- Gonzalo Laje
Welcome from our Director
Meet our new office manager, LaNiya Dicks! LaNiya has recently joined WBMA as our front office manager. She is dedicated to efficiently meeting the scheduling, billing and prescription needs of our clients. Learn more about LaNiya: https://www.wbma.cc/laniya-dicks
What is Neurodiversity Affirmative Care?
Supporting neurodiversity begins with understanding that every person’s brain, whether neurotypical or neurodivergent, is unique, embodying both strengths and vulnerabilities. Neurodivergence is a broad term referring to individuals whose brains are different than ‘typical,’ like those who are Autistic, ADHD, or anxious, etc. To support neurodiversity, it is imperative to truly seek out areas in which someone already excels, and to personalize supports for areas of struggle. There is no one size fits all treatment approach, and it is important to recognize that a person does not necessarily require treatment just because they are neurodivergent. As we shift towards a neurodiversity affirmative lens, we therefore emphasize whole person, support that rests on the patient and their family’s active participation in embracing who they are, consenting to supports they want, and focusing on strengths to aid positive growth, when change is desired.
When a neurodivergent patient comes to our practice, there are a variety of supports we might be able to offer. However, the first step is listening. We seek to understand what concern is leading the person, or in the case of children, usually their parents, to seek our support, and who the person is, overall. In many cases, we begin with psychoeducation. We help patients and families move away from functioning labels (e.g., high vs low functioning), and towards recognizing the patient as a whole person, with unique strengths, vulnerabilities, and support needs, deserving of autonomy, respect, and presumed competence. We seek to help families and patients communicate in ways that support the patient for who they are, rather than seeking to change them to look and act more neurotypical. As we work with a neurodivergent patient, we may provide outside referrals to other neurodiversity affirmative providers (e.g., OTs, SLPs). In therapy with a neurodivergent patient, we will always start by building connections in ways that feel comfortable to them. We will likely engage in play or talk about areas of interest. As therapy progresses, we help patients identify areas in life in which they are struggling, or in which they are feeling distressed. Together, we will explore ways in which they themselves may wish to change, and ways in which they want to communicate with those around them to ask for what they need. The therapy is individualized, respectful, and guided by the patient’s needs and wants. Similarly, when a patient presents for evaluation, through testing we help the patient better understand their brains, identify supports that address vulnerabilities, and highlight and explore strengths that can help overcome or balance out vulnerabilities, and lead to paths for hobbies, careers, relationships, and general well-being. When a neurodivergent patient presents for psychiatry, we also take a multi-faceted approach. We may consider evaluations that include genetics, electroencephalograms (EEG), neurofeedback, and VR therapy. These methods can further personalize the patient’s care, and can guide pharmacology and other treatments that may reduce a patient’s identified distress. We approach medication use carefully, when needed, to assist with distressing symptoms, and also work to maximize diet, exercise, and sleep to assist well-being.
Neurodiversity affirmative support is crucial for well-being, and preventive against depression, anxiety, trauma, and suicidality, each of which can be increased by non-affirmative treatments. Neurodiversity affirmative support embraces each individual as competent, whole, and valuable. It supports coping mechanisms comfortable to the patient, redirecting them only when a person is causing themselves harm in the process. It moves at a pace that is respectful and supportive to the individual, and their unique processing. It validates experiences, thoughts, and feelings. It involves clear communication, and allows for misunderstandings to be explored. It also requires the provider to constantly learn and grow, as they reexamine preconceived notions, stereotypes, and the potential harm of ineffective or non-affirmative treatment strategies
Meet our Therapists from the SOAR Program for Psychotherapy & Testing!
If you find yourself, your child, or your family struggling, the first thing you need is someone to listen and understand. Our psychologists and psychotherapists create an empathic environment to provide therapy for children, adolescents, and adults, including individual therapy, group therapy, parent coaching, couples therapy, art therapy, and family therapy.
Our compassionate providers utilize a variety of evidence-based modalities, individualized for every patient. Supportive, personalized therapy is provided within the context of a carefully matched, strong therapeutic relationship with one of our highly trained clinicians.
Our providers collaborate not only with WBMA’s psychiatrists, but also with caregivers, other medical/mental health providers, and community members (e.g., teachers) to ensure comprehensive care and support (with consent, of course). We welcome those interested in care based in expressive therapies, such as art, drama, and music, as well. Wondering which therapist is right for you? See our therapist’s focus areas:
Jaclyn Halpern, Psy.D., SOAR Director/Co-Founder, specializes in Positive/Gentle Parenting, Neurodiversity Affirmative Support for Neurodivergence (Autism, ADHD, Anxiety, etc.), Self-Compassion Therapy, ACT, Relational/Interpersonal Therapy, Expressive Therapies, IEP/504/EMT Support, and Diagnostic Consultation & Evaluation (Patients of all ages). Dr. Halpern also provides supervision for clinicians in training.
Rukhsana Chaudhry, Psy.D. specializes in Trauma, Immigration, Couples Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, Long Term & Brief Psychotherapy, Adolescents & Adult Mental Health, and Multicultural Therapy (Patients of all ages).
Katie Jankowski, Ph.D., LMSW specializes in Neurodiversity Affirmative Support for Neurodivergence (Autism, ADHD, Anxiety, etc.), Emotion Regulation, Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, Positive Parenting, Developmental Psychology, and CBT (Patients preschool through adult).
Jeanni Jensen, LCPC specializes in LGBTQQIAA+ and Gender-Affirmative therapy, Adolescent Development, Young Adults & Life Transitions, Personality Disorders, CBT, DBT, Family Therapy, and Insight-oriented Therapy (Patients from late elementary school through adult)
Anna Mills, MA, ATR-BC, LCPAT, LPAT, ATCS specializes in Psychodynamic Art Therapy, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Anxiety and Depression, ACT, interpersonal relationships using Family Systems Approach, Trauma processing using expressive therapy for patients ages 18+, and Expressive Therapy and Mindfulness for patients ages 8-17 (Patients age 7 through adult); Art Therapy Board Approved Clinical Supervisor for MD LGPAT
New tele-health groups are forming for the fall:
New group coming in October. Parent to Parent: This Isn’t What I Expected. A postpartum therapeutic support group. This unique therapeutic support group for new parents experiencing challenges adjusting to parenthood, including postpartum depression and anxiety, offers a safe, non- judgmental space to connect with new mothers/gestational parents and talk about shared feelings and experiences. Parents will also learn evidence based clinical strategies for addressing negative thoughts and feelings.
This group is facilitated by developmental psychologist and licensed social worker, Dr. Katie Jankowski, LMSW. Dr. Jankowski has received training in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders from Postpartum Support International. She is also a mother of a toddler.
We will meet weekly for 1.5 hours over 7 weeks (plus intake appointment). Day and time to be determined by group members.
Body Image & Self Esteem Art Therapy Group with Dr. Anna L. Mills MA, ATR-BC, LCPAT, ATCS New! Art Therapy Group “Making Connections”, age 18+, Thursday 6-7:30pm, 6 weeks commitment. Virtual sessions. In this small group setting (max. 8 people), you will use the creative process to ‘make connections’ that support the changes you wish to see in your life! Creative prompts will be used to explore and identify old patterns that may not be serving you currently. The art process and image will be used to open up new understanding in order to improve coping, relationships, decision making, and identifying what you value, which can increase happiness. This unique group combines art therapy, Mindfulness Practices, and ACT for a comprehensive opportunity for personal growth and development. Contact Anna Mills at email@example.com.
Harmony: Supporting Families Exploring Gender with Jeanni Jensen, MA, LCPC
Coming this fall! WBMA’s SOAR Program is excited to announce “Harmony”: a special 8-week group series for families navigating gender explorations and transitions beyond the cisgender binary. Are you a confused parent whose child just came out to you as transgender? Are you a teen who wishes your family always used your proper pronouns? Then Harmony is the group for you!
This virtual program is a chance to share experiences, learn, and support each other in a safe, therapeutically facilitated space. With overall goals of building understanding, enhancing communication, and increasing effective support among families, group members also benefit from connecting with others who can relate. There will be separate weekly support group meetings for both adolescents and their adults, as well as time for families to all meet together.
To schedule or inquire about therapy services, please contact SOAR’s director, Dr. Jaclyn Halpern, at firstname.lastname@example.org.