The Oak Center, Columbia’s advisory service focused on helping suicidal clients, celebrates its first year


The staff at The Oak Center, a Columbia-based counseling and therapy provider at 19 E. Walnut St., Suite D, are celebrating their first year in business. First row from left: Mac Dallenbach, internship student; Amber Phelps, co-owner / therapist and Brighton Sanchez, co-owner / therapist. Back Row: Amanda Torrini, Co-Owner / Therapist; Clare Bogle, co-owner / therapist; and Maggie Fox, internship student.

The Oak Center, a Columbia-based counseling and therapy provider, is celebrating its first year of operation with a forward-looking focus.

The center plans to hold an open house from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, with an opening ceremony scheduled for 5:30 p.m., at its offices at 19 E. Walnut St., Suite D.

The mental health service offers what is known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy, treatment for people with frequent or recurring suicide attempts and those who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

DBT is also used in the treatment of drug addiction, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders, according to the centre’s website.

The centre’s four founders – Brighton Sanchez, Amber Phelps, Clare Bogle and Amanda Torrini – all use DBT in their practice.

The centre’s mission is to improve “the quality of life for our clients, their families and the community by increasing access to evidence-based treatment, education and mental health resources.” , notes its website.

“We’re proud of what we’ve built. It’s a labor of love, this clinic and this business,” Sanchez said. “We really want to share our enthusiasm with the community – to see our space, to know each other better and to make people feel welcome here.”

Following: Burrell to house temporary mental health crisis center in Stephens Lake offices

The Oak Center is celebrating its first year of operation with an open house Tuesday.  The center offers dialectical behavior therapy, treatment for people who make frequent or recurrent suicide attempts or who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

The Oak Center is celebrating its first year of operation with an open house Tuesday. The center offers dialectical behavior therapy, treatment for people who make frequent or recurrent suicide attempts or who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Raise awareness about DBT

The purpose of Tuesday’s open house is to raise awareness of DBT as a therapeutic option, Sanchez said.

The center offers therapists in training in DBT the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with clients in clinical settings. The Oak Center has two internship students, who are supervised by Sanchez and Bogle respectively.

“They started this week. These are our first students,” Sanchez said. “Part of our drive to make DBT more accessible is to raise awareness that DBT is such an effective treatment, and it is gratifying as a therapist to see our clients’ progress in tangible ways.”

Having students interning at the center strengthens the network of trained and qualified DBT therapists, she added.

The center offers a comprehensive therapy model, accepts multiple forms of insurance, and is the only center in the central Missouri area that accepts adolescent clients.

There is a waiting list for new clients to the center.

There are other DBT providers in Colombia, but they may have client limitations, Sanchez said. This can include the age of clients, private salary or just one accepted insurance, she added.

Sanchez, who has a master’s degree in social work and is a licensed clinical social worker, first discovered DBT while studying at the University of Missouri.

“I really fell in love with the setting, the authenticity with which a DBT therapist interacts with their clients,” she said.

Sanchez and his fellow co-founders saw a gap to be filled at Columbia.

Following: Burrell to announce details of temporary solution for mental health crisis center in Colombia

What is DBT?

Created by Dr. Marsha Linehan, DBT is recognized as the standard of care used in the treatment of suicidal people and people with borderline personality disorders.

Linehan retired in 2019 and is Professor Emeritus of Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington and Director Emeritus of its Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics.

His research into the treatment of suicidal behavior led to the development of DBT. It examines opposing ideas which are both applicable to a given situation.

Treatment can include structured individual therapy, seeking to balance acceptance of the way things are and recognizing when things may change, skill group therapy, skill coaching, and other counseling.

“DBT is a bit more comprehensive than standard therapy,” Sanchez said, noting the four skills explored in the group sessions:

The mindfulness part is about increasing awareness, being present, and noticing details. The goal of emotion regulation is to make the client aware of the emotions and information that an emotion tells a person, Sanchez said.

“Distress tolerance is my favorite module,” she added. “It all depends on what we do when the unwanted emotions are lingering and life throws at us curveballs. “

Interpersonal effectiveness is all about relationships, meeting needs, and teaching clients how and when to say “no,” Sanchez said. This is aimed at increasing self-respect and building positive relationships, she added.

DBT clients have more regular phone access to their therapists, especially when they experience an increase in symptoms associated with their mental health diagnosis.

Convince insurers of the effectiveness of the treatment

When Sanchez and the other founders started The Oak Center, it was to fill a need in the community. Part of this was to convince a wide range of private insurance companies of the effectiveness of the therapeutic model for clients.

“One of the things we noticed was that there wasn’t a lot of access to full DBT for people with private insurance. That left out a lot of the population that could not afford to pay for these services out of pocket, “said Sanchez.

One of the main goals of the center is to make DBT accessible to a wide range of people. Therapy was already a treatment option for people on Medicare or Medicaid, but not necessarily private insurance.

“In the community, the majority of providers either paid for themselves or took out insurance,” Sanchez said, noting that The Oak Center takes a range of insurance coverage to help cover the costs of treatment.

Convincing insurance companies that DBT is a viable treatment option to cover is an ongoing battle, she added.

“This is something that we have to stand up for every week, even though there is research to suggest that DBT decreases the frequency of hospitalizations for our clients,” Sanchez said.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: The Oak Center, which aims to help suicidal clients, celebrates 1 year


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