Jennifer Wentworth has seen the Nisqually Valley area grow in her 20 years of residence, with the addition of numerous businesses and schools. During that time, however, she also noticed the need for mental health care in the area, particularly in Yelm.
Wentworth got her start in community mental health in Yelm working for Catholic Community Services, spending 10 years as a care coordinator, therapist and supervisor. She also worked as a designated crisis responder (DCR), but shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, she decided to become a solo practitioner.
“When COVID started, it became kind of a completely different world,” Wentworth said. “As a DCR, a lot of the people we would see would be in a very significant crisis. Sometimes we’d see the same people over and over. Sometimes we would detain people to keep them safe because we wouldn’t have anywhere to put them. You felt like you were behind the process and not in front of it.”
Last August, Wentworth was approved by the City of Yelm to open her solo business, Wentworth Marriage & Family Therapy, in a remodeled 1923 home on 313 W. Yelm Ave. She said she was proud to offer mental health services in her home area because residents previously had to travel to Lacey, Olympia or Tacoma to find care. When her sign was finished in front of her new office building, she saw a 320% increase in phone traffic and 356% increase in website traffic, as measured by Google. While her sign reads “Marriage & Family Therapy,” she estimated that 80% of her sessions are with individuals.
“When I first opened a practice here, I think there were two other providers. There really were no other options for mental health here or Rainier, Roy or McKenna,” she said. “These are my people. This is my home, and it’s nice to make a difference with my people in my home.”
Due to the influx of requests for sessions, Wentworth is prioritizing hiring new clinicians, but that will take some time as each new clinician must be contracted with insurance carriers, which can take approximately 60 to 90 days before they’re cleared to begin seeing clients.
During her time working in community mental health, Wentworth said she was restrained by trying to meet quotas and staying within a company’s guidelines. In her own business, she wants her future clinicians to be excited to come to work.
“The biggest reason why I chose to go toward private practice is because it will be very therapeutic for not just the clients, but the clinicians as well. If I take care of my clinicians, they are going to take better care of their clients. You don’t really get that in community mental health,” Wentworth said. “That was the biggest draw to me doing this — to just live and work in a very therapeutic environment. That’s one of the things that I hope to never lose sight of.”
Once her staff is settled, Wentworth would like to offer group workshops in her annex building, including for couples as well as for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Currently, she offers play therapy for children, parenting support, family mediation, substance abuse counseling and more. Wentworth emphasized that her sessions are judgment-free, positive and goal-oriented.
“There’s absolutely no judgment in my sessions. I want people to come in and bare their soul,” she said. “I have no vested interest in what you’ve done in your past. I’m more concerned about your future or your present.”
To learn more about Wentworth’s services, visit https://wentworthmft.com/ or email email@example.com.