Abington Family Counseling, which was started at the beginning of this year by Kimberly Portanova-Feibus and Roxann Nole-Grahm, both of Clarks Summit, is defined as a “strength based practice.”
Its mission is to “help families and individuals to grow stronger and to promote an awareness of internal and external strengths, to enhance mental health.”
Feibus said she feels it’s important to remove the stigmas associated with counseling services and help people see it as an opportunity to maintain health rather than to label them as ill. She said it is different in that way from forms of phycology or social work.
“Where, as a psychologist might want to tell someone what’s wrong with them and give them a diagnosis and ‘fix them,’” she said, “counseling helps a person look at what aspects of their life are working, what particular problem area they’ve come in for that they feel isn’t working and then help them identify their internal and external strengths to help them apply those to the area of their life that they feel isn’t working.”
“It’s always been focused on a disease model,” Grahm added, “where now there’s more of a movement to it being a wellness model. It’s getting there, but it’s not there yet.”
Feibus and Grahm said their goal is to focus on entire families, rather than just individuals, as many issues and traumas experienced by one person often take a toll on the rest of that person’s family.
The entire structure of the family, they said, can be affected, whether the issue be financial difficulties, emotional difficulties or otherwise.
“I truly want to help families re instill those family values, improve their communication, improve their functioning” Feibus said. “Not to say that the family is broken and needs to be fixed, but really just help them to become a stronger unit.”
Their services are also available to schools and children as a preventative measure, which Feibus likened to going to the dentist for a cleaning to prevent cavities.
She said in light of recent events nationwide, such as school shootings, counseling is an important service to be offered in schools, and not just prior to traumatic events.
“For schools to offer counseling services to children where there’s not an identified problem,” she said, “offers the opportunity for prevention.”
She added that parents also have that same opportunity by opening their eyes and ears to what is going on in their children’s lives and asking the right questions and having the right conversations.
The following are some tips from Feibus and Grahm to help parents do so:
• Try to maintain a regular dinner time structure and engage in conversation at the table with your children.
• Pay attention to them: listen to what they say, watch what they are eating and monitor their television consumption and amount of time spent with electronic devices.
• Don’t be afraid to have the difficult conversations.
• If you notice changes in a child’s behavior, habits or choice of friends, sit down with them and find out what’s going on.
More information about Abington Family Counseling can be obtained by calling 570.319.6648.