In an age where even therapists seek therapy, the marketplace for mental health services is vastly and steadily growing. Divorce rates are stunning, and depression, anxiety and drug addiction are becoming commonplace, no more uncommon than the flu, some might argue. Fortunately, Nona Rutter, a licensed clinical professional counselor, recently moved her office to Forest Park’s bustling Madison Street, making herself one of only a few in the village to offer such a service.
Rutter moved her office from the Bucktown/Lakeview area, where she worked as a counselor for six years, to Forest Park eight months ago. Most of her Chicago clients still see her, though she’s working on broadening her base in Forest Park through word of mouth and online advertising. There are less than a handful of mental health professionals working in Forest Park, whereas in nearby Oak Park options abound.
Prior to counseling, Rutter worked a range of jobs, from property management to bartending. She lives just a few blocks from her now office on Madison Street.
“Once I started counseling, I knew it was a perfect fit for me,” Rutter said.
Rutter specializes in anxieties, fears, relationship issues, addictions, and substance abuse. She limits her clients to adults 21 and over, as this age group typically deals more frequently with such disorders.
“Everyone could use a therapist,” Rutter said. “Even as a therapist, it’s important to do your own inner work.”
For Rutter, this includes yoga, meditation, a family support group, and her pet dog.
Psychology, like the mind, is a tricky and complex field. Even for a practicing member, it’s difficult to define the field in absolute terms. Rutter’s business card, for example, lists her as a counselor, psychotherapist, and hypnotherapist.
To illustrate the complexity of the mind, Rutter drew upon a recent study conducted at Harvard University, in which subjects were asked to look at or visualize a tree. Those who visualized the tree were under hypnosis, and those who were fully conscious were shown an actual tree. MRI scans demonstrated that both subjects produced the same mental responses to the image, thus illustrating the mind’s impressionability, while simultaneously illustrating its enigmatic ways; the mind, it seems, can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy.
“We hardly know the depths and abilities of the mind,” Rutter said.
Hypnotherapy, as Rutter emphatically pointed out, doesn’t work like magic. It cannot instantly help someone kick a nicotine habit. It can, however, help subdue certain anxieties, or target the root of a problem. A former client of hers, for example, dealt with writer’s block for some time, and used hypnosis to determine its cause. Using progressive relaxation, soft music, and breathing techniques, Rutter was able to help her client access the problem and break through the blockage.
Perhaps the most challenging part about being a therapist is balancing one’s emotional involvement with clients, while offering objective advice. As Elmhurst therapist John Kalmus pointed out, it’s hard to not be affected by a client’s depression or mental ailments.
“This profession has taught me a lot about behavior,” Kalmus, who has an additional office in Oak Park, said. “Therapy is not just a one-way street. I help my clients, but I’ve grown because of them as well.”
Rutter shares that sentiment.
“As a therapist, you get involved with your clients,” Rutter said. “And while we can’t rescue them, we want them to know we care, and that we’re here to help.”
Choosing where to locate their office is as much a soft science as psychotherapy itself, according to several mental health professionals. For Kalmus, easy parking and access to public transportation are keys. For Oak Park and Chicago therapist Lisa Catania, investment in a community is very important.
“I have family in Oak Park and Forest Park,” Catania said. “Oak Park is a neighborhood I really enjoy.”
Developing a network of neighbors and acquaintances is often cited as an advantage to living in a small town. For Rutter, however, this is a little tricky. Rutter makes sure to tell all her clients about “the rule.” That is, that she’ll never violate their confidentiality. Rutter has run into clients outside her office, and always waits for them to acknowledge her first. If they don’t, she keeps to herself.
“Some people would never want you to know they see a therapist,” Rutter said. “Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma about therapy.”
Nevertheless, therapy is a growing essential for big and small towns alike. As a strong advocate of counseling and therapy, Rutter said people should have a range of therapists to choose from, as each client has their own needs. The client has to feel comfortable with their therapist, Rutter said. They need to be able to make a connection.
“I frequently get good feedback from clients,” Rutter said. “They’ve been very grateful. Seeing my clients make significant changes has made it all worthwhile.”