Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC)

Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC)

LAC- another set of letters behind someone’s name. In Montana, LAC represents individuals licensed as an addiction counselor. Just like the LCPC- you are only licensed in the state in which you reside (unless you maintain good standing licensing in other states). In Montana, individuals can apply for a license if they have: an associate of arts degree in alcohol and drug studies, addiction, or substance abuse from an accredited institution; a baccalaureate or advanced degree in alcohol and drug studies, psychology, sociology, social work, or counseling from an accredited institution; or a master’s degree.

What does a LAC do? Individuals seek services with a LAC for a variety of reasons. They may be court ordered or mandated in some way to get a substance abuse evaluation or outpatient treatment. Clients may want to be admitted to inpatient treatment and need a LAC to help with the process. Family members may seek support and guidance or family/couples counseling in general.

So how did I end up where I’m at? In 2005 I graduated from Montana State University-Bozeman with a baccalaureate in Political Science. Not wanting to pursue a career in politics, a friend suggested I talk to Melissa Kelly, LAC, about a job. We met at a local coffee shop and I interviewed for the job that would be a major steppingstone to where I am today.

Gallatin County Re-Entry Program (GCRP) opened in December 2005. This 40-bed, all male, facility received its first residents – 12 men from Montana State Prison, and my life was changed. Initially working the “security” side of pre-release, I was responsible for counts, performing breathalyzer testing, medication audits, financial audits, transporting residents to work, physical checks, and anything else asked of me. Quickly realizing I enjoyed working with residents, I patiently waited for a “treatment” position to open and eventually became a case manager. Not only did I have a case load of residents that I was responsible for reporting to the Department of Corrections (DOC) on their therapeutic process, I was responsible for facilitating groups in Cognitive Principles and Restructuring, Parenting, Life Skills, and eventually a Level II Intense Outpatient Group (under the supervision of Melissa) that included DOC clients that were on community supervision.

While working on the treatment team at the pre-release, I realized that the DOC was doing their best to address the substance use disorders so prevalent in the majority of the clientele, but those with mental health issues seemed to be failing out and being sent back to a higher level of security. I realized then I wanted to be in a mental health field. I changed positions- taking over the administrative assistant duties of coordinating the screenings of potential residents, maintain finances for residents, and anything else Melissa needed to be done. Making the shift in work requirements allowed me to maintain full-time employment and get my master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling.

I was licensed in 2013 as a Professional Counselor and in 2014 as an Addiction Counselor. Having struck out on my own in private practice in late 2013 – I realized I had to stay true to the clients who inspired me. Taking on clients referred from their Probation/Parole Officers, Misdemeanor probation, Child Protective Services, and those mandated to counseling by court order, obtaining dual licensure just seemed “right”. I have yet to meet a client with substance use disorder concerns who doesn’t also have mental health needs as well.

14 years after my life changed by meeting Melissa and helping to open the pre-release in Bozeman, MT – I have come to realize, yet again, there is a population that is potentially being missed. Addiction counselors have the knowledge, ability, and skill set to help clients with concerns related to alcohol, drugs, and destructive behaviors – otherwise known as Impulse Control Disorders or process addictions. These behaviors have diagnostic labels like kleptomania, pyromania, pathological gambling, food addiction, relationship addiction (codependency), pornography addiction, and more. I will write about these in detail SOON!

What is the take-away? Being a dual licensed counselor has gifted me with the opportunity to meet many amazing people at different points in their journey. Realizing the illness has the label “addiction”, the behavior – be it substance use, gambling, eating, etc. – is neutral. We (as a society) have focused heavily on treating substance use disorder and have worked hard to address one specific behavior – thereby allowing the illness to manifest in other ways. Being a set of behaviors with 11 criteria (only requiring 2 to meet a diagnosis), addiction is SNEAKY! The addict brain often lies to us and says, “you’re fine”, “you don’t have problem”, “what you do is no one else’s business”, “you don’t need help”, “you’re not like them” and on and on. SO- I am here to offer support to those who are working to overcome addiction that looks different than using substances. I hope to destigmatize seeking treatment to address an identified illness and let people know that their experience is THEIR experience. Please don’t assume that because you are not using heroin in a gas station bathroom stall – you are not deserving of help from a professional. Your behavior will not be shamed away. In 14 years, I haven’t met a person capable of that feat YET!

There are all kinds of addicts. We each have our own pain and we all look for ways to make that pain go away. The trouble with addiction is that when you are still at a point in the disease when you can stop- you don’t want to. When it has progressed to a point you want to stop- you can’t – not without support and not without discovering new ways to survive the pain and discomfort the destructive behavior was helping you to cope with.

If you are unsure of where to start- I am always willing to answer questions! If that is not a comfortable option, a quick internet search of “addiction counselor” + the area you live should return multiple results. You can also call SAMHSA’s National Helpline 1-800-662-4357, dial the local 2-1-1, or reach out to The Help Center (locals to the Gallatin Valley) at 406-586-3333.   

Wishing you patience, kindness, tolerance, and love!


Coach and Life Strategist

Coach/Life Strategist

What is a coach or life strategist? How is that different from a counselor? What is the advantage of using coaching services? What are the limitations of a coach?

First things first. Therapists and coaches have cross-over in the roles they may play in your life (sounding board, confidant, supporter) which requires a similar skill set. They both ask questions, challenge assumptions, help provide clarity, and assist in finding resources. Most importantly, neither one of them plays the role of problem-solver in your life. YOU are the expert in you and ultimately must live with the outcomes of your decisions.

The differences? Here are a few:  1) Therapists are licensed to counsel clients ONLY in the state in which they reside (unless they carry licenses for more than one state). 2) Therapy is for recovery (from the past, addiction, trauma, unwanted behaviors, etc.) and self-nurturance. 3) There are state and national standards for therapists.

Anyone, with any background, can call themselves a coach. There are no state or federal standards that must be adhered to. However, there are programs that offer certification in coaching and are held to the standards of the International Coach Federation. [I chose a program recommended by the ICF (Life Purpose Institute) and am in the process of earning my certification.] This is a disadvantage to you, the client, looking for a coach. You have no idea what kind of training or education, if any, the potential coach has had.  

So, what is coaching and the role of a coach? Coaching is about DOING and DISCOVERY. It’s about the future. Goals, hopes, and dreams. Coaching is not for analyzing past hurts and figuring out why they play a role in your life today. Coaching is about the here and now and bridging the gap to where you want to be. You may be looking for an assessor (of skills, needs), mentor, facilitator, demonstrator, advisor, supporter, fact finder, motivator, organizer, or planner and a coach can be any or all of these. This is how you will start to narrow down the right fit for you!

A coach will work with you to address your individualized goals from beginning to end and all the stuff in between to develop your full potential. The “in between” often includes blocks and obstacles that may be emotional, or literal, and will need to be addressed to keep you moving forward and on track to living the life you want. How does a coach do this? Motivational interviewing to help gain self-awareness and clarify goals; solution-focused practices to achieve objectives; and a willingness to walk with you through overcoming self-defeating behaviors and unlocking your potential. Even the most highly motivated client can get in their own way and when that happens, I can dig into my tool bag and use evidence-based tools to help you reach your destination.

Let’s talk advantages and limitations to coaching. Advantages to working with a coach includes finding the right fit for you and your goals, wants, dreams, and needs ANYWHERE! You may be in po-dunk Montana (like me!), but the right coach for you may be in London. Scheduling is often more flexible, and you get to meet from the comfort of your own home! You get similar benefits as you would from therapy including personal development/growth, improved skills and changed behavior, and increased self-awareness. The focus of coaching sessions is to set and meet goals (humans are good at setting goals…not so good at achieving them without support and motivation) in a shortened, focused time frame. Finally, coaches serve as a continuous source of inspiration, motivation, and energy to guide you in life transitions and career advancement.  

But it’s not all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. There are limitations and disadvantages of choosing coaching services over therapy or nothing at all. The biggest disadvantage I see with coaching, is that it can be costly. Where counseling is often covered by insurance carriers, coaching services are strictly out-of-pocket expenses (but check with your HSA! The services may qualify!) and rates vary widely based on location of the coach, educational and experiential backgrounds, and type of services offered. For example, an executive coach in L.A. may bill at a rate of $200/hr!!

Other limitations of coaching?

Well, remember, we are not here to tell you what to do. If that is what you are looking for- coaching is not the right fit.

Coaches are also not here to sell you discontent and unhappiness with the life you currently have. If your life is good or good enough- congratulations! We could all use a little less of the FOMO that seems to be highly contagious these days!

If you hate change, coaching and/or therapy, is not right for you. At least, not right now. Having said that, know that you are not unique in wishing for something different but then fearing the thought of having to do the work to get there. It has become commonplace to hear someone say, out loud, how they wish their present was different in some way only to immediately roadblock themselves with the fear of everything that goes in to making lasting change happen.

Finally, coaching is NOT a replacement for therapy. If you need professional counseling services and are unsure where to start, call 2-1-1. In many states, dialing “211” is a shortcut through the maze of health and human service agency resources and operators can help direct you to appropriate referrals.

Here is what I want you to take away from this post: As a coach, my role is to propel you into discovering and achieving future goals. Our time together will be motivational, and solution focused. I may not have a crystal ball or the gift of foresight, but experience has taught me that a failure to plan is a plan to fail…and the best way to predict life?? Design it!

I would love nothing more than to be of assistance in preventing failure from happening to you! The best way to know if coaching is right for you? Start asking questions! Give me a call/text/email/message and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.



Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC)

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC)

What is that? What do all the letters MEAN? What can a counselor help with? How do I pick a counselor? How much does it cost? "I went once when I was kid- it was awful!”

When you search the internet for "counselor in Bozeman, MT" I'm willing to bet you are inundated with returned results. Everyone specializes in something and each offers their own flavor of counseling. So where to start?? First- you need to know "who" you are looking for. Many folks start by contacting their insurance companies for a list of in-network providers. Not only can this step help narrow the search, but it guarantees a lower cost for you, the client. Not all providers can accept Medicare. Some providers choose not to accept Medicaid or insurance at all! An advantage to using a therapist in your insurance provider’s network is that they have been vetted through the insurance company’s credentialing process.

Something else to keep in mind is that the letters behind a counselor’s name are an indicator of what kind and level of education they received as well as what level of care they can potentially provide. Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors (LCPCs) and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) have master’s degrees in psychology, mental health and/or social work.

Counselors work jointly with clients to identify goals and solutions to problems identified by the client. Counselors may help clients work on improving how they communicate, cope with life stressors, or fulfill court-mandated therapy requirements on individual, couples, family, or group levels. Most importantly- they are licensed by the state they reside in to perform services in that state only.

Social Workers can also perform counseling services, but also work with clients to find and access resources to improve a client’s life – think “systems” like hospitals for example. Sometimes hospitals encourage patients to utilize a discharge counselor (usually a social worker) to help set up wrap-around services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, in-home care, state benefits, etc. They, too, are licensed by the state they reside in.

So, what’s the difference? LCPC’s spend their entire master’s program focused on counseling and counseling theories to build their framework while counseling and counseling theory are just one component of a social worker’s education.

Now that we know the difference between a Professional Counselor and a Clinical Social Worker, how will you know who is a good fit for you? My advice? Internet stalk them. Ask friends and family members. Ask in Facebook groups or for a direct referral from your primary care physician. If you are local to the Gallatin Valley- you can call The Help Center for a referral. They keep a database of area clinicians and can narrow potential therapists by the type of insurance you have (or maybe you don’t!), primary presenting issue (anxiety, depression, divorce, etc.), and even if you prefer a specific modality of therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Somatic Experiencing, etc.). Finally, many providers are listed in the Psychology Today database.

The good news is there is someone out there for you. The not-so-good news is you may not find “the one” the first time you meet with a counselor. Make calls and chat with potential therapists before scheduling an initial meeting.


The cost of counseling can be prohibitive for those who really need it but lack the funds or insurance coverage. There are many counselors who practice pro-bono or have a sliding-fee scale. There are agencies that can apply for special funding to cover services needed and there are always interns that are highly supervised by a licensed professional but are not licensed themselves. These individuals need practice hours to get their licenses and have been known to be very accommodating with their schedule for clients.

In the Gallatin Valley the average 50-60minute therapy session is billed at $140. Again, my advice? Ask lots of questions when you communicate with a potential provider.

OKAY- so you have an idea of “who” you are looking for, how to go about finding a provider, and a ballpark idea of cost. BUT you had a terrible experience in your past, and you haven’t been back. Before I go on- I am truly sorry that happened. When you are a child and forced into going by your parents, that can be tough. I only hope their motivation was out of love for you, their child. If you were an adult and had a bad experience- again I am sorry. Can I challenge your fear of counselors for a minute? When you were forced into therapy- someone other than yourself (parents, teachers, coaches) decided there was “something wrong” with you. Today you are an adult (well, you are if you are seeing me in my practice) and YOU get to decide what is and isn’t a problem. You are no longer the “identified patient” and have the guarantee of confidentiality (except in mandatory reporting situations) that a minor is not entitled to. If something isn’t working, tell the therapist so they can address your concern and adjust their behavior. We don’t know what we don’t know!

Secondly, don’t give up! Not everyone is for you. Sometimes you need to try a few therapists out before you find a good fit. Simple, not easy. It can be costly in money, time, and emotional well-being. Retelling your story can be exhausting. So. Exhausting. And you started the search for a reason…right? The benefit to persevering?? Ideally - finding a provider who is a good fit and “sees” you! Did you know the most significant indicator of a client improving is the therapeutic relationship? It’s so important to find the clinician you click with and trust.

So why THIS blog post? My intention was to clear up any questions that you may have had about the “LCPC” behind my name…Four fancy letters that I paid a LOT money for (ha ha) and let people know that I am a licensed counselor. They don’t make me an expert in you. YOU are the expert in you. Those letters simply reflect an education that prepared me to walk with you on your journey in a structured manner.

LCPC is just one component of who I am as a helper. I am also a licensed addiction counselor, am working on certification as a life coach, and will be starting a program for certification in food addiction this fall. Again- LETTERS! If you choose to work with me- let it be for our connection, for your intuition that we are a good fit. Let it be because I showed you who I really am.

I can be found on the web (, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and in the future- Youtube!

Feel free to call/text (406-219-7351), or email me ( with any questions- I am always happy to help!




Managing the Holidays

The holidays can be a stressful time for many people. Families expand. Parents/grandparents/aunts and uncles - all want to spend some time with YOU! But, finding the time and energy to visit all those people can sometimes prove to be difficult. Then, if you manage to do just that...visit everyone - you may be faced with awkward or unwanted conversation. 

How do YOU handle relatives and their questions? How do you avoid WWIII?

Here are some tips that might get you started! Check out the link below:

Community Resources

The Help Center: Services include a 24 hour crisis/suicide hotline, referrals to community resources, telecare, Hearts and Homes, as well as the Sexual Assault Center (advocacy, counseling, community education). 


Haven: Support and assistance for families experiencing domestic violence. Services include: advocacy, 24-hour hotline, survivor support groups, and community education.


Montana 211: Resources, Services, and Disaster Information.  OR you may dial 2-1-1 from a Montana phone number. 


National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Montana:


The Montana Warm Line: Peer support over the phone. M-F 4pm-10pm, SAT-SUN 10am-10pm.


Alcoholics Anonymous:


Narcotics Anonymous:


Montana's Peer Network: information, education, support, and training for those in dual recovery (mental health and addiction).