I choose to be healthy (2)
Kara Juszczak, Co-owner, Tree of Hope Counseling

“When I am truly in the present moment and connected with another person, my intuition is at its best, my body feels calm and I feel completely grounded. “

What led you to establish your practice and what are you most excited about right now in your field?

As a social worker, I have the flexibility to try different roles and work with people in various ways. 

It became clear to me early in my career that clinical work was what I was most drawn to. I felt my skills were best suited to one-on-one and small group work where people were seeking support and healing and it is the area of practice that I was always most excited about when I was getting started. 

Within clinical social work, I had the opportunity to find work in various settings including community mental health, school-based clinical social work and now in private practice. I was lucky enough to find a mentor who was a psychiatrist and helped me begin on my path as a private practitioner. For me, it is the most exciting and dynamic area of social work because it allows a practitioner to bring all of their
skills and knowledge together to determine the best approach for each individual client. 

As I was getting established in private practice, I began to realize that there wasn’t a place in our local community for private practitioners to come together, share knowledge, support each other, and most importantly, practice what they love and specialize in an area that they are an expert in. At that time, there were also very few options for clients to find a group of practitioners outside of a mental health outpatient clinic setting. That was really the seed that has grown into what Tree of Hope Counseling is today. At the beginning, I gathered a small group of other social workers who were doing great work individually, but were seeking to be part of a community. I established Tree of Hope with my co-owner, Pete Navratil in 2014 and we had eleven other practitioners who joined us that first year. The goal was to create a stable, consistent, trusted place for people to come for mental health services. It is honestly hard for me to believe that we are now coming upon our 10 th Anniversary (Summer 2024) and we have over 50 affiliates who are a part of Tree of Hope and 23 offices here in our buildings on East Avenue. We have grown to include art and play therapists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, reiki practitioners, yoga instructors, and you – our neurofeedback specialist. When we started, I really could not have imagined that this is where we would be a decade later. I think what that tells me is that there truly was a need for a place like Tree of Hope — that our ability to offer support to the community, as well as a place for clinicians to grow, has been well received. 

Now to answer the second part of your question – I am very excited about some modalities that are gaining interest. Many of these modalities have been around clinically for many years but are getting new life or being framed in a way that feels more accessible to both clinicians and clients. The thread I am seeing with many of these new and/or reemerging modalities is that they address the roots of trauma which is something that touches so many people. For example, I was introduced to schema therapy about 7 years ago and it has become a core piece of my clinical practice. I’m now offering training and consultation around this modality to other clinicians and it is fun to watch them become energized and excited about it. Even if they have been in practice for many years, schema offers a different lens for this work which can be really helpful. For me, it has allowed me to help some of my clients who have been in therapy for many years and feel stuck. By framing things in a new way and offering a different framework, I have had the privilege of witnessing many clients find renewed hope and a path forward that they hadn’t felt in a long time.

The modality that I am particularly excited about right now is brain spotting which I have just been trained in and am beginning to offer to my clients. I had the opportunity to experience brain spotting as a patient with one of my colleagues and I was blown away by how helpful it was in just two sessions. That was enough inspiration for me to get certified myself so I can share this with my clients.

What is your favorite way to connect with others?

Connection is a core emotional need for all of us and it’s what I spend a lot of my day talking and thinking about. For me, the thing that makes me feel most connected is coming together with other people around a common interest or purpose. In a professional sense, that means collectively addressing a community need or creating something with intention. I would say the same thing is true for me in personal relationships. 

I feel most connected to people when we share something in common that we care about and invest our time in that thing together. 

I guess I would describe connection as energy – when I am with people who care deeply about the same things I do and who are actively engaged in creating something good together (no matter what that thing is), I can feel the connective energy in the room and it is inspiring to me.

What are the key things you do to take care of your brain and body?

In my line of work, it is critical that I take space and time between clients to re-center myself. I want to be fully present for each person and I can’t do that if I’m not taking care of myself. 

My gratitude practice is the thing that I turn to multiple times a day – this can be me taking a few extra moments in the car between work and home or spending several minutes in silence in my office prior to inviting the next client into my space. 

I also use my breath to help me find a place of calm and reconnect with myself and my body – it is a way for me to hit the reset button. And, I believe in trying new things to keep myself from getting bored or stuck. I am often looking at new ways to approach my practice and keep things fresh. It’s actually one of the things I talk about a lot when I teach compassion fatigue workshops because trying new things builds resilience.

What is one habit you have firmly established that helps you and what is one thing you would like to make a habit that you haven’t been able to yet?

The habit that I have been committed to for some time that I find really helpful is an ongoing to do list. It is a highly structured document that actually doesn’t cause me more stress, it helps me to keep all areas of my life organized in one place and it really helps me to identify what is critical versus what would be nice to get done but isn’t pressing. I have a husband and two teenage boys who are very busy, I run the business, and I have my own private practice so I need to be able to prioritize. 

It is important to me that I am able to make special things happen for my family and I learned a long time ago that I need to put things on paper and see them visually so that I don’t get overwhelmed. It takes time to update (it’s hand written!) but it is completely worth it for me because it has helped me manage my stress level and keep me on track.

A habit that I would like to commit to that I haven’t been successful at is meal planning. My boys have different dietary needs and desires than I do and it is sometimes hard to blend the two. I typically bend towards their preferences but I would like to be better about planning for my own nutritional goals and needs for myself. As a new habit, that means taking the time to make myself a healthy lunch that will fuel my brain and my body as opposed to eating on the run and/or putting my needs last. When I am able to pack a lunch, it feels great, I’d just like to make it more of a habit than something that happens once in a while.

When do you feel most grounded and what are some practices that help you get there?

What makes me feel most grounded kind of overlaps with the question you asked about connection. Knowing that you are where you are meant to be is very grounding for me. I guess it also overlaps with being present. As a seasoned clinician, I have learned that being present is the biggest gift I can give to my clients. When I am truly in the present moment and connected with another person, my intuition is at its best, my body feels calm and I feel completely grounded. It feels, I think for both of us, that this is where we are supposed to be and this what we are supposed to be doing together.

I have also learned a lot about grounding from my family experience. My younger son lives with some sensory processing challenges so we have learned as a family how to pay attention to and respond when our senses are either over or under stimulated. 

So we have lots of options at home to meet those needs, whether it’s fidget toys or coloring or something active. And we sometimes sit and do something together that helps us feel collectively grounded as a family. It is amazing how much my son has taught all of us about paying attention to our sensory needs and taking care of ourselves when we feel unsettled.