Visitors to downtown Mora have likely noticed a new business with a unique name on Union Street next to El Jalisco.
With a mission to support individuals in the local community with a variety of mental health services, Doctor of Counseling Psychology and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Darci Wikelius, opened the doors to Ampersand Psychological Services in the fall of 2022
The ampersand — also known as the “and sign” — is a symbol represented as “&.” For Wikelius and for her clients, the symbol means “I’m not finished… I have more to say with my life.”
That spirit of seeking more and having more to say or do is what started Wikelius on the journey that has led to the completion of her doctorate and the decision to open her own business.
Ampersand Psychological Services was born out of Wikelius’ desire to serve the mental health needs in her local community while providing services that can often be difficult to access in a town the size of Mora.
As a doctoral-level clinician, Wikelius can provide services often unavailable at typical counseling agencies.
“When compared with a masters-level therapist, I can conduct psychological assessments.” Wikelius described. “For example, if there are personality concerns, memory concerns or cognitive deficits. I can provide cognitive testing, personality testing, assess for ADHD or autism, amongst a variety of other assessments, for individuals as young as 12 years old.”
These sorts of psychological assessments are often required by the court system or a state agency in order to determine the best course of action for a person based on their mental health status.
For instance, if someone is convicted of a sex offense, Wikelius may be asked to conduct a psycho-sexual evaluation to have the offender “evaluated on their risk levels, assess for mental health concerns, and be provided treatment recommendations,” she said.
Another instance where more intensive psychological testing or evaluation might be needed could be if an individual therapist or a social worker were having a hard time conceptualizing a client’s diagnosis. In that instance, they may ask for a psychological evaluation from Wikelius.
Providing these sorts of evaluations is a big part of why she wanted to pursue her doctorate.
“I think the biggest piece of it was the testing because it’s fun to be able to get a case and try to figure it out. Pull from the testing, pull from other resources, pull from their interview, and put things together like a puzzle piece. To be able to say conceptually what’s going on.”
In addition to psychological testing, Wikelius also does individual therapy and has hired two therapists who meet with clients to help with all sorts of emotional distress.
Ampersand describes individual therapy as “a joint process between a therapist and a person in therapy. Common goals of therapy can be to inspire change or improve quality of life. People may seek therapy for help with issues that are hard to face alone.“
“People in therapy can learn skills for handling difficult situations, making healthy decisions, and reaching goals. Many find they enjoy the therapeutic journey of becoming more self-aware. Some people even go to ongoing therapy for self-growth.”
Ampersand Psychological Services has one more member of the team who must be mentioned in order to make this profile complete — Marvel.
Marvel is a certified animal-assisted therapy dog. Wikelius described the purpose of animal-assisted therapy: “A lot of it is the animal-human interaction. It’s really important for rapport building or just comfort. There is so much research about how just being in the presence of an animal helps.
“Marvel also helps incorporate calming techniques through the repetitive motion of petting him and engaging in mindfulness.”
Since opening, Wikelius has had a very positive experience.
“So far, I’ve had a lot of really pleasurable people who I’ve worked with — from the county, from the hospital, from other providers and other mental health places who have referred and consulted. It’s been a really good experience so far. “
Having grown up in a southwestern town smaller than Mora, she stated, “I like that it’s close-knit and small. Word of mouth, trust and rapport happens quickly, and I also know that that can be easily damaged, so I’m very careful about representing myself in this community.”
Ampersand Psychological Services is presently taking new adult clients for individual therapy. It can be reached through its website www.ampersandpsychologicalservices.com or by phone at 320-703-8151.
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