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Community Highlights: Meet Kelsey Torgerson Dunn, LCSW of Compassionate Counseling

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelsey Torgerson Dunn, LCSW.

Hi Kelsey, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
After working for years as a therapist in non-profit and school settings, I found myself feeling really burned out. I had a huge caseload, I couldn’t see my clients as regularly as I wanted, and I always felt like I was unable to clinically give them everything I wanted to.

I also found, time after time, that the students who were referred to me for anger management issues, or for “conduct disorder,” often had something going on, hidden underneath the surface. Those angry kids and teens had experienced trauma, grief, and loss, or, the big one that I specialize in, ANXIETY.

Having a huge caseload, and noticing that these angry/anxious kids were often falling through the cracks, was the real push to open up my private practice, Compassionate Counseling St. Louis, which specializes in treating anxiety-driven anger for kids, teens, and young adults, age 4-25.

It also inspired me to write my book that was published just this year, When Anxiety Makes You Angry: CBT Anger Management Skills for Teens With Anxiety-Driven Anger.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It’s a big step to go out on your own. It’s also a big step to go from a non-profit setting, where you’re expected to treat everyone and everything, to opening up a very specialized practice that serves a small, purposeful caseload.

Compassionate Counseling St. Louis is very client-centered, meaning our therapists are dedicated to providing the best possible treatment to our clients and families.

That means we don’t hassle with insurance (because we don’t want anyone dictating what kind of therapy you need, or how many sessions you’re “allowed” to have), and we have policies and procedures in place that allow us to provide the best, evidence-based therapy that we can.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
At Compassionate Counseling St. Louis, we love working with angry, anxious, and easily overwhelmed kids, teens, and college students. Anxiety can look a lot of different ways.

I always like to remind our families about Fight, Flight, and Freeze. When our nervous system is activated, our brains and bodies are primed to have this immediate reaction, acting like we’re in danger. We want to FIGHT, or FLY and run away from the situation, or FREEZE and play dead.

This makes sense when you’re walking in the woods and you see a bear. This makes a lot less sense when, say, your teacher tells you to be quiet in class, even though you weren’t the only one who was talking. Your brain acts like you’re in danger, even when you’re not.

The thing is, as parents or as teachers, it’s really easy to understand that flight and freeze are anxiety-related. Of course, that nervous kid is shy and has a hard time talking in class, or of course, that anxious teen leaves the slumber party when they feel so nervous.

We forget that FIGHT is an equally valid reaction and that those kids and teens who yell at you in the classroom, punch the kid who’s making fun of them, or talk to you disrespectfully when you’re correcting them, may be experiencing anxiety, too. People who are prone to using the FIGHT reaction when they’re angry have what I call “Anxiety-Driven Anger.”

As a team of therapists, we’re focused on helping kids, teens, college students, and parents recognize that those fight reactions aren’t just due to being angry, or being a bad kid. And no matter if your anxiety looks like a fight, flight, or freeze, we can help you build the coping skills you need to be in charge of your anxiety, instead of feeling like your anxiety is in charge of you.

We provide individual therapy services to kids, teens, and young adults from age 4 through 25. We also are now offering a 4-session parent coaching curriculum, to help parents understand what’s going on and to build skills to help their child or teen.

Parents and young adults can learn more about these programs on our website, compassionatecounselingstl.com. In addition to the therapy services we provide, I also have my self-help book for teens, When Anxiety Makes You Angry, published by New Harbinger. You can access free resources from the book at kelseytorgersondunn.com

Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs, or other resources you think our readers should check out?
I’m such a fan of the Child Mind Institute, which has tons of free resources and guides for parents.

I also love the book Respectful Parenting by Janet Lansbury, and a go-to workbook for our kids with anxiety-driven anger is “What to Do When Your Temper Flares” by Dawn Huebner, Ph.D.

Pricing:

  • $205: 45-minute individual and parent coaching sessions.
  • $255: A 1 time, 60-minute introductory parent coaching session.
  • $300: 45-minute session with Kelsey.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Lindy Drew

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