by Emily Brooks
In a society so focused on instant gratification, on being the best and always getting ahead, it is easy to forget how to live in the moment. Reports of anxiety and stress are rapidly increasing and not just in adults. Both children and teens are feeling the negative effects of our fast-paced environment, and they are suffering the consequences.
Flourtown therapist Jacquelyn O’Malley, knows this all too well. O’Malley, 44, has been working as a counselor for almost 15 years. With her initial years spent at an agency for delinquent teens, O’Malley decided to open her own private practice in 2011.
“It was certainly rewarding” Jacquie recalls of her time at the agency, “but it was tough. Working with these kids who were mandated to see counselors; seeing their troubled families. I tried to find the positive in everything, but I wanted to be able to get to the kids and the families sooner, so I decided to open my own practice.”
O’Malley began her practice, located at 1101 Bethlehem Pike, with a primary focus on counseling children through play therapy. It is well known that early childhood years are the most formative. According to O’Malley, addressing an issue or concern in these beginning stages of a child’s development, while their tendencies are still malleable, can be a simple solution to prevent potential years of future struggle.
“Play therapy is a way to communicate with children where they don’t need to actually talk very much.” she said. Play for children is their language. By observing a child through play, I can help them work through whatever concerns they have going on. It’s an amazing, amazing thing.”
But as O’Malley, who also worked as a counselor at St. Marks parochial school in Bristol, Bucks County, until this June, continued her work with children and parents, she began to notice a trend: that more than anything, stress and anxiety is the number one hurdle her clients face.
“I see it over and over again, from children to adults; simply being unable to cope with today’s modern demands,” she added.
The issue has grown so significant that this year O’Malley has decided to change the primary focus of her practice. As of mid-August, 1101 Bethlehem Pike will transform into The Lotus Mind: Center for Mindfulness and Wellness. While O’Malley will continue her work with children and play therapy in her private practice, she plans to focus on coaching children ages 5-18 and as well as adults in an eight-week program of mindfulness classes. She said she has one private school signed up so far and three that are interested.
Mindfulness, O’Malley says, is “the ability to focus on the present – what’s happening now without judgment and with kindness.” Through her classes, O’Malley helps students pay attention and be aware of their thoughts and emotions instead of being ruled by them.
“Emotions can either enhance or hinder the ability to learn,” she states on her website. “Mindfulness will help you accept the good and the bad.”
Having just completed extensive training at the Mindfulness Schools in California, O’Malley is excited to share the healing strength of mindfulness. In addition to classes held at her office, O’Malley hosts speaking engagements and mindfulness courses at area schools and organizations.
“Counseling and mindfulness practice can be so helpful to all ages and for a variety of different reasons,” she said. “I hope people continue to realize that and that I can continue to be a resource for the community. People should not have to feel like things need to be falling down around them to seek professional advice or view counseling as last resort. Counseling can help any issue become more manageable and also enrich any persons well being. However, there is one caveat: You need to trust and like the person you are seeing.”
O’Malley, who grew up in Ardsley and graduated from Bishop McDevitt High School in 1987, has an undergraduate degree in psychology from St. Joseph’s University and a masters of education in counseling psychology from Temple University. She also has experience working with children with PDD, Asperger’s syndrome and autism.
O’Malley recently started a crowdfunding campaign with causevox.com to help raise funds to assist interested schools in paying for the mindfulness program.
“After all the educational budget cuts,” she explained, “funding is very difficult to come by. This allows people to donate and assist in the funding for a specific school.” (For more on the campaign: projectmindful.causevox.com)
For more information about Jacquelyn, call 215-370-1626 or visit www.jacquelynomalley.com.