Denim Day strengthens our community response to sexual violence

On Wednesday, April 24, Aurora caregivers supported Denim Day, a campaign to raise awareness and support survivors of sexual assault.

In some locations, caregivers were able to wear denim in exchange for a $5 donation to the Aurora Health Care Abuse Response Fund.  View a slideshow of activities at multiple Aurora locations in southeastern Wisconsin.

Aurora Health Care Foundation President Cristy Garcia-Thomas and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Aurora Health Care Foundation President Cristy Garcia-Thomas and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Local leaders joined at Milwaukee City Hall for a press conference hosted by the City’s Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.  This year’s “Persons of Influence” campaign featured local leaders wearing denim in support of the 2013 event.

Aurora Health Care is a champion for sexual assault survivors through the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) programs throughout our system, the Sexual Assault Treatment Center, and The Healing Center, where survivors receive free counseling, group therapy and bilingual advocacy.

The Healing Center provides services to more than 600 people annually, and the Sexual Assault Treatment Center has treated more than 1,200 people since 2010.

Through your gift to Denim Day, you can help The Healing Center and other Aurora Health Care services strengthen our community response to sexual violence.

Every gift can change a life. Consider yours today at http://bit.ly/XoHTU3

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Have you ever “tweeted” someone a compliment?

AUR_78196191[1]These days, it may seem like bullying through social media has taken over schools across the country. Everything from aggressive taunting to death threats quickly spread through Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs.

Students often fall victim to these harsh words and find themselves in uncomfortable situations as their self-esteem plummets and uneasiness takes hold.

To combat this problem, Jeremiah, an Iowa-based High School student decided to use social media for good and compliment his classmates.

So, I was especially inspired to see  how this teen used Twitter to combat cyberbullying.  Isn’t it great to see someone do something so positive?

What do you think about using social media to build people up?  Sometimes, a simple positive message can make someone feel better emotionally and spiritually. Try it today and let us know how it felt!

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

What are you thankful for?

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

As Thanksgiving approaches I am reminded of the true reason we gather this Thursday. While I eagerly await the turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, I have to remember the meaning behind this holiday: giving thanks for family and friends and acknowledging the little things in life that allow me to feel gratitude.

This year I am thankful for the fact that my family can come together from all parts of the U.S. (Wisconsin, St. Louis and New York) and for all the healthy, happy new babies in my life (born and still on the way!).

For me, Thanksgiving is also a time to appreciate the simple things that make life precious: thoughtful friendships that still last even though we live miles and miles apart, the volunteers I work with each year who graciously give of their time and resources to help The Healing Center, my downstairs neighbor who continually rakes, shovels and maintains the yard we share (even though we really are responsible for the back!).

It’s easy to get caught up in all the negativity that surrounds us on a daily basis and forget about the big and little things that actually make our lives positive. Personally, I’ve found that by truly feeling thankful for all that I’ve been given makes me happier and feel a lot more control to tackle obstacles. Life isn’t perfect and I don’t think it’s supposed to be. It is a balancing act between good and bad, easy and difficult, giving and receiving.

I hope you enjoy this Thanksgiving with family, friends and all whom you love (and enjoy the pie as well!).

What makes you feel thankful?

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

Honor the strength of survivors of sexual violence at the 4th Annual Hope Shining Gala

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

The Healing Center hosts its 4th annual Hope Shining Gala in honor survivors of sexual violence. The event will take place Thursday, December 6, 2012, at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, Bradley Pavilion (929 N. Water St. Milwaukee, WI) from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Enjoy a silent auction, delicious food and drink, a wine/tea/coffee pull, live music by Frank Tarantino, emcee Kim Murphy, reporter from Fox 6 News and heartfelt words from survivors who wish to share their stories.

The 2012 recipients of Hope Shining Awards include Linda Davis and Sally Turner, founding mothers of The Healing Center and champions for survivors of sexual violence. Throughout the evening, The Healing Center will highlight the work and efforts of these honorees and the impact they have made in the community.

Maryann Clesceri, Executive Director of The Healing Center states, “We are honored to host this gala in recognition of all our strong survivors and hope to raise much needed funds to support the work we do in helping men and women heal from sexual abuse. All of our services are free, so we rely on our generous donors to continue counseling, group therapy and advocacy for those who are uninsured or underinsured.”

Tickets can be purchased online for $70 each at www.aurora.org/healingcenterhopeshining.

For more information about this event, questions regarding sponsorship or general inquiries about The Healing Center, please contact Stephanie Shabangu at (414) 225-4247, or Stephanie.shabangu@aurora.org .

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

Changes for a better life

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

I’ve found the phrase, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” to be quite beneficial in my life and it usually helps me avoid making a big deal out of nothing. There are a few things in life though that if changed, can help you feel a lot happier. This article by Paula Davis-Laack, JD, MAPP highlights some key ways to de-stress, live healthier and become more productive:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/pressure-proof/201210/life-is-too-short-10-things-not-worth-tolerating

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

Spirited Souls: Meet Rhonda Begos

Rhonda Begos survived childhood sexual abuse. She experienced a great amount of trauma from an early age and because of this, had a difficult time making positive life decisions into her adulthood. She finally took the brave step to seek counseling and called The Healing Center.

Rhonda believes this allowed her to address why she struggled with certain parts of her life and helped her understand that she needed to learn how to forgive herself and take responsibility for her own happiness.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently wrote a nice feature story on Rhonda, and I’d love to share it with you here!

We’d also like to share this video interview with Rhonda, explaining how The Healing Center helped her live well as a healthy adult.  For more information, view our YouTube playlist or visit our website.

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need.  Please consider making an online gift to extend our reach in the community.  To learn more about our services, please visit our website

Reaching out in times of tragedy

On Sunday, August 5th, the peaceful Sikh community underwent a brutal attack at the temple in Oak Creek. This act of terrorism may have affected us directly or touched the life of a close friend or co-worker. Regardless of our connection to the tragedy, we can all come together and support the victims and their families.

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

The local media has provided some ideas for reaching out to those in need. In addition to responding in times of crisis, it’s important for us all to practice acceptance and take time to help and learn about others who may be different from ourselves on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, Milwaukee’s issues of segregation have forced great divides between the people of this city. By working to embrace all the unique cultures and religions around us, we can begin to mend the gaps that continue to keep us apart, and together, build stronger communities.

For more information on how to help those involved, check out these ideas from the Huffington Post below:

Help Cover Funeral Costs

Amardeep Kaleka, the son of Satwant Singh, the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, created an online fundraiser “We Are Sikhs” to help cover funeral costs for victims. Singh died along with five other members in the shooting Sunday. None of the money will go to the Kaleka family, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Donations accepted here.

Support Victims
An Indiegogo fund will benefit the temple shooting victims, their families and injured police offer Lt. Brian Murphy. Donors’ contributions will be held in an escrow account until August 30, at which time the fundraiser’s organizers will allocate the funds to those in need, Fox News reports. According to the Indiegogo site: “It will take some time before the precise needs of the Milwaukee Sangat are enumerated. We plan to work closely with the local Sikh community and doctors to determine the best way to distribute funds.”
Donations accepted here.

Contribute to a Memorial Fund
The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin has set up a victims fund, where people can send donations via mail to Victims Memorial Fund c/o Sikh Temple, 7512 S. Howell Ave., Oak Creek, WI 53154.

Support advocates
Sikhs for Justice, a national human rights organization, vowed to make a $10,000 award to Lt. Brian Murphy, who was injured in the shooting. “Our government must take urgent steps to educate the country about the Sikh population and help put an end to these horrific and deadly acts of violence. Our organization, Sikhs for Justice, is proudly pledging a $10,000 award to Lieutenant Brian Murphy, the officer wounded in the incident.”
Support their work here.

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

Lift your spirit with 21 random acts of kindness

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

It’s nice to be reminded from time to time about the random acts of kindness that take place every day around the world.

Need your spirits lifted today?  Check out this Huffington Post slideshow.  You’ll be glad you did.

Truly, it’s hard for me to pick my favorite! This really made my day, and I have a feeling it might brighten yours as well.

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

Could EMDR therapy be right for you?

In discussing post-traumatic stress disorder in my last post, I’m excited to include this interview with counselor Brooke Phelps. She offers an in-depth look at eye movement desensitization and reprocessing and how it may help those who experience trauma.

Brooke Phelps is a licensed therapist at Midwest Center for Human Services.

1. What is EMDR?

EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) is a form of therapy used to alleviate symptoms that occur after traumatic and disturbing experiences.

EMDR works to heal the mind much the same way a body works to heal a wound by giving the brain a chance to process disturbing memories and information and remove painful blocks. Once blocks are removed, the mind begins the healing process and actually transforms previously held negative beliefs, emotions, and sensations to more adaptive ones. The transformation process is a psychological as well as physiological one.

While EMDR was originally developed for use in trauma clients, it has been very effective for use in more everyday issues that people suffer from, such as low self-esteem or other concerns that people decide to engage in therapy for.

The general process of EMDR begins with the therapist and client discussing what issues they would like to work on and taking a history of the client’s life, experiences, as well as determining what memories and situations will be targeted in the treatment plan. This is also a time to assess whether or not a client is ready for EMDR and what skills need may need to be developed or enhanced for self-soothing and/or coping for the future when disturbing memories and emotions are brought up.

The actual processing phase involves the therapist having the client bring up the targeted memory along with a negative belief about themselves and any emotions or body sensations. While the client focuses on the image, emotions, and sensations, the therapist uses bilateral stimulation (such as waving fingers, taps, or tones) and the client is instructed to just notice anything that comes to them. With each set of stimulation, the client is encouraged to just notice and the therapist will help guide or assist the client if distressed or whenever necessary.

The client will also identify a positive belief in the beginning that they would like to hold about themselves and both negative and positive beliefs will be rated and assessed at the beginning and end of each session.

The end result is to replace the original, negative belief with the positive one along with emotions and sensations. While the procedure may seem to be simplistic and straightforward, the actual process looks different for each person and the length also varies.

2. Why did you choose to learn this type of therapy?

I decided to become trained in EMDR while completing my externship hours for licensure. During this time I was working with survivors of sexual trauma and was well aware of the effects that trauma has on a person’s mind, body, and spirit.

Healing from trauma is often a long and painful process, but one very much worth doing. I was eager to learn anything I could to help my client’s have some relief from their pain. Several other counselors at The Healing Center had been trained in EMDR and shared their positive experiences with me. Wanting to add more tools to my own toolbox, I decided to pursue specialized training.

The end result was more than I was expecting. While I gained knowledge in the protocols and procedures of EMDR, I learned that it is more than just a technique, but also a form of psychotherapy. EMDR helped me to see my clients and conceptualize them in a more thorough way, whether or not I am engaged in an active EMDR session.

In addition, I found that I became more connected to my clients and therapy progressed regardless of whether we were using EMDR.

3. What do you think EMDR does for survivors of trauma that regular talk therapy does not?

EMDR has been proven to reduce the amount of therapy needed when compared to traditional talk therapies as it it speeds up the processing time. This is a clear benefit as well as the fact that EMDR allows a client to transform their previously held beliefs and emotions in a more natural way that is driven primarily from the the client rather than therapist.

Athough, it is important to note that EMDR is not a quick fix nor can it or should it replace traditional talk therapy. EMDR should only be used after a solid therapeutic relationship has been formed and only if the client is ready.

Sometimes, it is necessary to spend time talking and resourcing before the reprocessing of target memories begins. While this is all a part of EMDR, the reprocessing should never be hurried as that can harm the process more than help.

4. Is it advised that children participate in EMDR therapy or only adults?

EMDR has been used with children and can serve as a very effective form of therapy; some therapists believe that as children tend to be more imaginative and are more easily able to change patterns as trauma and phobias have had less time to take hold.

I believe it would be a good idea to consult a therapist for EMDR who is also experienced in working with children. As with any therapist, it is a good idea to interview several therapists and ensure that you have a good connection with them.

5. Do you offer EMDR in your current practice at Midwest Center for Human Services in Milwaukee? If so, do you have openings if someone was interested in contacting you for services?

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

Yes. I am always willing to discuss EMDR as a possibility with any current or potential client.  I must stress that EMDR differs with each person and is not a one size fits all technique. When done at the right time, it can be an incredibly powerful form of therapy.

I have been honored to work with and observe the empowering transformation that clients have made with the help of EMDR and to witness the relief of suffering and pain is a reward like no other. I am currently accepting new clients and would be happy to hear from anyone who is interested in therapy and EMDR.

Interested in learning more about EMDR? Contact Brooke Phelps at the Midwest Center for Human Services at 1-414- or brookephelps@mchs-milwaukee.com

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

How can you improve your spiritual wellness every day?

It’s been awhile since we focused specifically on spiritual wellness, so I’d like to take a bit of time to touch on the topic.

Everything covered in this blog reflects something spiritual in nature, but it’s always beneficial for me to become familiar every now and again about my purpose here.

Here are some simple ways to incorporate spiritual wellness in your life.

1. Before you go to bed every night, think of one thing that happened during the day that made you feel grateful. Thank someone who acted kind towards you, someone who made a difference, yourself, or whoever/whatever you go to for spiritual wholeness.

2. Try to treat others with kindness, especially those who come off as jealous, demeaning, or unfriendly. This is often challenging, but by meeting their negativity with something positive, you can protect your own emotions and maybe make someone else’s day better!

3. Celebrate your inner child! With the temperatures rising, there are endless opportunities for kid-friendly activities—ditch your afternoon coffee for a chocolate ice cream with a friend, play in the dirt (garden, hike, throw around a Frisbee at the park), or take on the water slide challenge at your nearest waterpark. I’ve done a couple of these things lately and felt rejuvenated!

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

4. When life hands you lemons, take one day at a time — and then make some lemonade! Relax and realize that you’re just one person, doing the best you can, and that’s all you can do! Give yourself credit for small achievements like finishing a complicated task at work or on tough days, just getting through the afternoon!

5. Carve out a bit of time for yourself each day. Read, walk, or just breathe. You deserve it and the rest of your life will thank you for taking these moments of self-care.

What tips would you like to share with our readers?

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website