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Journey Counseling Services marks a decade in North Liberty

Hosting open house Fri., Aug. 3

NORTH LIBERTY– It’s been a slow burn, but over the course of 10 years, Journey Counseling Services (JCS) has made a solid niche for itself in North Liberty.
Located at 6 Hawkeye Dr. Ste. 105, the ministry offers Christian-based counseling with over 30 years of combined experience.
“As we’ve been doing this longer, I’ve found it to be kind of a unique spot that we’re in, because not a lot of other people do it,” said owner and counselor Holly Smigel.
With a staff of two Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC), JCS works with women, school-aged children, adolescents and couples using a biblical, solution-focused approach to counseling. Hope and compassion are hallmarks of the counseling relationship, driven by goals set in a collaborative process between client and counselor. Counselors generally see clients every couple weeks for up to six months and can diagnose mental health issues and work with psychiatrists and doctors. Specialties include depression and anxiety, marriage and relationship issues, parenting, life changes and faith issues.
Smigel built the practice gradually, first opening at Grace Community Church in 2008.
“They didn’t even have a space for me, so I just used their conference room,” she recalled of her humble beginnings, when she only saw about 10 clients a year.
With a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Iowa, Smigel has worked in a variety of mental health settings over the years, including residential treatment for children and adults, supported living services for adults with mental illness, chemical dependency treatment, crisis counseling, biblical counseling in church settings, hospital programs for adults with chronic mental illness and career counseling. Through JCS, she developed a business model not only founded in a theological basis but also focused on women’s issues. The office maintains a referral relationship with Grace and Parkview Church in Iowa City, as well as various medical doctors in the Corridor.
About four years into her practice, Smigel was joined by Kim Rees. Rees received her master’s in mental health counseling from the University of Northern Iowa and has worked in settings such as residential treatment, emergency shelters, foster care and adoption, adults with chronic mental illness, church and school systems.
“God just grew my heart and my desire to do this work,” she remarked.
JCS opened its current location in 2014 and, between Smigel and Rees, now sees up to 40 women a week, with a variety of literature and resources available to clients. The office accepts Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa, Aetna, United Healthcare and UMR, and works with select Employee Assistance Programs. In addition, a sliding fee scale is offered for those with financial needs.
While the North Liberty area yields a variety of counseling services, Smigel’s office provides a rare Christian-based approach to the community.
“Most of the time, people seek us out because they’re looking for that, and just feel like it’s a safe place to express what they believe in terms of their faith and not have that frowned upon,” she remarked.
The business model has women from Kalona, Washington, and as far as Grinnell seeking counseling.
“They’re willing to drive because it’s not easy to find people that are willing to practice from a Christian perspective that also have the mental health background, the degree and that level of clinical experience,” Smigel explained.
“We just feel like it’s a real privilege to hear people’s stories and to come alongside of them no matter where they’re at in their journey,” Rees said. “This is a journey in life, and just understanding who we are and who God has created us to be and our relationship with Him is so important.”
To celebrate its 10-year landmark, JCS will host an open house Friday, Aug. 3, from 4 to 8 p.m. The event will have door prizes related to self care, such as massages and gift cards, as well as food and refreshments.
A North Liberty resident since 1993, Smigel wants to take the opportunity to familiarize her growing community with her unique practice.
“I just feel it’s important that people know we’re here, and that if they are looking for what I would describe as more of a Christian-focused, we will talk about the Bible and God’s word; we’re not afraid to go there.”
She also cited the importance for individuals to be familiarized when referred to a new practice.
“I like to know what environment I’m sending them into,” Smigel noted of her clients. “I think even more for counseling, it’s nice when people can walk in and see that this is nice, this is comfortable, this feels warm and safe.”