A Common Sense Approach to Mental Wellness
May 25, 2017 08:10AM
● By Sheila Julson
For almost 30 years, licensed clinical social worker Craig Schollenberger has served people with mental and developmental disabilities. Through a fresh, yet common sense approach that focuses on eating well, mindfulness and helping clients build healthy relationships, Schollenberger continues to help people become their best selves.
Schollenberger worked in case and crisis management during his employment with a mental health division of Berks County that later became Service Access and Management, Inc. (SAM, Inc.). Through SAM Inc., he developed a mobile service team that reduced mental inpatient hospitalizations within 50 percent during the first two months the program was in operation.
As a counselor for Supportive Concepts for Families, he was involved with helping people through the deinstitutionalization process. Yet he knew there was more he could offer people to help them achieve mental wellness, besides standard symptom management though medication.
“During the 1990s, I was told I had to educate people about their symptoms and make sure they were medication compliant,” Schollenberger recalls. “I remember working with a man that had relationships problems; his neighbor was giving him a hard time, and his girlfriend was in a bad mood, and he just didn’t know what to do. I thought, ‘This has nothing to do with symptoms or medication.’ When I stopped trying to treat people as a bag of symptoms and looked at them as a whole person, things really changed for them.”
That encounter was a defining moment in Schollenberger’s approach to care. He practiced privately as a counselor part-time since 1996, and in 2010, he began practicing full-time. He specializes in helping people overcome traumatic experiences; in helping people that have difficulty paying attention or tending to tasks; and he focuses on relationships, which he notes could be partners in an intimate relationship, parents and children, relationships with extended family and friends, or employers and employees.
“Every time you talk to another person, it’s a relationship of some type,” he says. “So one of the things I specialize in is how to improve the quality of the relationships and get people to ask themselves if they’re being the kind of person somebody would want to have a relationship with.”
By asking questions that people might not have asked themselves, Schollenberger guides them to cultivate healthy, meaningful relationships, which, in turn, can help clients release negative emotions, overcome trauma to feel safer and happier and regain focus. Another key component to Schollenberger’s approach is encouraging people to look at diet and exercise, as well as incorporating mindfulness-based stress reduction into their daily lives.
Four times per year, Schollenberger offers an eight-week mindfulness training course that includes eight, two-hour sessions. The program also offers a power day meditation practice, during which a yoga instructor is present to help create a calm, relaxing atmosphere with music. The next mindfulness session begins July 13.
“A main part of my mindfulness teaching is accepting yourself for who you are right now—not ‘after I lose 50 pounds’, or ‘after I pay off my mortgage’, or ‘after I get that promotion’. It’s okay to say ‘I’m fine right now,’” Schollenberger emphasizes.
Many stressors people experience in life are self-imposed, Schollenberger observes, and he encourages everyone to take a step back and assess what he or she really wants from life. “I think that people often think they don’t have time to care for themselves, so they put themselves last on their list,” he says. “As a result, they don’t eat right or get enough sleep, or lack basic things like exercise or meditation practice. Doing those things makes you a more efficient person, and because meditation and eating well will boost the immune system, you’ll get sick less. These little things really end up making you more efficient, and I think that’s a thing people sometimes miss.”
For more information about Craig Schollenberger’s counseling and mindfulness programs, call 484-474-0984 or visit CraigSchollenberger.com.