Journey to Wellness offers counseling services locally

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Jamie Wingert sits in the office of JW-Counseling, in the upper level of the Premier Ag building in Elkader. The private practice opened May 1 and provides general mental health counseling, with a focus on anxiety and depression.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


Returning close to home was always a life goal for Jamie Wingert, who grew up in Strawberry Point and had an affinity for the northeast Iowan landscape. Along with the recreational opportunities and emerging growth of small towns like Elkader, it became a question of “when,” and not “if,” she would establish a mental health care practice closer to home. 


That “when” came May 1, when Wingert transitioned her practice from Cedar Rapids to the upper level of the Premier Ag building on Johnson Street in Elkader, in what she called a “beautiful office” where she feels “right at home.”


In opening Journey to Wellness (JW) Counseling, Wingert continues a career that dates back to 2005. The self-proclaimed “geek” when it comes to topics such as psychology and neuroscience, didn’t just return for the scenery. While being home is an added benefit, there’s also something about being in a small, rural community that is often in short supply. 


In this case, it’s mental health services, which Wingert claimed are “needed everywhere.” The current status is prone to shortages of both providers and services. 


“Small communities tend to be overlooked for services such as mental health treatment, so I am glad to be able to do what I can and provide that so people do not have to drive long distances to obtain,” Wingert said.


What patients can obtain with a visit to Journey to Wellness is a mental health counselor who will work with general mental health concerns, and who has a passion and focus centered on anxiety and depression, both of which saw a global increase of 25 percent since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the World Health Organization. A study published in 2022 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found nearly one in 10 Americans and almost one in five adolescents suffer from depression.  


Coincidently, Wingert has personally learned how to manage both. While this didn’t factor exclusively in her decision to pursue mental health, having those personal experiences impacts how she treats and supports others. It’s created a sense of compassion that is intertwined with her approach to patients and people, as she attempts to meet them where they are and let the client guide the process, as opposed to forcing an issue. 


While Wingert will push people into doing the hard thing, it’s only when they are ready, and at their pace, with a sense of mutual respect and a desire for growth. 


Likewise, Wingert maintained she won’t ask anyone to do anything she hasn’t done or isn’t willing to do herself.


“Life is hard sometimes. Having a place to go to process some of these challenges can be the difference between continuing to struggle or moving through situations and growing from them,” she said. 


It’s that growth that makes the job rewarding for Wingert. And not just the clients, but for herself as well. There is continual learning on both sides, which she finds “fascinating.” And there is a “love” in witnessing the positive and life-changing impact mental health services can have on people. 


“My favorite moments are when I see people making small shifts that create huge impact. I want people to live whole, satisfying, balanced lives; I love having a role in that,” she said.


As for life changing events, transitioning to her own practice was another—a decision Wingert met with a “full steam ahead” attitude. Driven by a passion for the field and a desire to help people, Wingert also touched on other factors, namely the ability to make her own hours and all that entails: taking time off, visiting family, self-care days and financial freedom. 


She said it’s about remaining “motivated and inspired,” and operating in a way that is best for both her and the clients. 


But before she could open the doors, Wingert had to find a location, which was the easy part. What followed was a litany of tasks, including becoming credentialed to take insurance, learning how to do billing and getting all the necessary legal and insurance coverage. 


“In spite of the challenges that opening a solo private practice has, I am thankful that I took the leap and pushed myself. I had to learn many things out of my normal scope of practice,” Wingert said. 


Additionally, Wingert is using her experience to assist other therapists looking to transition from group practices into going solo, which provides more financial and professional autonomy. Having gone through the process, Wingert is aware of the boxes that need to be checked and the lack of resources available to checking those boxes. It is why she is applying her knowledge and insight to assist others. 


“I want to be able to support therapists who want to take that step and make is as streamlined as possible for them. People helped me along the way and I want to give that support back to others,” she said. 


Of course, that help extends beyond the office and into the community. While providing a much-needed service excites Wingert, having an office in Elkader also means she is able to keep her business local. She is switching a gym membership form Cedar Rapids to Elkader, buying more groceries and necessities in town and feeling “more connected to the community” now that she works here. 


“Elkader is also growing and I want to be part of that,” she added. 


Journey to Wellness will be open from Tuesday to Friday, morning to evening, with telehealth options available. Wingert will adjust the schedule as needed, but leaves Monday as a “reset” day. Anyone interested in services should email or visit


On the “journey to wellness,” Wingert asserted the therapeutic process is itself a journey and one that cannot be completed. It is a continual journey of learning and growing as “life unfolds,” and it is a journey better made and enjoyed more when people are mentally well. 


As for her own journey, opening the business is the definition of success. It’s the fulfillment of a goal that required hard work over a long period of time to achieve, but it came with learning experiences. 


“Some days, I still cannot believe that it is real. It is a dream come true for sure. Now, I want to settle in and provide the best possible care to those that enter my office. That means continuing to learn and grow myself, which I am always working on,” Wingert said.

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