UNDERWOOD Some might look at it as playing in a sand box, but at The Kids Therapy Center, it is a form of exercising mental health.
Sand tray therapy is one of the many forms of therapy that can be found at The Kids Therapy Center, which opened in Underwood in December.
"With the population growing ... we are seeing more and more (patients)," said Valerie Meyers, who owns the center in Underwood, as well as a similar center in Bismarck. "So, we decided to expand out to the rural community to help with travel time."
Submitted Photo • Valerie Meyers, a therapist who specializes in mental health issues involving children and adolescents, opened The Kids Therapy Center in Underwood in December. The purpose of the center is to help serve these patients who live in a rural setting.
Meyers, who is originally from Mandan, received her master's degree at the University of Wisconsin, majoring in clinical mental health counseling with an emphasis on children and adolescents. She had worked in Minneapolis and for five years as a therapist at the Dakota Children's Advocacy Center, in Bismarck, where she provided counseling for children affected by child abuse. A year-and-a-half ago, she opened The Kids Therapy Center in Bismarck, where she sees patients from across the state, from "Jamestown to the Montana border" and up to Canada.
"It's not uncommon for a parent and child to drive hours to get here," Meyers said.
The centers specialize in mental health counseling for children and adolescents. "We really see a broad range, from toddlers to teens," Meyers said.
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In addition to sand tray therapy, which uses a sand tray and miniature figurines to allow a child to tell a story, The Kids Therapy Center utilizes creative therapies, such as play therapy and the usual talk therapy. Play therapy involves "a room with toys that allow kids to express themselves," Meyer said.
"The therapist is trained so she's not sitting down and playing, but using the toys to allow the child to express themselves and tell their story through the play. We believe in meeting the child at their level, instead of them coming up to our level."
Even before the center officially made Underwood its home, it received a warm welcome from the community.
"We got a call from the Underwood Clinic asking us if we wanted to come in there, because they were so excited about having us as part of Underwood," Meyers said.
Talesa Heger, a therapist with the Underwood center, said that having it located in the same building as the Underwood Clinic is a good fit.
"I just think the community, as a whole, and parents are excited to have such a service offered in our community," Heger said. "Often times they have to travel to Bismarck to receive services, and this is something that can serve the McLean County area."
There are meetings this week "with area social workers that want to meet with us and get our information for the referral process," Heger said, noting that the school has also had interest. "They all see a need in rural communities."
Meyers noted that in the past, there have been suicides in the Underwood and Garrison areas.
"There were two last year and one just recently," Heger said.
With the center located in Underwood, it "can help kids and give kids tools at an early age for depression and anxiety and different struggles they are having," Heger added.
Heger, who was raised in nearby Turtle Lake, said that in the past, mental health services weren't readily available in the area but now, with the concept of mental health being more and more accepted by society, more services are available.