don’t insulate people from the stresses of life.

“People like to think it’s a dream to move to northern Michigan and they’ll live happily ever after. But then they find life is still hard,” said Darcy Britten, a partner in Lakeview Counseling, a Traverse City practice that provides a variety of mental health counseling services.

Lakeview Counseling, an all-women firm founded in 1997 by Barbara Cain and Carol Murray, has grown to six therapists and counselors and will move in June to expanded offices in the Harbour View Centre next to the Candle Factory in Traverse City.

Murray has since retired, but Cain, a licensed master social worker, is still with the practice, which is currently located off of Park Drive at the south end of Boardman Lake. Creating an all-women staff wasn’t done by design, said therapist Jill Kimball. “It just happens that there are more females in the field,” she said. “But we’ve found that we all work together well.”

All business decisions are made jointly by the six therapists and counselors, who each share an ownership interest in the practice, Kimball said.

Lakeview Counseling will be moving to its fourth new office since its founding 22 years ago. It plans to soon hire several mental health clinicians and could grow to as many as 10 therapists and counselors.
The demand for mental health services has risen as the region’s population has grown, Britten said. The population of Grand Traverse County alone has jumped by 25 percent over the past 20 years to about 92,000.

Plus, technology-filled lives are becoming busier and more complex, resulting in more people seeking help in managing stress and anxiety. “Parenting is more complicated. Relationships are more complicated. And there are more demands on peoples’ time,” Britten said.

Increasingly divisive politics also are bringing people to Lakeview Counseling, looking for ways to cope with what they see as incivility and destructive partisanship in government. “I have personally counseled a handful of politically-distressed clients struggling with what’s happening in Washington,” Kimball said.

Britten said she’s also seeing a jump in local women seeking counseling for sexual assaults, including students at Northwestern Michigan College and other colleges and universities outside of the Grand Traverse area. Many of those assaults occur off campus. (NMC says it does not tolerate acts of sexual misconduct, including rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, dating violence and domestic violence. NMC reported one rape in campus housing in 2016, but no on-campus sex-related crimes in 2015 and 2017, according to its 2018 campus safety report.)

Kimball and Britten said they also are counseling and treating more people, including children, who are struggling with problems related to overuse of social media.

“We’re seeing issues with social media bullying among adolescents,” Kimball said. “And people are having problems with excess use of social media to the point that their self-worth is too closely tied to their online identity.”

Parents also are “having fights over screen time” with their children and seeking strategies in limiting the use of cell phones and other internet-connected devices. Text messaging and social media sites such as Facebook and Snapchat are complicating relationships, Britten said. “It’s really hard to break up now,” she said. “Kids are contacting each other over and over again” through texts and social media.

Married people also are reconnecting and flirting with old flames on Facebook, prompting their worried spouses to seek counseling, Britten said.

Lakeview Counseling also has outreach programs with a number of schools and community groups, including Gun Safe Mom, local Department of Human Services offices and the Groundwork Center in Traverse City. Lakeview counselors also have been called in as a resource for employees at businesses that are closing or conducting mass layoffs.

The practice has four therapists trained in brain-based trauma therapy, including eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR, developed in the 1980s, is a nontraditional type of psychotherapy designed to help people heal from the trauma of disturbing life experiences. Another focus of Lakeview Counseling is on counseling new retirees to the area who’ve discovered their lives here aren’t the care-free golden years they envisioned.

Therapist Laura Slaughter runs a support group for women who retired to the area and found it wasn’t “all that it was cracked up to be,” Britten said. Some have had trouble building social networks they had in their former homes and others are remote caretakers for elderly parents. Some are experiencing financial problems as their incomes have fallen or have divorced after moving here. “It can be a pretty complicated adjustment,” Kimball said. “People are not used to spending time together” in retirement.

The Lakeview partners are also facing their own business challenges while working to help others. “Being in the helping profession, asking for money [from clients] is not our specialty,” Kimball said. “But we have a crack-the-whip office manager who keeps on us for our billings.”

Staying current on electronic records, ethics guidelines, patient privacy and anti-discrimination laws also is a challenge, Britten said. She added that Lakeview therapists and counselors work hard on keeping up to date with trends in addressing the adoptive, LGBT and other populations.

“We’re in an organic field, not a medical one,” she said. “We love being educated on how to be respectful to the various communities.”