Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Florham Park—As an agency serving the needs of the communities of Essex, Morris, Sussex, north Union, and even Hudson counties, the Jewish Family Service of MetroWest touches many lives. By providing services as needed, and creating new services when warranted, they are able to interact with people throughout any and all life-cycle challenges that may arise. The agency is one of 12 in the state of New Jersey, all of which strive to serve as the primary mental health resource for their respective Jewish communities. The core task of the agency is providing counseling services; in no agency division is that more apparent than Adult Services.

Lauren Hennion serves as Clinical Coordinator of Adult Services at JFS MetroWest, which has offices in Livingston and Florham Park. The purpose of the division is to help individuals and families toward a greater sense of independence, with the degree of independence being individualized for each client. Providing mental health and counseling services in many forms comprises the majority of the services available within this division.

“This department personifies the overall philosophy of the agency,” said Reuben Rotman, Executive Director of JFS MW.

Types of counseling available include individual, couples, family, and group therapy, with “each modality tailored to the unique needs of the client,” said Hennion. When people call or email the agency, the intake social workers will assess the needs of the particular client and refer them to the appropriate services, whether within JFS MW or within the community. An intake email will always be followed up with a phone call, to ensure that nothing was misunderstood in the original communication.

“If you are calling us, we want you to feel helped,” commented Hennion.

Rotman continued, “Once [people] call, we want the intake to be easy and helpful, and once they are here we want to ensure they are helped. The hardest thing for [potential clients] is to make that first call and ask for help. We want to make the rest simpler.”

Toward that end, once a need has been identified, the client will meet with a licensed social worker and develop a treatment plan. “It’s about client empowerment,” said Hennion. “We help the client move toward self-sustainability.”

People come to JFS MW for a wide variety of reasons, from depression and anxiety to needing help through a particular stressful life situation to pervasive mental illness, and the 17 JFS MW social workers have been well trained in all eventualities. Some of these social workers have adults as their primary caseload, and others see adults as well as clients from other divisions of the agency. Either way, the social worker-client relationship is paramount, and providing goal-oriented support and understanding, advice, or help with solutions is what the counselors strive to accomplish.

The agency offers a myriad of group counseling opportunities, and that number continues to grow whenever there is a new need in the community. For example, during the unrest in Gaza in 2014, community members with children in the Israeli army needed support—from that need, the Lone Soldier program was formed. It became a haven for families in the MetroWest community to meet and discuss how the situation was affecting them.

There have been other groups developed in response to the community’s needs. At the start of the economic downturn, JFS MW established a program in conjunction with JVS (Jewish Vocational Service), whereby JVS handled the career end of clients’ needs and JFS MW managed the emotional end. After Superstorm Sandy, the rabbi in Hoboken reached out to JFS MW for assistance for his community, which had been devastated by the storm. The agency helped connect that community with needed resources, brought in speakers, and helped provide assistance. The agency is in the process of developing a program for women affected by breast cancer. They recently held a focus group and are now working toward implementing programming deemed necessary by the participants.

In addition to these new groups, JFS MW has many long-established groups devoted to assisting adults on a variety of levels. There is a Bereavement Group, Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group, and Parkinson’s Caregiver Support Group. There are also child and family support groups—a Mom’s Support Group, Sibling Support Group for Siblings of Children with Special Needs, and a group for mothers and babies. Other existing groups are also for adults as part of the agency’s Rachel Coalition services—Support for High Conflict Relationships Group and Domestic Violence Psycho-Education Support Group. Many groups cross division lines within the agency, with the social workers who facilitate these sessions seeing clients of all ages.

The agency is so committed to their group counseling that they are currently in the process of creating a multi-purpose space in the Florham Park location that will enable them to better manage group sessions. It will serve as a family support center, thereby allowing the agency to service the needs of all its divisions. It is the agency’s belief that group therapy is extremely effective and helpful to clients, and often these programs serve as feeders into JFS MW individual counseling services.

Adult clients are generally ages 18 and older, unless the individual is still in high school, up through age 65 and beyond. At times there will be crossover with Child and Adolescent Services or Older Adult Services, which is why the social workers work closely together and often see clients of all ages. As people cycle in and out of therapy they may continue seeing the same social worker or they may be assigned someone new, depending on their needs and requests. The bottom line—always—is that a good social worker-client relationship is the key to good therapy.

The social workers are credentialed in many managed-care insurance panels so people can use their insurance plans to pay for services. In the past, clients often came in without insurance; today, most clients have insurance that covers mental health services. This huge change has come about in large part because of the shift in perception of the agency. JFS MW used to be viewed as an agency for lower income individuals and families, but it has become a place that many—not just in the Jewish community—seek out.

JFS MW social workers participate in ongoing career training and continuing education, enabling them to stay at the forefront of the industry. Additionally, they work in collaboration with one another, attending regular meetings and seminars as well as providing each other with feedback on current cases when requested. Their training has allowed them to achieve one of their greatest goals—to have become an agency on par with any and all private mental health counselors and institutions.

For more information, please call 973-765-9050 or visit www.jfsmetrowest.org.

By Jill Kirsch