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Logo: Samantha Abernathy, LCSW, MAC.  Juneau, Alaska Counseling

Now accepting clients

 

Life poses challenges.  At times, family and friends don't have the skills to truly listen and help you through difficult moments in your life.

Hi, I'm Samantha Abernathy, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Masters of Addiction Counseling.  I have 30+ years of counseling experience and have worked in outpatient, inpatient and residential settings. 

 

I will provide you with a confidential environment in which to express your thoughts and emotions.  Together, we can create the changes in your life that you are wanting to see happen.  

Services

Areas of Expertise

   Anxiety Disorders    Depression    Family/Couple 
   Addiction      Children/Teens       Seniors
  • Clinical court representation services
  • Clinical licensure supervision services
  • Family consultation
Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau AK, by Sam Abernathy

My ultimate goal is to decrease your emotional suffering.  There

are strategies to minimize your emotional pain.
 

My specialties include treatment for: anxiety, depression, family and 

couple counseling, addiction and addiction intervention.  Treatment

of children/teens, with issues of depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD.

Anxiety: Anxiety can feel like you are caught in a rip tide. "Nobody

realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be

normal." Overwhelming, paralyzing, suffocating are a few descriptors.

It's difficult to control and hard to fully participate in life.

Depression: Depression can feel like you can't see a way through or

out.  A feeling of being 'lost at sea' with no land in sight.  Feelings of 

hopelessness, helplessness and feeling stuck, like quick sand. 

Addiction: "Addiction is an increasing desire for an act that gives

less and less satisfaction." And it's difficult to imagine living life

without it, but also, wanting a different way of living. 

Intervention: An intervention is a planned meeting where family

and friends have open communication with a loved one about their

addiction and ask them to accept treatment. It's a powerful way

to assist a loved one towards change. 


My office is located in Juneau, Alaska at 416 Harris Street, Suite 228.

The Arcticorp building.  Reserved parking available. 

"By far the most impactful therapist I’ve crossed paths with. My life is forever changed. The tools I’ve learned to cope and heal are beyond anything I could have hoped for. I could not recommend a mental health professional more!"

C. Brummitt

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Frequently Asked

Questions about

Therapy

 

How does counseling work?

Counseling provides you a place to talk about your thoughts and feelings without judgment or expectation. You are free to say whatever is on your mind, no matter how strange it may sound. By doing so, there is a sense of inner acceptance.  All Information that you share is kept strictly confidential. 

You will learn to identify patterns in your life, recognize your unique needs, and learn how to get those needs met in a healthy manner. 

Am I weak if I see a counselor?

Entering counseling is a courageous act.  It shows strength. It says that you are willing to look at your life and see how you can make your future better.  It involves taking ownership of your choices, forgiving and loving yourself, and learning the skills to move forward.

Anyone can talk about problems, but that doesn't mean anything changes.

Counseling can involve deep work, work that bypasses your defenses.  A lot of our behavior is subconscious, meaning we aren't aware of why we do what we do.  With experiential therapy, you can learn to change the feeling, which changes the belief, which changes the behavior. 

If I start sharing my feelings, I fear that I can't stop.

It might be feared that if you start talking about how you really feel, you will lose all control.  Typically, what you will feel is a sense of relief.  Like a pressure value has been opened.  People report an increased ability to focus and be mentally present in the moment.

When will it end, it's not like a broken arm that will fully heal.

Once you learn and can practice healthier ways of meeting your needs, you are on your way to a life with less emotional suffering.  It might take one person two months and another person two years, however, lasting change can happen.  

Pink Gradient
Pink Gradient

Worry is a type of dissociation from the body.  The alarm in your body drives you into the survival brain.  The hypersensitivity is the legacy of childhood trauma and cannot be fixed by just talking about it.

 

We as humans have two main drivers: the drive to physically survive and the drive to emotionally connect.  If you grow up in secure attachment (child feels safe, seen, heard, comforted, valued), you learn life is about connection.  If you do not grow up in a non-secure attached environment, you learn life is about survival.

Worries are like a drug we develop a tolerance to.  Over time, anxious ruminative thoughts become more frequent and more intense.  The goal is to keep you in your head and out of your body, even when the threat is no longer present. 

It’s analogous to a scab on a cut.  Thinking worrisome thoughts is like picking the scab.  When you pick at it, the wound can’t heal.  When we starve our worrisome thoughts, we are leaving the scab alone to heal. 

Function of anxiety/worry:

  • A way of keeping you safe—to warn you of potential danger.  Once you know that danger isn't imminent, you are no longer need to worry to be safe, you can begin to release it.

  • It’s about the future.  When you know it depends on you being mentally transported into the future, you can neutralize it by focusing on, and staying in, the present moment.

  • It’s a way of avoiding uncertainty and creating a sense of control.  When we worry, we are creating a story of the future that makes the uncertain appear certain.  Uncertainty was often a facet of our childhood.  When we accept uncertainty as part of life, we can begin to release the worry.

  • It’s a way of explaining the alarm felt in the body.  Worrying is a way that we create balance between the body and mind.  If we are standing at a cliff, we feel balance between the body and mind, however, if we are lying in our bed, the mind must match the response from the body.  Once we know what is going on in our body, we no longer need to use the mind to drum up a feared situation. 

  • It distracts us from the painful alarm in the body.  We feel a temporary reduction in the perception of the body alarm.  However, the worry creates more alarm and we get trapped in the alarm-anxiety cycle.

The trauma energy must be felt, absorbed and neutralized in a supportive environment.  At this point, it can no longer remain a trigger with the power to reignite alarm.  Staying with the feeling in the body and out of the mind will allow us the ability to process past experiences.  Experiences that we may have been carrying around with us our whole lives.

 
Understanding counseling:

Most traditional therapies go after thoughts, believing that all stress comes from our thoughts and if the thoughts are fixed, the condition will resolve.  While cognitive therapies help for a while, the research shows the effects of talk therapy fade over time.  If the alarm in the body is not addressed directly, it is only a matter of time until that alarm rises up and begins skewing your perception.  You can’t think your way out of a feeling problem.

Analogy: If there is a hole in the bottom of your boat and you learn better techniques of bailing water, things will appear to get better, but you still have a hole in your boat.  Trying to fix the anxious thinking alone is like bailing out the water with a hole in your boat.  The underlying cause and main source of emotional pain is the alarm feeling in the body.  Fixing the thoughts will not fix the problem.  The alarm in the body must be repaired before thinking strategies will be able to “hold water.” 

What is the alarm in the body?  Our alarm is activated as a learned response.  The body has learned how to activate the alarm without the input of the mind.  Like the groove the body falls into when we drive our car or ride a bike, the body has learned to launch a fight-or-flight alarm response without much input from the mind.  

When we experience trauma, we develop a hypersensitive alarm system.  And it doesn’t take much to fire it back up.  Everyone experiences some trauma (loss, verbal- physical-sexual abuse, abandonment, rejection, shame) in childhood.  The key is the repetitiveness of the experience and if we had an adult to support us. Children naturally blame themselves for family dysfunction.  This is due to the need to view the parent as competent, as we are dependent on them for survival. 


Counseling can be at times uncomfortable emotionally, for the following reasons:
 

  • You are learning about your history and how it influenced you.  You may see events through a different lens.  This may change the way you view yourself and others.

  • You are learning about events and people in your current life.  This may change the way you think and feel about them.

  • It may become evident that making a change in your lifestyle is needed to reach your goals.  Change, no matter if it’s wanted and beneficial, is uncomfortable at first.

  • Your beliefs about yourself, others, and the world may be challenged.  You may need to change some of those beliefs to reach your goals.

  • You will lose something in the process of making changes, the way you interact with the world.  This way of interacting is familiar, automatic, and feels natural in the moment.

  • You may feel worse before you feel better, as touching on painful emotions can be uncomfortable, painful, and cause you to not feel like yourself.

  • New symptoms, such as a feeling of vulnerability and anxiety, may become a part of your daily functioning. This is due to the development of a new “self”, a more authentic way of living in the world.  This self-development takes time and during this process, you may feel emotionally exposed, as if you are wearing your emotions on your sleeve so to speak.

 

 

List of PRO's:

  • You experience more joy and peace

  • Life is more stress-free; you feel better able to cope​

  • You feel more confident and proud of yourself as a person

  • You have an overall healthier way of coping and interacting with the world

  • You become aware of what you want in your life and are better able to create this

  • You understand more about why you are the way you are through examining your history

 

List of CON's:

  • You may experience emotional pain, feeling not entirely grounded, and not like yourself in the moment, mostly due to fear

  • You may end certain relationships or change the dynamics, causing discord

  • You may change relationships/work/residence, and this may create conflict for you and others, others may not like the changes you are making (as they may have to interact differently with you)

  • You may change your priorities, which can be confusing and conflictual to others around you, as you may determine that situations and people in your life are not supporting your growth as a person

  • You may see yourself and people/events in a different light, this creates internal conflict-- the world seems different and you may question your beliefs

 

Note: At any time in the counseling process, you may decide to not move forward in changing your thinking or your life circumstances.  Ultimately, you have 3 choices, do nothing and continue as you have with your current thoughts/feelings; accept your situation and let go of whatever it is you want to change; or change yourself and/or your situation, developing a different way of interacting in the world.  It’s your choice and whatever you choose is respected.   There is definitely a state of readiness that accompanies the process.

Couple Counseling

 

Couple counseling focuses on improving the overall relationship of two persons.  The needs of each individual is examined, however, the ultimate goal is to improve the quality of the union.  Typically, both persons contribute to the problems. Therefore, it's vital that both persons are fully engaged.  Note: If your partner does not want to attend couple counseling, you can still benefit by coming and doing your own individual work.  It will likely clarify some of the primary issues and assist you in coping and making changes that will improve the quality of your life. 

Often, by the time couple counseling is sought, there are engrained problems within the relationship. Meaning, there are well established ways of relating which cause each person to feel misunderstood, unappreciated and many times, powerless. 

 

However, it's never too late to change unhealthy communication and behavior to healthy ways of relating and behaving.  

 

Here's some criteria which are helpful in producing positive results in couples work:

  • Commitment by both persons to come to recommended scheduled sessions and engage in the homework assignments

  • To establish mutually identified goals 

  • To be open to examining how each partner has contributed to problems

  • To be willing to focus communication on the present moment versus the past (resentment) or the future (worry)

  • To remove power struggles from the relationship

  • To understand the difference between unhealthy versus verbally abusive communication

  • To be able to see one another in an objective light (as a person with needs versus a person who has not met desired expectations)

  • To show a willingness for each person to change their behavior to accommodate the needs of their partner

  • To examine individual attachment styles and love languages

Through dedication and practice, relationships can be revitalized.  The best thing in life is our relationships. But, they can also be the most challenging aspect of our lives, as they test our patience and tolerance.  They are most definitely worth the time and effort to provide a fertile ground for each person to grow.  

Children and Teens

 

I work with children of all ages. Because a child may be very young or guarded in sharing what is bothering them, the family becomes an integral part of the treatment. I have a form on the child’s behavior that I ask to be filled out prior to each session by the parent(s) and emailed. Here are some areas that are examined:

 

•What type of discipline is used (physical, time-out, items taken away)

•What are the expectations the family has for the child (school grades; chores; behavior)

•Who the child spends time with (split between households, peer interactions)

•What is the routine of the child throughout the day (and during school year, summers)

•Who does the child typically go to when they have a problem (one or both parents or another person)

•What is the behavior in the areas of temperament, academic performance, peer interactions, initiation of tasks, ability to self-entertain, sleep quality, coping skills, and overall general physical health.

 

Many behavioral problems have both a genetic basis and an environmental one. The environment can be modified to support the child having the best behavior. This means having solid skills to function well in the world. A parent’s job is to prepare the child for functioning in the world with the least amount of personal suffering (as suffering is unavoidable). A very difficult job to say the least. The parent may be asked to develop a behavioral plan with the counselor, to respond differently to certain behaviors, to increase or decrease expectations, to change routine, to limit certain peer interactions, etc. If the child goes to different households (shared custody), it is ideal that the other parent be involved, even if only through email. Otherwise, any behavioral gains made in one environment could be undone, as the rules may be different in the other household. Please note that because you may be asked to change or modify your behavior as a parent, this does not mean you are a bad parent. It just means that to resolve some of the problems that your child is displaying, there may be a better way of going about it.

 

Your child will receive a diagnosis from the psychiatric manual, examples are attention-deficit hyperactive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. Additionally, insurance billing requires a diagnosis, so that the insurance company is assured that there is a problem they are paying for, with accompanied researched treatment methods. Please do not perceive your child as “labeled.” This does not mean your child is defective in any way. Diagnoses provide a way for a mental health professional to understand what is happening and the best practice method for treatment. Most people in general, if evaluated, could receive a psychiatric diagnosis. Functioning in the best way possible in every area of life is hard. We are human. Just as we have physical problems, we have mental health problems.

 

For adolescents, it is important that the adolescent is open to engaging in counseling. If the parent requests that the teen come to counseling, but the teen does not want to, it is ineffective to make the child go. Teenagers are naturally rebellious, and they will view the counselor as another authority figure who is going to tell them what to do. You could, however, receive a consultation with this counselor to discuss the child’s behavior and receive feedback and direction. This session would be private pay, as your child is not a client.

BILLING

 
INSURANCE: The following insurances are accepted (Aetna; Premera)
 
  • Provider is in-network with Aetna and Premera (sessions are to be paid in full by insurance, minus your designated *co-pay and **deductible amounts)
  • Provider will bill claims electronically
  • Provider will receive electronic insurance payments 
  • When insurance monies are electronically received, your co-pay and deductible amounts will be charged (using your credit card on file)
  • If you wish to designate a later date when co-pay and deductible payments are to be charged, please let provider know, a payment system can be set up

Note: if you have Medicare and another insurance which pays as secondary, your primary insurance will not cover services with this provider (out of network with Medicare).  Other insurances not accepted at this time: Tricare; Medicaid.

*CO-PAY--each insurance company has numerous policy selections, your co-pay amount (what you pay for each service-it could be zero) will depend on what you or your employer has selected.  If you don't know what your co-pay would be for services, please call your insurance company.
**DEDUCTIBLE--your insurance policy designates how much you have to pay out of pocket before the insurance will start to cover services.  If you don't know what your deductible is, please call your insurance company.

 

SELF-PAY

If you are paying out of pocket, your credit card will be charged at time of service.  If you need special considerations, arrangements will need to be set up in advance. 

Contact Me

Let me know how I can help.  Please fill out the form below, email, text or call me, and I'll get back to you quickly.  Appointments can generally be made within 7 working days after admission paperwork has been electronically submitted.  Due to having limited available time, I do not provide individual consultations.  My website is comprehensive and I think that the best way to know if you will feel comfortable with me as your counselor is to schedule a session.  

Note: if you would like to get started right away, please authorize me to email you my admission forms (indicate that you are wanting the admission forms emailed to you in the below message). Once those are completed, we can schedule your 1st appointment.  My operating hours are from noon to 8:30 pm. M-F, with the last available appt. at 7:30 pm.  I have two appointment slots on Sunday's.  

 

Thank you ~Sam

416 Harris Street, Suite 228

Juneau, Alaska 99801

Sam@JuneauCounseling.com

Tel: (907) 209-0451

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