Deaths of Despair: The Rise in Youth Suicide and How to Protect the Youth in Your Life

Written by Amy V. Maus, MSW, LCSW.

They are called deaths of despair. Deaths by suicide, alcoholism, and/or drug overdose, especially heroin, are on the rise. Seemingly everywhere one looks these days, there is a new, alarming report from the medical community, a shocking celebrity death, or a tragedy among friends and neighbors. For generations, we have assumed that life expectancy in America would continue to lengthen, buoyed by advances in medical care and improved standards of living. But recent statistics have called that assumption into question – for many groups in states across our country, life expectancy is measurably falling. When examined, it is these deaths of despair that are driving the declines.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, after decades of nearly consistent decline, suicide rates have increased from the late 90’s through today among both genders and all ages 10-74. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death in middle school, high school, and college, exceeded only by accidents. More American 10-24 year olds die by suicide each year than all natural causes combined.

In 2016, the latest year for which full statistics are available, 436 children ages 10-14 died by suicide, as did 2,117 youth ages 15-19. The deaths of 7 children ages 5-9 were ruled intentional suicide that year; even our elementary schools are not immune. Who can forget the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Taye of Cincinnati, whose death made the national news? The boy, found unconscious after being assaulted and bullied in his school restroom, hanged himself to death from his bunk bed two days later.

Suicide rates among youth are now growing at about 2% per year and have been doing so since 2007, the year that saw both the Great Recession and the sale of the first smart phones. When considering adolescents, it’s the latter that worries most medical and mental health professionals. Among young people, there is a clear correlation between time spent on social media and rates of depression and anxiety. The devices that claim to connect us seem to have the opposite effect: loneliness. Bullying, sexual harassment and trauma, and the lack of sustaining, intimate social relationships – all of which are associated with use of social media – are also serious risk factors for suicide.

Young people who take their own lives often do so impulsively, a point that’s critically important to understand. The common stereotype of a person who dies by suicide is someone who sinks further and further into depression over time, eventually planning suicide. This, however, is a stereotype for adults. In adolescents, 50% of suicide deaths are believed to be impulsive, after a triggering situation – a romantic break-up, a humiliation online, an academic failure, or similar experience. In these suicides, fewer than ten minutes elapse between the thought and the action of suicide. This means, of course, that access to lethal means is the determining factor in these situations. The #1 risk factor for adolescent suicide has been the same for over a generation – it is access to loaded firearms. In the United States, a youth with unsupervised access to a loaded gun is 32 times more likely to die by suicide than a youth without such access.

Knowing that kids can and do attempt suicide impulsively, how can we as parents, educators, and other caring adults protect the young people in our lives? Several strategies and protective factors have been found effective:

  • When you want to know, ASK. You can never plant the thought of suicide in a youth’s mind by asking if they are thinking of suicide. The most important question that we can ask of a potentially suicidal youth is, “Are you thinking of suicide?”
  • Take all suicide threats seriously. It is a myth that adolescents who talk about suicide just want attention. Nothing could be further from the truth! 80% of youth tell someone about their intentions, directly or indirectly, in the week before a suicide attempt. When friends or classmates report that a peer is posting about suicide or making threats online, family members and school professionals should assume that a serious risk exists and take immediate action.
  • Access mental health care that includes suicide assessment. A child who may be at-risk for suicide needs immediate suicide risk assessment by a qualified medical or mental health professional. Ongoing counseling, with a therapist that the youth likes and will talk to, can be a lifeline during the turbulent throes of adolescence.
  • Restrict youth access to highly lethal means, such as loaded firearms. Simply restricting access saves lives. National suicide experts estimate that gun locks save more adolescent lives each year than do depression screenings. 85% of the time, when a gun is used in a suicide attempt, death results. It is critical to restrict children’s unsupervised access to loaded weapons.
  • Restrict access to alcohol. Alcohol abuse and suicide are highly correlated, in both adolescents and adults. Even youth who do not usually drink will often ingest alcohol prior to a suicide attempt, which impairs judgement and increases impulsivity.
  • Increase family time. Parents are strongly encouraged to spend time with their children one-on-one and away from screens. Have dinner together, go camping as a family, shoot hoops in the driveway, or whatever activity your family loves to do together. Everyone – parents included – needs time away from cell phones. Kids need limits on screen time and increased time with the people that care about them in real life.
  • Connect to school. When teachers reach out to a student who doesn’t seem much invested in school, when they show interest in and care for that student, they are increasing the protective factor of school. For many of our boys, especially, coaches can make a huge difference in this factor. When schools discipline students, they have to be very careful about the words they choose – making it very clear they still care and want relationship, even as they expect behavioral change.
  • Share the crisis text line number. Young people today are unlikely to place an actual phone call to a hotline. But in a time of crisis, they can and do text the national crisis text line. Ask youth to put the text line’s number – 741741 – into their phones. While they may never need it themselves, they can share it with a friend or classmate who does, in the moment of crisis. A trained hotline worker is always a text away, and these adults immediately access local authorities, family members or the school when they believe a child is at risk.

West County Psychological Associates provides training for school faculty and staff on the school’s role in suicide awareness and prevention. Full-day and partial-day training sessions are available, which include free CEUs for licensed social workers. Presentations on youth suicide awareness and prevention are also available for parents and other concerned groups. See the information later in this newsletter or contact Amy Maus at our office to inquire.

Counseling services are available at WCPA for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors with a wide variety of emotional, behavioral, and relationship concerns, including depression and suicidal thoughts. You may reach our office at (314) 275-8599 or see biographies of our available therapists in this newsletter or online at Schools and other readers may share this article, electronically or in printed form, with parents and families.

Amy Maus, MSW, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in both Missouri and Illinois. She specializes in services to schools, providing training to administrators, teachers and parents, consultation within Care Teams and on individual cases, principals’ support groups, and direct intervention with at-risk students. She enjoys providing presentations and workshops to school-related groups of all sizes, including training regarding youth suicide awareness and prevention.

From the Director

I am deeply troubled by two issues that seem to be a growing phenomenon in our society. One is the sense of isolation many of us, especially young people, are experiencing. We at West County Psychological Associates have written numerous articles and given numbers of presentations on technology and social media. The internet, which has connected us like never before, has at the same time caused us to feel more isolated and inadequate. This is, in part, due to the fact that the connecting and communicating is done through devices that do not allow for deep sharing and intimacy. Can we honestly have the same depth of conversation through texting as we can have sitting across the table from another person and sharing the real feelings that we are experiencing? Very simply, digital communication cannot create the sense of well-being and warmth that a conversation with someone who listens, understands and “gets us” can provide. It doesn’t lead us to emotional connections that we were created for and yearn for. The other issue is the rage and anger that people are experiencing. The incivility and vulgarity that we see in public and private forums are unprecedented. No matter what the topic, if the other doesn’t agree, there seems to be an acceptance that it’s all right to say anything, even if it is insulting and even cruel. Of course, we have to look at how our technology influences behavior. There is nothing easier than airing one’s grievances or criticizing another person’s point of view in the comment section of a Facebook post or a tweetstorm. I certainly think that our method of communication has exacerbated the situation. Our bullying has stopped being relegated to children. The adult bullying has become frightening. However, there is another phenomenon that I see taking place at the same time. One of my great passions is going to the movies. I recently saw two movies that struck me as being the antithesis to the isolation and rage we are experiencing today. The names of these documentaries were, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (WYBMN?), which obtained a 99% Rotten Tomatoes critics’ rating, and “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word,” which received an 89% rating, which is also very positive. Both movies projected a totally opposite experience from those that I mentioned above. These movies allowed us to experience the kindness, compassion and love in both of these men. The first documentary is about Mr. Rogers. I don’t remember watching his television show, but I was incredibly impressed by the movie and the critics’ responses to it.

The following are a few of the critiques:

  • WYBMN? is a healing reminder that kindness and goodness still exist in a nightmarish world.
  • Poignant, uplifting and desperately needed right about now, a compassionate embrace.
  • The most soothing, joyful and hope-inducing 90 minutes I’ve spent in recent memory. It’s like being in a warm bath of positivity.

The critics’ responses were, in general, very similar in regard to the movie about Pope Francis:

  • An inspiring documentary about a religious leader with a message of humility, charity, peace and stewardship of the planet.
  • In his affect and attitude, he’s refreshingly free of bluster. And it’s almost unbelievable that a man of power and prestige insists on maintaining such a modest lifestyle.
  • Whether he’s washing the feet of prisoners in America, visiting sick children in Africa, or praying with hurricane victims in Asia, Pope Francis doesn’t merely preach empathy, responsibility and accountability, he lives it.
  • His sincerity offers an alluring catharsis, a hope-by-proxy. We don’t have to believe, just as long as we can believe that he believes.

It occurred to me that these two phenomena were both trajectories, in parallel lines, whose values could not be further apart. I had to wonder, as I think many of us are doing, which one will win out? What choices do we make to insure a world of kindness, compassion and love? What values do we teach our children? These two men have made a remarkable impact upon those they have encountered. I have to believe that the road that they chose was a conscious decision. What road are we going to take? There is no question in my mind; it is a choice.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

TEENSTRONG: Starting Healthy Conversations with Your Students

An in-school program to connect with teens and tweens on difficult topics

We are all aware of the alarming increases in teen depression and anxiety, the sharp rise in teen suicide rates, the opioid epidemic that is affecting so many families, and concerns about how technology is shaping our youth’s brains and emotional capacities. At WCPA, we work with countless numbers of teens and have been striving to find ways to effectively communicate with them about these very real concerns. One thing we have learned is that standing up in front of a large group of teens and lecturing them does not work. They tend to tune out, which makes it difficult for them to internalize the message.

Instead, we have put together a program designed to reach teens where they are, in a way that they will respond to – smaller group interactive conversations. Teens respond best when they have a chance to speak and be heard, especially when it is being facilitated by a non-faculty member with whom students do not fear judgment or disciplinary action.

This program is available at the classroom level to both middle school and high school students and also includes an initial parent presentation, which will explain what will be discussed, as well as give parents an opportunity to meet the presenters.

Program Objectives:

  • To give students an opportunity to have conversations about the issues that are affecting them in a safe and secure environment
  • To identify at-risk students and work with schools to provide needed resources
  • To provide an environment in which students can learn to develop strong connections with peers to decrease feelings of isolation and increase class cohesion
  • To educate and support teachers and administrators so they can be better equipped to both understand and serve their students
  • To teach students to resolve conflicts with both peers and adults
  • To encourage students to continue these conversations at home with parents

Program Facilitators:
We offer a male/female team to come work with students – a male to lead male student groups and a female to lead female student groups, as teens tend to open up and share more in groups when with peers of their own gender.

Please contact Tony Tramelli, LPC or Cari McKnight, LCSW at 314-275-8599 for more information. We will tailor the topics to address any specific concerns to your school community, and will work with you to incorporate this program into your school in ways that will accommodate your logistical needs.

The Importance of Emotional Support During Divorce

Written by Jennifer Van Luven, MSW, LCSW, DM
When couples decide to go their separate ways, there are very defined legal steps that are guided by attorneys and state and county laws. But divorce is an emotional process as much as it is a legal one. Of course, the emotional process is a bit less clearly defined. There is a wide range of emotions that individuals and couples experience during this process, such as hurt, anger, disbelief, deep sadness, rage, shame and even relief. All of these emotions are quite normal, yet can be scary to the individuals who experience them. Having professional emotional support during prior, during and after the divorce process is so important and yet often not sought after. There are two main reasons getting divorce support is hard:

  1. There isn’t a lot of emotional support available in our communities, aside from a few groups that are run by religious
    organizations and limited private therapists that have experience in this line of work.
  2. Adults are taught that they should solve their own problems, which makes it very hard for them to reach out for help
    and tell people that they are having a hard time. Woman and men do not want to “burden” family and friends with their
    personal issues – they feel it is overburdening those in their lives. Friends often expect those going through the divorce
    process to “get over it” within a relatively short period of time.

The average legal divorce process can take upwards of a year to complete. Courts are so heavily inundated with cases that they do take some time. The process is not just filing papers and having a hearing. If children are involved, custody is in dispute or there is high conflict, divorces can take a very long time. The process can even drag on beyond the signing of the final documents with children. With the shortage of community resources and support groups and family and friends’ compassion being short-lived, people need to find emotional support to help them navigate the rough waters of this process. They would be most beneficial at finding a professional who is trained in dealing with the intense emotions and someone who knows how to help individuals move through the range of emotions that occur during this long process. Therapy of this type can assist individuals in many ways. The therapist can assist with:

  • Pre-legal advice: This gives clients a chance to vent about the issues that brought them to this decision, as well as how
    they can put the painful emotions aside and deal with the non-emotional legal aspect of the process.


  • Hand-holding: While some lean on friends and family, this can come with its own emotional baggage. The therapist
    takes on the role of the “thinking partner.” This is a long process and a therapist can provide a safe, supportive, nonjudgmental
    and patient environment.


  • Problem solving: The therapist who is trained in the area of divorce can assist parents in coming up with the best
    solution for visitation and seeing what’s best for the children involved. They are trained in developmental stages and
    attachment and can lend knowledge of best practice for children dependent on their developmental levels.

Divorce is challenging no matter the circumstances. When there is no support in place, the suffering and negative emotions can last longer than needed. But when you have enough emotional support, the process will go a lot more smoothly for you in the emotional arena. This is a process that requires all to be proactive.

Jennifer Webbe VanLuven, LCSW, DM provides private therapy dealing with
adult issues, marital therapy, pre- and post-divorce counseling, high conflict
relationships, depression and anxiety. Jennifer has extensive experience in family
law and court room testifying. She assists families and couples in a peaceful
resolution through divorce mediation, Parent Coordination, and Co-Parent
Counseling. She is also a trained Custody Evaluator.

From Monkey Bars to Grab Bars: Bullying Across the Lifespan

Written by Amy Neu, MSW, LCSW

“I would like to go out of my room more, but ‘the clique’ visits down in the 2nd floor lobby. Whenever I pass by, the group gets quiet and stares at me. After I walk past, I hear them laugh and start talking again. It feels like school all over again.” – 91 year-old independent living resident

“They’re the queen bees. They brag about how successful their kids are. They’re always chummy with the staff, but they gossip and make the rest of us feel bad.” – 86 year-old nursing facility resident

Bullying is commonly viewed as an adolescent problem. We assume that bullying is something children outgrow or escape from as they age and enter into “the real world.” However, bullying is a phenomenon that people experience throughout adulthood (i.e. the workplace, adult relationships) and into our “Golden Years.” Ask many professionals working in senior care, and they will have stories about bullying in senior communities. Statistics estimate 10-20% of residents in senior communities experience victimization from peer-related bullying. Likely, the number of residents being bullied is higher due to underreporting ( Senior bullying, like any form of bullying, has a variety of reasons for occurring. However, the most common reason is that as some individuals age and begin to lose their independence, they find themselves struggling to regulate their emotions in a healthy way. Consequently, bullying behaviors increase out of these individuals’ fears, anxieties, or depression. Their coping skills diminish, and they try to regain control by engaging in harmful behaviors to others (i.e. gossip, snide comments, “saving seats” or excluding others from tables, spreading rumors) to reaffirm their power or reassure themselves that they do have control. Unfortunately, many senior communities also house residents who are insecure as their personal needs increase, cannot speak up for themselves, and are ideal targets for a bully’s ridicule. To fully address the problem of bullying in older adults, it is essential to address factors using a multi-level approach. Individuals, administration, and the senior community as a whole are all affected by the issue of bullying. It is unrealistic for any organization to leave the problem alone and assume it will resolve itself. Our senior communities need to be environments where everyone can feel accepted, valued, and treated with respect. On the administrative level, policies and procedures must be discussed, evaluated, and implemented to keep our residents safe and healthy. It is also helpful for residents to have input in order to further develop community values and encourage resident involvement in the issue. Resident councils, for example, are often wonderful gateways into the community to help gauge how residents feel about certain policies in the organization and provide feedback to administration. Additionally, ongoing training and consultation for staff about topics such as how to address senior bullying, mental health issues, or building healthy senior communities are extremely useful tools for the organization and its employees. Professionals working in senior communities must be prepared and competent when confronting the difficult emotions that accompany bullying and aging in order to adequately address the problem. It is imperative for staff to assess each resident involved in bullying behaviors in order to meet their individual needs. This includes assessments of both the victim and the bully. Clearly, both parties are experiencing emotional pain and have unique needs which require individualized plans to resolve the problem. A staff member should talk to involved individuals privately and plan together with them about next steps. Finally, make appropriate referrals as needed (i.e. to a social worker, physician, agency, or therapist) to address the resident’s needs. If you are in an environment where you are being bullied personally or are a witness to bullying, you can help put an end to it in your community. First, realize that you are not alone in this. Bullying is a problem that affects many people throughout their lives. Being the target of a bully does not mean that you are insignificant or weak. You are valuable, you have worth, and you deserve to be treated with respect. When confronted with a bully, do not keep the experience to yourself. Talk to a friend, family member, or staff member about the encounter and ask for help and support. In a senior community, it is necessary for administration to have accurate information in order to properly assess the situation and help to resolve the issue. Bullying in older adults is a complex problem in senior communities and requires a multifaceted approach in order to resolve the problem. Bullying is an overwhelming issue for many senior communities, but each community can overcome it with proper training, oversight, and intervention. If you are concerned about bullying of a loved one or residents in your community, contact West County Psychological Associates, at (314) 275-8599, to discuss and schedule a consultation.

SUICIDE: Prevention, Intervention and Postvention in Schools

A workshop for school professionals*

Friday, October 12th, 2018 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Youth suicide continues to increase every year and is now the second leading cause of death in middle school, high school, and college, exceeded only by accidents. Suicide is responsible for more deaths of 10-24 year olds each year than all natural causes combined. It is vital that all school personnel have up-to-date information regarding suicide warning signs and prevention strategies. Consistent with this ethical obligation, new Missouri statute requires schools to develop policies for training all staff in regard to suicide awareness and prevention.

Topics Covered Include:

  • Statistics, risk factors, and warning signs
  • The three tiers of prevention: universal, selective and indicated prevention methods
  • Training gatekeepers: outlines and methods for training school staff, students and parents
  • Informed suicide risk assessment
  • The step-by-step process to use with students assessed to be at high risk
  • Developing the safety plan
  • Re-integrating a student who attempted suicide
  • Postvention: how to prevent contagion and support your school community after a suicide death

Presenter: Amy V. Maus, MSW, LCSW specializes in school consultation, providing faculty training, parent presentations, principals’ groups, and on-site consultation to dozens of area schools each year. Along with colleagues, she is co-author of The Care Team Approach: A Problem Solving Process for Effective School Change.

Who Should Attend: School Administrators, School Social Workers and Counselors, School Nurses, School Psychologists, Classroom Teachers, Professional Development Coordinators, and Care Team members

Cost: $90 per attendee Continuing Education certificate provided, must attend full program.
NOTE: Free CEUs are provided for Missouri licensed social workers, who by new statute must receive training in suicide prevention before obtaining or renewing their license.

Date and time: Friday, October 12th, 2018 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Lunch 12:00 – 1:00 on your own.
Location: West County Psychological Associates 12125 Woodcrest Executive Drive St. Louis, MO

How to Register *
Online registration is available at: Payment is expected at time of registration.
Questions or concerns? Call WCPA at (314) 275-8599 or feel free to visit our website:
Register Today – Space is Limited.

* This presentation, as well as a 2 hour long program, are also
available for school groups at your site. Call for information.

The Therapists and Consultants of West County Psychological Associates

WCPA is a comprehensive mental health service provider. We provide psychotherapy and psychological testing services for individuals of all ages,  couples, families, seniors, and caregivers, as well as training and consultation services to schools, senior care organizations, and other groups. Our  professionals include licensed psychologists, clinical social workers, and counselors, as well as school consultants with experience as school principals.


Mary Fitzgibbons, Ph.D., Director is a licensed psychologist and the director of West County Psychological Associates (WCPA) since 1986. She provides counseling to individuals, couples and families. She, and the WCPA team, have worked extensively in schools and other institutions providing counseling and consulting services. She has also created Comprehensive Consulting Services (CSS), a non-profit which serves the underserved student and aging populations.



Murisa Begic-Gusic, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is a graduate of the School of Professional Psychology at Forest Institute in Springfield, Missouri. Murisa provides comprehensive psychological evaluations and psychotherapy for children and adults. She has extensive experience in the area of trauma, substance abuse, crisis intervention, personality disorders, anxiety, autism, and chronic mental illness. Murisa has also taught graduate level courses in clinical psychology.



Katie Bouvatte, LCSW provides therapy to clients utilizing a client-centered, strengths-based approach. She partners with clients to address depression, grief, anxiety, caregiver stress, relationship issues and coping with end of life concerns. She has worked in a variety of senior living settings and has experience navigating the medical system and helping with transitions to alternate levels of care. Katie also provides on-site counseling to seniors throughout the continuum of senior living.



Angela Cook, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 25 years of experience in helping people of all ages find inner peace within themselves and/or their relationships. Her main areas of focus include trauma, attention deficit, anxiety, mood disorders, pain management and adjustment issues. Angela draws from the following treatment modalities: Trauma-Focused, CBT, Exposure Therapy, Behavior Modification, Emotional Focused Therapy, DBT, and Cognitive Stimulation Therapy.



Lynette Dixon, Ph.D. has worked in the field of mental health and substance abuse since 2010 and has experience working with families, couples, and individuals of all ages on a variety of issues including
depression, anxiety, grief and loss, marital concerns, addiction, substance abuse, co-occurring disorders,
PTSD, and other trauma-related disorders. Lynette relies heavily on person-centered therapy,
emotionally focused therapy, and cognitive therapy.



Bryan Duckham, Ph.D. has 30 years’ experience in the treatment of depression, anxiety and
addictions. He has worked in outpatient and inpatient mental health and addiction treatment programs. In addition to maintaining his practice at West County Psychological Associates, he is an Associate Professor of Social Work at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and teaches undergraduate and graduate theory and practice courses.



Donna Garcia, M.S. has a background in psychology, educational administration, and computer science. She has thirty years of educational experience and he has worked extensively with children of all ages, parents, and school faculty and staff as teacher, principal, and university faculty. She has a particular interest in working with parents who are striving to become better parents and teachers and principals who want to provide healthy learning environments and school cultures.



Hillel Goldstein, Psy.D. specializes in adult brain injury (ABI). He provides individual and group psychotherapy and counseling to ABI survivors, with a focus on traumatic brain injury (TBI) and aphasia. Hillel works collaboratively with speech and language pathologists (SLP), physicians
(neurology, psychiatry), and occupational and physical therapists (OT, PT). His clients are referred by post-acute rehabilitation facilities, university clinics, the MO DHSS ABI program, and private parties.



Carol Hall-Whittier, Ed.D. is an experienced educator who has worked in an urban school district as a principal, instructional leader and teacher for over 35 years. She believes that leadership should be built among working professionals as well as students, parents and community. Carol is adept in providing leadership training for staff in the areas of organizational transformation: developing literacy leaders and a culture that embraces new ideas, as well as developing parent and community partnerships.



Amy Maus, LCSW, Assistant Director is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in both Missouri and
Illinois. She specializes in services to schools, including training and seminars, consultation within Care Teams and on individual cases, principals’ consultation groups, and counseling students. Amy enjoys providing presentations to school-related groups of all sizes. In the office, she also evaluates students for anxiety, ADHD and other mental health and learning concerns that impact the classroom.



Cari McKnight, LCSW received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Iowa and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in private therapy for individuals, couples, and families dealing with relationship/interpersonal difficulties. She also provides mental health therapy for issues such as depression and anxiety. She has extensive experience in mental health treatment and is passionate about helping others create balance and happiness in their lives.



Tina Murphy, LPC has 20 years of experience in helping children and families deal with social skill issues and difficult behaviors such as ADHD, anxiety, motivational concerns, and depression. Tina has an extensive background in the public and private school system. Through WCPA, she provides therapy for children, adolescents, adults and families as well as school consultation, on site clinical services, Care Team consultation, social skill groups and training on a variety of topics.



Amy Neu, LCSW provides private therapy for adults, families, and seniors who are facing a variety of issues including depression, anxiety, grief, coping with medical issues, and end of life. She has significant experience counseling seniors, caregivers, and families within medical systems and during transitional periods from home to alternate levels of care. In addition to Amy’s clinical practice, she provides on-site counseling and education to staff through senior living communities.



Katie Taggart, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with extensive experience serving clients
with chronic and terminal illness as well as grief and loss. She worked in hospice for 11 years and is
comfortable in medical settings. Katie provides private therapy to clients of all ages and enjoys
working with both children and adults. She uses various modes of treatment, including play therapy, to address depression, anxiety, and behavioral issues.



Marily Thompson, LCSW - West County Psychological Associates

Marilyn Thompson, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She brings over 20 years of experience and a wealth of knowledge, specializing in aiding and guiding children, adolescents, adults and seniors. Marilyn offers comprehensive treatment for a wide range of mental health disorders including Depression, Anxiety, Mood Disorder, Disruptive Behavior, ADHD, Physical and Sexual Abuse (children and adults), Personality Disorders, Schizophrenia, PTSD, and Attachment Disorders.



Tony Tramelli, LPC received his Master’s in Counseling from Webster University with a focus in
mental health counseling. Tony works with individuals, couples, and families struggling with a diverse range of issues including depression, anxiety, grief, behavioral issues, and issues around technology
misuse. Tony also works with young adults and their parents in working towards financial and emotional independence. Along with counseling, Tony provides comprehensive school services.



Jennifer Webbe VanLuven, LCSW, Assistant Director provides private therapy dealing with adult issues, marital therapy, pre- and post-divorce counseling, high conflict relationships, depression and anxiety. Jennifer has extensive experience in family law and court room testifying. She assists families and couples in a peaceful resolution through Divorce Mediation, Parent Coordination, and Co-Parent Counseling. She is also a trained Custody Evaluator.

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