DOVER — Helping others was a passion for Jennifer Stevens long before she opened her first clinical mental health practice in the city.
“Helping folks, it’s just in my blood,” Stevens said, noting it's a trait she learned from her mother, who worked in a group home setting to support people with developmental disabilities.
“Sometimes I would go to work with her and it was very much like a family, a community atmosphere at her agency,” Stevens said. “The clients that she supported became like extended family in a lot of ways.”
Since Stevens founded her mental health practice Embodied Directions a few years ago, she has always wanted to create a space where clients and non-clients can receive more holistic health beyond counseling. Now she’s expanding her practice, with the addition of the Embodied Directions Wellness Sanctuary.
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The new wellness studio opened Saturday at 66 Third St. No. 103.
“We're excited and prepared to bring the wellness sanctuary to Dover,” Stevens said. “We look forward to being another arm of support for folks who want some kind of holistic care to attend to emotional, mental or spiritual health and well-being.”
Complementing mental health treatment
Stevens designed the Wellness Sanctuary as a therapeutic wellness space, offering weekly trauma-informed and therapeutic movement, yoga, meditation, group experiences, workshops and training. Stevens said the classes are meant to complement, not replace, emotional and mental health support by using a variety of therapeutic movements.
In addition to her mental health counselor qualifications, Stevens obtained a 200-hour yoga teacher certification in 2017 and in 2020, she received a 300-hour certification in Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga.
“One of the biggest reasons I started my private practice is to offer a more holistic experience with the integration of meditation and yoga in addition to their mental health treatment,” Stevens said. ”This business expansion is more of a group version of what I've been providing for folks one-on-one. It’s a space where you can focus on mental health and emotional health, and kind of acts like a one-stop shop.”
Including Stevens, there are eight instructors. Most are certified yoga instructors and a few are certified in energy healing as reiki practitioners and intuitive therapists. Each is trained in trauma-informed facilitation, meaning Stevens' staff is trained to support individuals that may have experienced any form of trauma or distressing life experience, Stevens said.
“The wellness sanctuary is a new and different way to allow people to kind of reconnect and reclaim their bodies and their space,” Stevens said. “We assume that anyone walking through our door could have a lived experience that may distress or trigger them, and we know how to respond and help them through it.”
Trying to meet a growing need
There are membership options, as well as drop-in rates, but these classes are not covered by insurance providers. Classes include energy sessions as a "mind-body approach for mental and emotional healing" and a variety of different classes like pilates and yoga nidra, a restorative guided meditation practice.
“I’ve been involved in the mental health field for over a decade now, and there is finally a recognition that mental health is important, and is supported by how we nourish ourselves and take care of our bodies,” Stevens said. “Things like stress, trauma, depression, or anxiety can affect us in different ways. We hope the work we do can be an added support to the work that people are already doing, either with professionals or on their own.”
Stevens said that she and other private-practice therapists have seen a spike in demand for mental health or holistic services.
“We see that people are asking for help at a much higher rate than we all are accustomed to,” Stevens said. “It's really hard to ease that, and it’s hard to get a one-on-one session for new potential clients. We also see the wellness sanctuary as an added support for those waiting to start therapy, those in therapy, those who have graduated from therapy, and those that are interested in holistic therapies. It may help alleviate the bottleneck that individual therapy has right now.”
At her business, Stevens has a waitlist she is unsure she can work through by next summer.
“I'm glad that on one hand, people are reaching out for support, but I wish there were more of us who were able to support folks sooner than later, because we shouldn't have to wait to attend to our mental health.”
This article originally appeared on Fosters Daily Democrat: Wellness Sanctuary opens on Third St. Dover with holistic health focus