February 7, 2013 at 7:25 AM
SUMMIT, NJ - For the past 20 years, Dr. Alison Johnson has spent her workdays helping people to patch their lives together. The British transplant is co-director of Summit Psychological Services PA, a multi-specialty practice with offices in Summit and Cedar Grove.
“We’re unique because of our size—about 21 professionals, which enables us to help a wide spectrum of clients—but we’re also unique because we maintain a very individualized approach, treating each client uniquely,” she said. “From the beginning, our goal [with founding director Jeffrey S. Kahn] was to establish a comprehensive practice that could provide meaningful services to a diverse group of people.”
Towards that end, psychologists, psychotherapists and others at Summit Psychological Services specialize in an array of psychological issues, psychological tests, personal-growth programs, expressive therapies, and holistic practices designed to help individuals deal with a wide range of conditions, including addiction, depression, anxiety, and couples counseling.
But the practice distinguishes itself from competitors in other ways too, she added.
“With more than 20 trained professionals onsite, you can request the therapist of your choice, or we can match you with the right one,” Johnson said. “For example, several of our therapists utilize innovative techniques to help patients fulfill their potential and achieve personal goals. This approach, which is sometimes called ‘applied positive psychology,’ can focus on areas like career testing and counseling, executive coaching, life coaching, team building, and public speaking, among other applications. If for some reason you and your counselor don't ‘click,’ you have many other choices within our practice.”
Summit Psychological Services is also the only group psychotherapy practice in New Jersey to offer an Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) program that’s based on the models pioneered by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association, Johnson added.
“Horses instinctively react to our deepest feelings and fears,” she explained. “They mirror our subconscious in unexpected ways, and during EAP, clients observe their interactions with horses and can become aware of their hidden issues.”
Another innovative approach utilizes mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, a kind of meditative therapy where patients learn to monitor and observe their thinking patterns when they feel sad, with the goal of changing automatic reactions associated with depression, such as avoidance, an opportunity for reflection and other positive outcomes.
“We’re in a major metropolitan area in a post-9/11 world, and more people, even children, are dealing with more stress,” Johnson said. “They’re seeking help and we’re there to assist them in coping with a variety of issues. We’ve had clients tell us that their life has been profoundly changed for the better after interacting with us.”
Johnson, who said she’s “always liked to help people,” gets a great deal of satisfaction working with patients and helping them to move their lives forward. But as a business owner, she’s also sensitive to market forces.
“Despite the slow economy, our workload hasn’t diminished,” she explained, noting that the practice’s locations are convenient to many New Jersey towns, and is also near the major market of New York City.
Still, “Some of our patients are feeling the economic pinch as insurance companies tighten or otherwise limit reimbursements,” she added. “But we try to work with them creatively—for example we accept we accept many kinds of insurance, as well as Medicare.”
Patients find out about Summit Psychological Services through a number of channels, according to Johnson.
“I’d say that most of our patients arrive here through word-of-mouth referrals from other satisfied clients,” she explained. “We also engage in a great deal of community networking with other healthcare providers who suggest our services to their clients as necessary. We also do some advertising, and of course our website, summitpsychologicalservices.com, offers a great deal of information and drives a fair amount of activity to the practice.”
The professionals at Summit Psychological Services are constantly upgrading their own skills by keeping current with new advances, Johnson says. As people continue to seek them out, the practice is expanding, and is in the process of moving its Cedar Crest office to new, larger quarters in Montclair.
“New Jersey and New York have an enlightened, educated population that’s not afraid to seek out psychological and counseling assistance when it’s needed,” Johnson said. “There’s no longer a stigma attached to therapy, and people are more open with each other and with themselves about the benefits. The services we offer are a kind of life improvement—just as people who go the gym feel better long after their workout, our sessions offer long-term benefits to individuals. For us, this practice is about more than just the bottom-line financial rewards. Instead, we feel rewarded when we can help other people to improve their lives.”