Making Room For Mental Health

mental health therapy includes innovative treatment at The Counseling Room

Dawson Jollie

AN OPEN DOOR. The Counseling Room opened last year on South Barstow Street. (Submitted photo)
AN OPEN DOOR. The Counseling Room opened last year on South Barstow Street. (Submitted photo)

Those working in behavioral healthcare strive to follow one principle above others: the wellbeing of patients first. The Counseling Room in Eau Claire welcomes clients to its inviting space, offering not only a warm atmosphere and a skilled team, but a refreshing  innovation in mental health treatment. 

The Counseling Room, based in the renovated first floor of the Strobel Building (130 S. Barstow St.), is a specialized behavioral clinic associated with the Oakleaf medical system. Since opening in June 2022, the staff has received praise for its counseling and expansive treatments for trauma-related depression, anxiety, addiction abuse, and more.

“We want The Counseling Room to be a safe, professional place at the heart of downtown Eau Claire,” psychiatrist Dr. Kevin Hess explained. “Such that patients can have the best outcome in their mental health.”

Dr. Hess enjoys sharing the office with both his son, certified nursing assistant Andrew, and his wife, Andrea, who is the clinic’s licensed professional counselor (LPC). Also serving on their medical staff are Sherry Hansen, a registered nurse, and Connie Loula, a certified medical assistant, and Deanna Spears, a certified medical assistant.

Regarding therapeutic services, Andrea offers sessions for all clients from age 7 upwards. A majority of cases she treats involve therapy strategies aimed at confronting emotional trauma, but accommodations extend to family and couples counseling, too.

In addition, Andrea takes one day a week to visit McDonell Central Catholic and Chippewa Falls High School to offer on-site counseling for students.

“I feel like it’s a privilege to be asked to be a part of their journey,” Andrea said. “Getting them to think outside the box, reframe thoughts, acknowledge those emotions … being a light in their life, is really a privilege to me.”

magnetic treatment. While it may seem unusual, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is an RDA-approved treatment for clinical depression and OCD.
MAGNETIC TREATMENT. While it may seem unusual, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is an RDA-approved treatment for clinical depression and OCD. (Submitted photo)

According to Dr. Hess, their establishment is also part of few nationwide leading the charge in promoting a game-changing treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for clinical depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).

Although first approved for treating depression in 2008, Dr. Hess noted how it’s taken the past 14 years for TMS to earn 10% awareness and availability across the country. Despite a plethora of cases proving its safety as an alternative treatment, insurance companies and some parties in government still view this as semi-experimental technology. May 2022 marked the approval for OCD treatment, but clinics have yet to receive training to calibrate the equipment for that condition.

The device housed by The Counseling Room is produced by the company Neurostar, with an adjustable arm holding magnetic coils. The coils are gently brought to precise locations along either side of the head (depending on condition), where light pulses of magnetic energy begin waking up depressive brain cells. With each patient, brain mappings and specific adjustments are always saved, to ensure every session is as accurate as possible.

“The first half of the treatment on the first day is mapping: finding the sweet spot – so to speak– and the dosing of magnetic stimuli,” Dr. Hess explained. “And the second half of that first visit will be their first treatment.”

Over a course of 36 days, visiting for multiple sessions Monday through Friday, a client will continue that treatment. What makes TMS so convenient for both the staff and patient is a lack of any anesthesia, meaning a patient is able to attend an appointment, but still walk out immediately afterward and go about their day. TMS has no significant negative side effects, other than a minor headache treatable with over-the-counter pain medication.

During my own visit to The Counseling Room, I was given permission by a patient, Suzanne, to observe a session conducted by Andrew Hess. Andrew is one of around 250 CNAs nationwide given advanced courses and training to safely operate TMS devices. 

Coming with a history of long-term depression, anxiety, and PTSD, Suzanne was on her 16th day of treatment, but recalled her transition from prescribed medication to TMS as an extremely fruitful experience.

“I’ve been on several different medications … some worked for a little while, and then just stopped working,” Suzanne said. “(TMS) was definitely something that I wasn’t not going to try out … if I can eventually get off of medications, then that’d be huge for me.” Suzanne also  commented that the treatment feels well on the right path, showing no sign of decreased effectiveness.

Closing in on its one-year anniversary of operation, the Hess family and fellow staff at The Counseling Room are an example of synergy between traditional practice and innovation within behavioral health. As the coming days seem filled with a bright sense of hope, their door is open to any and all, with a helping hand and smile to guide their way.

Psychiatry services from Dr. Hess, including TMS, accept insurance; counseling services with Andrea are paid either in cash or via Health Savings Accounts at The Counseling Room. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit their website or feel free to call at (715)-579-442.