NE Iowa Behavioral Health works toward putting mental health on same level as physical

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By Rachel Mergen, North Iowa Times

Northeast Iowa Behavioral Health is one of the few options for those in the area to receive the mental health and substance abuse therapy support they require to live a happy, healthy life. The agency has its main clinics in Decorah and Oelwein, but is proud to offer satellite branches in  Waukon, Elkader, West Union and Cresco, featuring 12 experienced therapists. 

Clinical director and therapist Becky Loven, who has worked in the agency for over 12 years, is proud to be able to hold a busy schedule, with many patients from around the area working with her each day.

For Loven, her goal as a therapist is to do “whatever I can to help the client meet their goals.”

“The client’s agenda must drive the therapy,” she noted, even though she includes her own well-practiced tactics and those in which she has completed research. Evidence-based practices, ones that have been deeply studied, are a focus for the agency, and the therapists are trained in all that become popular.

Loven said there are some complexities with being connected to the right therapist, but the agency is more than prepared to make the process as smooth as can be. 

Sometimes, the right therapist for the client may be specially referred by a health care provider. The agency will be informed of this referral, and the correct appointments will be set up.

There may be some therapists who specialize more closely on certain case types. An example of this is adolescents. Even though all the therapists in the agency are qualified to work with this age group, there are certain ones who have much more experience and whose cliental is more inclusive of this age. 

Another contributing factor may be funding from insurance companies. At times, insurance companies may require the therapist to have certain certifications and qualifications. There are a select group of therapists in the agency who are certified with the most common of these requirements, so this factor will help with selection. 

Loven noted that the therapist-client relationship is a unique one and is highly important. If the client is not comfortable with the therapist and unwilling to share information, then therapy will not be effective. 

The relationship is different than that between a doctor and patient, but it is important to keep in mind that mental health is just as important as physical health.

Emotional topics are discussed in detail and examined, so an emotional bond must be developed, in some ways, between the therapist and client. 

It is important the client feels as if “they are getting something helpful from therapy,” according to Loven.

The time that it takes to determine the speed of the first appointment is based on the situation and availability of the therapist. 

If a patient is coming in due to an operating while intoxicated charge from years before, a first appointment will likely take a bit longer to occur. 

If the patient is a danger to his or herself, or has a chronic mental illness, as in one that makes a clear impact on their life everyday for a continuous amount of time, then a first appointment can be expected a lot sooner.

If wanting to set up an initial appointment, prospective clients may call the offices. Initial appointments may also be set up by the court system, if deemed necessary based on the case.

Frequency of appointments can be based on funder requirements, along with the case. With most clients, therapy appointments will occur once every two weeks. Some patients may take part in weekly group sessions. For intensive outpatient, nine hours of therapy a week must occur. 

If inpatient is deemed necessary, patients will be referred to hospitals that are the closest options with the type of facilities necessary. The Northeast Iowa Behavioral Health system has no inpatient care available, but inpatient usually only occurs in extreme cases. 

“Whatever the needs are of the client, we’ll meet them,” Loven noted on the frequency of the patient’s services.

For group sessions, in most cases, it isn’t exactly true to picture the typical Alcoholics Anonymous meeting often portrayed by Hollywood. Instead, groups are often set up as a mix of a classroom setting to learn new skills, along with some group work, sharing and conversations. 

The groups offered adapt based on the needs of the clients. Often, the main groups offered look at skill building, filling the participant’s mental tool box with mechanisms they will need to live a life they are satisfied with. 

Integrative groups include more than just talking, but in addition, usually some sort of art, like music or drawing. 

Support groups are offered, including the tragically popular one for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.

“Any age and any problem, we will see here,” Loven mentioned. No problem is too small in her eyes, and if the client is concerned at all, then it is important enough to come in. 

Rising mental health problems are often noted by those who are closest to the clients, along with the clients themselves. Common symptoms of mental struggles include low moods, low energy, impacted sleep and eating habits and increased worrying.

“It’s really surprising the amount of stigma that still exists today,” Loven opinionated. She hopes people will truly look at going to therapy the same way they view going to see a medical doctor for physical health issues.

To learn more, or to set up an appointment and get connected with the Northeast Iowa Behavioral Health services, calls may be made to the Decorah office at (563) 582-3649, the Oelwein office at (319) 283-5774, or the other offices to schedule appointments at (563) 382-3649, (319) 283-5774, or (800) 400-8923. If you want to learn more about the satellite locations but are unsure yet on scheduling an appointment, it is best to call the main offices. If hearing or speech impaired, call (800) 735-2942, which is available 24 hours a day for crisis calls and assistance. 

The Decorah office is located at 905 Montgomery St. The Oelwein office is located at 36 South Frederick Ave. Satellite offices are at 17 Allamakee St., Waukon; 911 Carter Road N.W., Elkader; 500 S. Pine, West Union; and 112 N. Elm St., Cresco. 

Satellite offices are maned by the therapists from the main clinics, who will travel to the offices when they are requested for appointments by area residents. Satellite offices are located in every county in northeast Iowa.

Satellite office hours adjust based on need. Decorah office hours are Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Oelwein hours are Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

More information may also be found at

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