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Therapeutic direction

Recently-opened Suunta Integrative Health offers trauma-informed therapy, wellness services in Marquette

Stephanie Blubaugh, a licensed clinical social worker and a trauma therapist at Suunta Integrative Health, reads from a book from the cabinet in a therapy room at the clinic. Blubaugh and several other professionals can offer trauma-informed therapy for children, adults, couples and families at Suunta Integrative Health. The new clinic also offers holistic health services and much more. (Journal photos by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE — Childhood trauma can have impacts throughout a person’s lifetime if it’s not addressed, but it can sometimes be difficult to find an appropriate mental health provider for a child, especially in rural areas like the Upper Peninsula.

However, in an effort to expand the availability of trauma-informed care and holistic wellness services for children and adults in the area, Suunta Integrative Health recently opened its doors along North Third Street in Marquette.

Suunta Integrative Health — which gets its name from the Finnish word “suunta,” meaning direction — is staffed by nurses and licensed clinical social workers who offer services for children, adults, couples and families who have experienced trauma and/or challenges with mental health.

The clinic, started by Melissa Copenhaver, a public health nurse and licensed social worker, aims to address how to “help children that have been through trauma and how do we help the adults have experienced trauma that has never been addressed yet,” she said.

It’s particularly important to offer these services for children, Copenhaver said, as when a child experiences trauma, it can having lasting effects — and the earlier the intervention, the more likely it is to be helpful.

“As you have more adverse events happen to you as a child, the more likely you are to have not only mental health issues and addiction issues, but also health issues,” Copenhaver said.

Suunta Integrative Health aims to offer many aspects of care under one roof, ranging from trauma-informed therapy, pediatric therapy and therapy for anxiety and depression, to holistic health services, such as myofascial release, auricular acupuncture, energy work, and nutritional counseling, she said.

The clinic’s nurses can also provide examinations for a person following a sexual or physical assault. In addition, the clinic also provides space for a person to speak with a trained forensic interviewer about such an incident. It’s important to offer these services, Copenhaver said, as physical and forensic evidence can be needed should an assault or abuse case go to court.

The clinic collaborates with the Superior Child Advocacy Center and the Women’s Center to coordinate medical examinations and forensic interviews, as well as connect individuals with advocates, social workers, therapists and other services they may need, she said.

“The Superior Child Advocacy Center is largely overseen by the (Marquette County) Prosecuting Office,” Copenhaver said. “So they have a vested interest in helping to ensure that when there is a case of child abuse or neglect, that the evidence is there when they’re able to build a case.”

After a child experiences a traumatic or adverse event, it’s important to get them connected with mental health services to help them cope, as children notice, understand and feel traumatic events more than adults might realize, said Stephanie Blubaugh, a licensed clinical social worker and a trauma therapist at Suunta Integrative Health.

“Often kids are aware of something: so maybe they don’t know exactly what’s going on, maybe they didn’t hear everything, but they feel those tensions and all of those things,” Blubaugh said. “So if you have concerns, I think it’s definitely worth speaking to a therapist.”

Trauma-informed therapy can help a person address patterns of thought and behavior that stem from feeling unsafe or insecure due to experiences such as loss, family abuse or food insecurity, she said.

While certain behaviors can serve as protective coping mechanisms in the midst of trauma, these behaviors can become maladaptive and ingrained — and trauma-informed therapy aims to get to the root of a problem so a person can move on from patterns that no longer serve them.

“When can get to it early, we can stop those patterns from becoming ingrained,” Blubaugh said. “That’s not to say there’s no hope at all if you’re an adult who’s experienced something, there’s lots of ways that we can help you — but we’re just trying to provide that service for young kids too.”

The clinic offers therapists trained in a variety of modalities to: “help kids and adults get some understanding around trauma and how some of the things that they’re doing are responding to things that happened in the past that may be no longer true,” Blubaugh said.

When working with children — children as young as babies and toddlers can be seen at Suunta — the therapists “use a lot of games,” she said. For example, if she’s trying to teach a child better regulation of their energy level, she’ll have a child take some time alternating between balancing feathers and dancing around.

“We do a lot of things where they get to experience it and notice that they can make changes to their energy level,” Blubaugh said. ” And that that can help them be more successful.”

In addition, the therapists work to create a safe, healthy relationship with their clients while teaching them a variety of tools and techniques to help them become more resilient and find other safe, healthy relationships, she said.

The building itself also aims to create a safe, calming and welcoming environment for its clients, Copenhaver and Blubaugh said, as it’s filled with natural light and gentle colors.

They’re grateful for the help of the Lowe’s Heroes Project — which provided materials and labor to remodel the interior of the building — and Marquette Downtown Development Association’s facade improvement grant program, which helped them update the building’s exterior.

Overall, Copenhaver, Blubaugh and the rest of the team are looking forward to the clinic’s future and serving the area’s children, adults, families and couples.

For more information or to make an appointment, email melissa@suuntawellness.com. Most insurances are accepted for covered services.

The clinic is located at 1209 N. Third St., Marquette.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.