by Beth Bahner
It is obvious when you walk into Peace Partnership ““ a Lee’s Summit non-profit counseling practice ““ and meet Dr. Jon Thompson, that you are not in a typical doctor’s office. From the introduction, “Please call me Jon,” to his blue jeans and tennis shoes, one feels immediately atease.
Jon’s vision to break the stereotype of counseling and offer affordable services became a reality when he opened Peace Partnership in 2013. “I want people to feel comfortable and to normalize counseling,” said Jon. “People do not get better in isolation, they get better in community.”
Peace Partnership provides mental health counseling services to individuals and families who are financially disadvantaged. Because 90 percent of Peace Partnership’s funding comes from local businesses, foundations and individuals, it is able to offer services at dramatically reduced rates ““ often below insurance co-pays. The fee structure is based on family size and verified income. The average fee is $20 per session.
Most clients meet with one of Peace Partnership’s three counselors weekly for six to nine months. “We don’t take health insurance,” noted Jon. “Most insurance companies dictate what counselors can and cannot do, and how long therapy can last.” “Our approach is relationship driven, not content driven,” he explained. “Therapy is tailored to each individual. We turn the power and control over to our clients. Our goal is to help them be self-sufficient and productive.”
While Peace Partnership works with couples and other adults, it focuses largely on children ““ 50 percent of its clients are under the age of 17 years. The practice partners with the Lee’s Summit Physicians Group for patient referrals. Otherwise, many clients hear about Peace Partnership through word-of-mouth.
In addition to Jon, Peace Partnership has two other counselors: Dr. Lindsay Bonebrake, a registered play therapist who works with younger children; and Dr. Cary Corley works primarily with families. Both hold Doctorates in Counseling.
“The world is more complex, full of challenges that are way beyond what I dealt with as a young person,” said Jon. He noted that some children in 4th and 5th grades contemplate suicide. Sadly, they are dealing with existential issues, asking themselves what the purpose of life is. Many of these children have at least one parent who is incarcerated. They often ask, if their parent loved them, why did they do something illegal? Bullying and social media also impact suicidal thoughts, especially in older children. With technology, the world is a much smaller place and children and teens have unfettered access to all kinds of information.
In many cases, children and teens are not old enough to understand or digest the information they find online. Jon explained that technology ““ computers, tablets and cell phones ““ is like a relationship. “I tell parents that they would not want their children and teens spending a lot of their time with one person. Likewise, they should strictly limit the time their children spend on devices. It is not healthy and can lead to poor social skills and inappropriate behavior.” Jon can relate to many of his young clients. “I was a high risk child and was kicked out of my parents’ home. Now I am helping high risk children. “I was fortunate that another family took me in. That is one reason why I believe in giving back to my community,” he added.
Jon and Lindsay donate some 25 hours of their time each week counseling high risk children at William Southern Elementary School in Independence and Chapel Lakes Elementary School in Blue Springs. “Principals at other schools are lining up for us to counsel their high”“risk students because of our success rates,” said Jon. He noted that among the students he and Lindsay counsel, attendance is up 60 percent; visits to the office for disruptive behavior is down 40 percent, and grades are up seven percent. Jon is a K-12 certified school counselor. He holds a BA in Biblical counseling, an MA Ed in educational counseling, and a Doctor of Counseling. Since Peace Partnership opened,it has helped some 1,000 clients.
The practice plans to hire another female counselor and move to a larger Lee’s Summit location. The current location is 605 NE Woods Chapel Road. For more information, visit peacecounseling.org.