Programs teaming up to help single moms

Family Services to aid with financial, mental health assistance

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BELOIT — Two programs offered by Family Services of Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois are teaming up to help one group of women: single mothers.

The Stateline Community Foundation grant-funded Wealth Health program for single moms brings Rob Benstead, a financial coach from Consumer Credit Counseling Services, together with therapists Amanda Isunza and Jennifer Jelinek from the Family Counseling Program.

“It’s certainly a tough situation for them (single mothers), experiencing a lot of different issues both from the financial side of things and from the mental health side of things,” Benstead said. “Money and emotion. Money and health. It is all intertwined.”

Family Services has long provided, and will continue to provide, the separate services to its many clients, who aren’t all single mothers. But the financial professionals are not usually qualified to deal with issues of mental health, and the mental health experts aren’t experts in financial planning.

The clients of the Wealth Health program, however, will meet professionals from both fields together. On a case-by-case basis, they will then continue to meet on an ongoing basis, but it won’t necessarily be on a rigid schedule.

And, since it’s grant-funded, it will be free of charge.

The financial service includes an analysis that will take into account both the person’s hopes and dreams as well as the individual’s assets, debts and income. Then they will do exercises and teach strategies, as well as provide tools such as books and a budget system.

One such exercise Benstead mentioned is Money Habitudes, which helps people to understand the relationship between emotion and money what drives their behavior around money.

Meanwhile, the therapists will provide mental health services and bring their professional background to bear.

According to Isunza, many factors that create stress for people can be financial in nature, and she recalled working alongside Benstead with one Wealth Health client who was trying to work full time and support a baby while also struggling with debt.

“I could definitely see the progress she has made, and how those struggles have decreased,” Isunza said.

Benstead said that client now is saving a portion of her income and has a plan in place to pay down her debts.

“That was really neat for me and Amanda to see that progress,” he said.

According to Benstead, financial issues play a role in the total well being of individuals and families, and mental and emotional issues affect financial behavior.

“It can be difficult for someone, when they’re dealing with maybe depression or anxiety, to sort of take time out and take a breath and understand and concentrate on a financial issue,” he said.

According to Isunza, she and the other therapist can assess each individual client’s needs and, depending on those needs, roll out a variety of psychotherapy techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps clients change negative thoughts; dialectical behavior therapy, which focuses on the present; or eye movement desensitization therapy, which works for people suffering from past traumas.

Potential clients are referred to the program from within the Family Services, and the people behind the new program are also trying to get the word out about it via other social service agencies, according to Benstead.

Single mothers who want to become a part of the Wealth Health program can also call 608-365-1244.

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