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Mental Health Support in Austin, Minnesota

By way of talking about Nexus-Gerard Family Healing, let’s talk about stories—the stories of children:

  • A child is born into an environment of neglect and recurring physical abuse.
  • Another child experiences repeated sexual abuse from infancy by a close family member.
  • Still another must protect his younger siblings from violence and drug use. He’s only seven.

None of these children chose to experience pain and trauma, and yet they’re expected to adapt to “normal life” and make healthy choices. Unfortunately, their stories often spiral out of control as they try to work through grief and anger and a hundred other emotions. They act out. They have run-ins with the school, the law, social services. They consider suicide.

When these kids have nowhere left to go, they come to Nexus-Gerard Family Healing.

“People have assumptions about Nexus-Gerard. They think this is a place where the naughty kids go,” Karen Wolf explained. She’s the Executive Director for Nexus-Gerard. “The treatment program isn’t about correcting ‘bad behavior,’ it’s about helping children heal from trauma.”

Nexus-Gerard offers short- and long-term residential treatment programs for children and teens whose behaviors have become unmanageable, manifesting in aggression, self-harm, social withdrawal, and inappropriate interpersonal interactions.

The beautiful 12-acre campus in Austin, Minnesota, provides homelike charm, including a family living room, cozy bedrooms, gardens, and outdoor recreation. To help create stability between the child’s treatment and learning needs, the Nexus-Gerard campus includes the New Dominion School, a non-public school offering customized student learning plans to fit individual learning style and ability.

Nexus-Gerard’s Outpatient & Community Mental Health Program

“Nexus-Gerard’s initial focus was on kids, but we realized the community’s need for adult services and family support was increasing,” Karen explained. “We increased our professional staff to provide therapy for individuals, families, and couples.”

While Nexus-Gerard’s therapists offer online counseling, their Austin location also allows for in-person sessions with licensed professionals, without having to travel to Rochester or the Twin Cities.

“Whether it’s an individual session or a couple or group session, we focus on developing positive communication skills for healthy emotional regulation,” Karen said. “Those are the building blocks for healthy relationships and a sense of self-worth.”

Innovative Treatment Techniques for Processing Traumatic Memories

Nexus-Gerard’s patients experience a range of behavioral and mental health issues:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Oppositional behavior
  • Borderline personality
  • Bi-polar conditions
  • Attachment issues
  • Chemical dependency

“The dangerous behaviors and self-destructive thinking, those don’t just happen,” Karen explained. “They all stem from traumatic experiences.”

To help address these traumas, Nexus-Gerard has incorporated Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) into their treatment programs. TF-CBT is a process that uses narrative, mindfulness, and cognitive-behavioral techniques to help people process through traumatic events, whereas EMDR is a multi-step program that combines guided talk therapy with bilateral stimulation to access and resolve unprocessed traumatic memories.

“EMDR is just one method we use,” Karen explained. “Each kid comes in with unique needs. We need to help them adjust to an unfamiliar environment and then assess what program is best for them.”

Nexus-Gerard Staff Care About Children

Nicole Dudycha worked with youth in direct care for 25 years. She now is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Nexus-Gerard. “We care about children. It’s only the way this works, because it’s only through love and understanding that we can look past challenging behaviors, knowing the difficulties they’ve already endured in their short lives. We adapt to what they need; we don’t expect them to conform to what we want.”

Karen Wolf has been at the Gerard facility for more than 23 years, having started her career as a therapist.

“We still hear from kids that we worked with 20 years ago. It’s so rewarding to hear from them and hear what they’ve made of their lives. For me, those truly are the moments where I'm like, ‘Yeah, I’m making a difference here.’ Being able to see the kids out here playing—just being kids—I love that because so many of the kids we’ve worked with have not felt safe in their lives. We’re providing them a safe environment where they know their needs are met, where their voices are heard, and where they can just be kids and thrive. That’s what I love about my job.”

Career Opportunities at Nexus-Gerard

If you have a heart for service, you’ll want to check out Nexus-Gerard’s current career opportunities or email Karla Garza Palomo at Nexus-Gerard to learn more. For professional mental health therapists, you might be an excellent fit in the Nexus-Gerard Outpatient program to provide clinical therapy for children, adults, and families.

Learn more about the Outpatient - Mental Health Therapist opportunities with Nexus-Gerard.