July 17, 2018
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Waypoint Wellness Center Provides A Safe Stopping Point On Journey To Health And Happiness

Dylan Roche
View Bio
August 10, 2017

Skim through social media or talk to a few local parents, and one unfortunate reality of modern life, especially in Anne Arundel County, becomes all too apparent.

“There’s a mental health crisis in this area,” observed Melissa Wellner, M.D., a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist, and the newest member of the team at Waypoint Wellness Center. In fact, as Wellner observed, statistics show that there are not enough mental health services to meet the needs of the Anne Arundel community.

Waypoint Wellness Center is working to change that, however. A two-year endeavor on the part of founders Tana Clarke, Ph.D., and Allyson Kett, Psy.D., Waypoint Wellness has firmly solidified its presence in the mental and emotional health field since it opened its first office in Linthicum in 2015. “Our vision for the practice is to fill some of the gaps for mental health care needs in Anne Arundel County,” Clarke explained.

Clarke and Kett had worked together for about 10 years before they started their own practice. In the two years since, they have brought on more team members one by one, and expanded to open an Annapolis location in spring 2017. A division, Waypoint Behavioral Health, opened under co-ownership of Melissa Hendricks, Ph.D., in July.

A practice like Waypoint Wellness is a rarity. Although it’s common to find groups of psychologists or groups of therapists, integrated groups are hard to find, particularly those that offer services for a wide range of ages fighting a wide range of conditions. “We treat so many different family members, and we can coordinate all that care so much better because our staff is communicating,” said Kett.

In addition to Kett, Clarke, Hendricks and Wellner, the Waypoint team comprises Carly Gaisor, Ph.D.; Cindy Graham, Ph.D.; Lucy Leibowitz, Ph.D.; Clinton Lewin, Psy.D.; and Kimberly English, Ph.D.

“Each of us has a different specialty and niche,” Kett pointed out. For example, Graham has experience working with those on the autism spectrum, and Clarke understands ADHD. Gaisor best grasps the needs of those struggling with self-harm and suicidal thoughts, and Lewin has a background in substance abuse.

“A lot of us trained in hospital settings, in multidisciplinary care,” said Clarke. “So you have people with different specialties sitting and communicating about the patient and making sure we’re covering all our bases. It’s hard to replicate that in a private setting, but that’s certainly the goal.” Taking time to stop and coordinate with other members of the Waypoint staff is a routine that takes place at least once a week and sometimes as often as every day. “It enhances the care and takes it to another level,” Clarke said.

A big part of Waypoint Wellness treatment is a commitment to evidence-based methods, meaning that any methods its doctors and therapists provide are subject to the same standard as other medical treatments. Patients have a safe place to talk and discuss what’s happening in their lives, but the goal is to learn communication tactics and habits to help them overcome those problems. “The important thing is that people are given practical skills and are empowered to be able to address their own needs independently, and they’re going to be given the skills to adapt to new problems too,” Clarke said.

In some cases, such as with their patients as young as 2, that means teaching skills to parents so that parents can act as therapists to support their children.

As Kett emphasizes to her patients, therapy is much more than an hour-long venting session — it’s about learning skills to deal with their problems. “I’m your coach,” she will always tell them. “I’m here to teach you, guide you and encourage you along. I’m not your mom. I’m not your best friend. I’m teaching you how to do it, but you have to do the work.”

Care such as patients get at Waypoint Wellness is of the quality and thoroughness that would be found at Kennedy Krieger Institute or Johns Hopkins University, but in a location closer to home and offered by specialists who live and volunteer right in the community. For Severna Park, which sits conveniently between Waypoint’s Annapolis and Linthicum locations, that’s especially true. Kett, Wellner and Hendricks are Severna Park residents and are active in their children’s schools and in their neighborhoods.

“We’re really integrated into the community; we understand the different dynamics, especially the people who work with children and adolescents,” Kett said. “We know the schools well; we’re really in tune with the personalities and the ups and downs of the community.”

When a tragedy affects the entire community, the Waypoint staff has a more intimate understanding of it and can better empathize with their patients as they try to process the grief or fear.

Outreach is also important. Waypoint staff members are always apt to volunteer for presentations, whether they are at pediatricians’ offices to increase awareness about clinical issues, or at local schools to ensure counselors and psychologists are integrating best practices. Waypoint has even teamed up to share wisdom at medical conferences and local support groups. “We never say no to any opportunity like that, and we actively seek those out,” Clarke explained.

Graham is the team’s unofficial media guru who keeps the Facebook page active with useful information, and she recently appeared on WJAL-TV to discuss obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Mental and emotional health treatment has its challenges and rewards, but most of the Waypoint team agreed that the biggest reward is also a bittersweet one. “I always say discharges are the best days because if you’re discharging a patient from your care and they don’t need a specialist anymore, they’re doing that well,” Wellner said. “You know that when you started with them, they really needed to be in your office, and you’ve had this long relationship with this patient and the family. You’ll miss seeing that person, but you’re so proud of all the work that they’ve put in.”

And when they get the chance to hear from one of their former patients out in the community? That’s a big reward, too. “Because we’re in the community, I’ll run into someone and hear, ‘Oh my gosh, you should see what she’s doing now,’” Kett shared. “It’s amazing to be a part of that journey.”

Waypoint Wellness Center has offices at 1190 Winterson Road in Linthicum and 166 Defense Highway, Suite 203, in Annapolis. For more information, visit www.waypointwellnesscenter.com.

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