Those who work in behavioral healthcare strive to follow one principle above all others: patient welfare first. The Consultation Room at Eau Claire welcomes clients to its inviting space, offering not only a warm atmosphere and a skilled team, but refreshing innovation in mental health treatment.
The Boardroom, located on the renovated first floor of the Strobel Building (130 S. Barstow St.), is a specialty behavioral clinic associated with the Oakleaf Medical System. Since opening in June 2022, staff have won praise for their extensive counseling and treatment for trauma-related depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and more.
“We want the counseling room to be a safe and professional place in the heart of downtown Eau Claire,” explained psychiatrist Dr. Kevin Hess. “So that patients can have the best outcome for their mental health.”
Dr. Hess enjoys sharing the office with his son, Licensed Practical Nurse Andrew, and his wife, Andrea, who is the clinic’s Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Sherry Hansen, a registered nurse, and Connie Loula, a certified physician assistant, and Deanna Spears, a certified physician assistant, are also among their medical staff.
When it comes to therapy services, Andrea offers sessions for all clients ages 7 and up. The majority of the cases she treats involve therapeutic strategies aimed at dealing with emotional trauma, but accommodations also extend to family and marriage counseling.
Additionally, Andrea takes one day a week to visit McDonell Central Catholic and Chippewa Falls High School to provide on-site counseling to students.
“I feel like it’s a privilege to be invited to be part of their journey,” Andrea said. “Getting them to think outside the box, to reframe their thoughts, to recognize those emotions…to be a light in their lives is truly a privilege for me.”
According to Dr. Hess, their institution is also among the few national leaders in promoting a revolutionary treatment approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for clinical depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder: transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
Although it was first approved for the treatment of depression in 2008, Dr. Hess noted that it took 14 years for TMS to gain 10% awareness and availability across the country. Despite a plethora of cases proving its safety as an alternative treatment, insurance companies and some government parties still consider it a semi-experimental technology. May 2022 marked the approval of OCD treatment, but clinics have yet to receive training to calibrate equipment for this condition.
The device hosted by The Counseling Room is produced by the Neurostar company, with an adjustable arm supporting magnetic coils. The coils are gently brought to specific locations along each side of the head (depending on the condition), where light pulses of magnetic energy begin to awaken depressed brain cells. With each patient, specific brain maps and adjustments are always recorded, to ensure that each session is as accurate as possible.
“The first half of day one treatment is mapping: finding the sweet spot – so to speak – and dosing the magnetic stimuli,” Dr. Hess explained. “And the second half of that first visit will be their first treatment.”
Over a period of 36 days, visiting several sessions from Monday to Friday, a client will continue this treatment. What makes TMS so convenient for both staff and patient is the lack of anesthesia, which means a patient can attend an appointment, but still walk out immediately afterwards and go about their business. to his business. TMS has no significant negative side effects other than a minor headache that can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers.
During my own visit to the consultation room, I received permission from a patient, Suzanne, to observe a session led by Andrew Hess. Andrew is one of more than 250 CNAs nationwide who have taken advanced courses and training to safely use TMS devices.
Coming with a history of depression, anxiety and long-term PTSD, Suzanne was on her 16th day of treatment, but recalled her transition from prescribed medication to TMS as a hugely successful experience.
“I took several different medications…some worked for a little while and then just stopped working,” Suzanne said. “(TMS) was definitely something I wasn’t going to try…if I can possibly stop taking drugs then that would be huge for me.” Suzanne also commented that the treatment feels well on track, showing no signs of diminishing effectiveness.
Approaching its first anniversary, the Hess family and their colleagues at The Counseling Room are an example of the synergy between traditional practice and innovation in the field of behavioral health. As the days ahead seem filled with a strong sense of hope, their door is open to all, with a helping hand and a smile to guide their way.
Dr. Hess psychiatry services, including TMS, accept insurance; counseling services with Andrea are paid for in cash or through health savings accounts at The Counseling Room. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit their website or feel free to call (715)-579-442.