While doing her field placement for the master’s in mental health counseling at Walden University, Jennifer Erickson identified the lack of mental health services available to those who cannot afford large fees. This divide didn’t sit well with her. Along with a mentor and another Walden graduate, she began to develop a plan for a group practice that would bridge this gap and also educate future clinicians in a holistic, community-based manner.
Erickson was no stranger to taking on challenges, as she had gone back to school in her 40s to obtain her master’s in mental health counseling after spending more than 20 years working in healthcare administration. For her, the pivot has brought her the ability to do hands-on work in the field with many types of clients, while serving her community in profound ways.
Together with a person she met while doing her internship who became a mentor and friend, Robin Hornstra, and her Walden classmate, Latausha Boone, Erickson founded The Refocus Center in early 2016 with the mission of providing accessible, holistic mental health care services, while also educating future clinicians. The center offers an array of sessions and services at varying levels of payment based on the client’s resources. The center offers free counseling groups each week that are open to any community member and focus on specific topics like self-esteem and relationships. They are constantly taking on interns from local universities and counseling programs, providing real world experience working in a community-based group practice.
In just one year, the clinic has seen more than 500 clients and provided over 400 pro bono sessions. The cost savings for community members is significant, and Erickson is hopeful that this regenerating model will only continue to grow, redefining what it looks like to gain access to quality mental health care services.