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This profile was last updated on 9/10/14  and contains information from public web pages.

Kim Johancen-Walt

Wrong Kim Johancen-Walt?


La Plata County Human Services

Employment History

Board Memberships and Affiliations

15 Total References
Web References
By Kim Johancen-Walt August ..., 10 Sept 2014 [cached]
By Kim Johancen-Walt August 19, 2014
Kim Johancen-Walt writes "The Hope Chest" column exclusively for CT Online. She is a licensed professional counselor with almost 20 years of experience. Her clinical experience includes working as a therapist for La Plata County Human Services, where she helped develop a treatment model for adolescents in Durango, Colorado. She has presented her clinical work at mental health conferences nationally, including at the annual conference for the International Society for the Study of Self-Injury. Additional clinical experience includes a position as assistant training director and senior counselor in the Counseling Department at Fort Lewis College. She currently operates a full-time private practice in Durango. Contact her at
Offering that sense of calm and ..., 27 May 2014 [cached]
Offering that sense of calm and acceptance was integral to Kim Johancen-Walt's work with "Jennifer," a client Johancen-Walt calls one of her most memorable. When Johancen-Walt first met Jennifer, then 15, the teenage client was already cutting several times daily, but that soon ballooned to upward of 50 times a day.
"Although Jennifer's family had overcome many challenges and now offered support, she was still struggling with old patterns of thinking that continued to fuel self-injury," says Johancen-Walt, an ACA member who has 20 years of experience working with clients on issues of self-injury and suicide in a variety of settings. A third of her caseload in her private practice in Durango, Colo., involves clients either currently or formerly engaged in self-injury.
Equipped with that information and knowing that Jennifer felt very disconnected from herself and others, Johancen-Walt focused on building her relationship with Jennifer.
I accepted her unconditionally and told her she deserved love and kindness throughout treatment," Johancen-Walt says. "Although the old messages of self-hatred were still there, she now had a different way of defining herself. With my help, along with [that of] many others, she was eventually able to do what I now refer to as 'putting a wedge in the choke hold of self-injury.'"
Johancen-Walt still has a list that Jennifer found online of 72 strategies to avoid self-mutilating.
"She reminded me that just as with other types of addictive behavior, we have to help people replace faulty coping skills with more effective ones," Johancen-Walt says. "This takes time, but eventually the scale can tip and the costs of self-injury can begin to outweigh the benefits [for clients]. She also taught me how quickly habituation can happen and why we have to talk about self-injury from the beginning of treatment."
At the point when Johancen-Walt and Jennifer stopped working together, Jennifer was still having occasional "slips," Johancen-Walt says, but she was also righting herself more quickly and maintaining the progress they had made together. "We both defined her treatment as a success and acknowledged that she was a long way away from where she was at the beginning of treatment," Johancen-Walt says.
Johancen-Walt emphasizes that she represented only one component of the support Jennifer received. Her support system also included her family, the caregivers in residential treatment and the school-based outpatient program where Johancen-Walt was then working as a therapist. "I believe that our work - and relentless support - helped her explore other possible ways of viewing herself in the world and an awareness that reality is subjective," Johancen-Walt says. "Although it took several months, and a break from therapy while in residential treatment, she was finally able to accept care and validation from others, and [she] improved quickly. Her lens had effectively changed," says Johancen-Walt, who contributed a chapter to The Adolescent & Young Adult Self-Harming Treatment Manual by Matthew D. Selekman.
Additionally, Johancen-Walt says, although anyone can be at risk for self-injury, unresolved grief and loss appear to be common risk factors.
Johancen-Walt says that many of her clients who self-injure are referred by others who care about them, including family members, friends, other counselors, teachers or doctors. "Out of those self-referred, many have reached a state of desperation where they feel completely out of control because either the self-injury is no longer working for them or because they know they are becoming more at risk," she says.
Johancen-Walt agrees. "Clients are checking out our comfort level with this topic from the moment they enter our offices," she says. "If I fail to address it, then I risk communicating to my client that I am not safe. If I can't tolerate holding self-injury, then I can't tolerate the reasons they are doing it."
Additionally, if a client relays information about a significant loss, Johancen-Walt typically asks how the client has been coping with the impact of that loss. "This question is an invitation to talk about self-injury if it is in the room," she says.
Johancen-Walt and Wester point out that clients who engage in self-injury often use more than one method.
Probing the question of why these clients self-injure is also crucial, Johancen-Walt says. "People self-mutilate for a variety of reasons, and we have to be careful about making assumptions about a behavior. Over the years, I have received countless answers to that question. However, one of the most common responses I have received is that it serves as a form of 'relief' from emotional suffering. In these instances, it can be both a distraction and expression of emotional pain."
Another common explanation is that clients want to "feel something," Johancen-Walt says, which is usually indicative of those who feel incredibly disconnected from themselves and from those around them. Although less common, Johancen-Walt says some clients use self-injury as a form of self-punishment. "They have come to believe that they have to be punished, not only for their mistakes, but also for the mistakes of those around them," she says.
Counselors must be careful not to make assumptions about these clients, especially concerning whether they are "attention seeking" or "manipulative," Johancen-Walt says.
Johancen-Walt says she also tries to help clients externalize the self-injury. "I will teach clients who are ashamed and not wanting to talk about their behavior or what is fueling it that self-injury wants them to stay silent," she says.
Externalizing the behavior can also reduce resistance on the part of the client, Johancen-Walt says, helping the counselor and client to form a united front against self-injury.
Buser says researchers have found that individuals who engage in NSSI are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts, and Johancen-Walt adds that suicide risk increases the longer someone engages in self-injury.
Johancen-Walt emphasizes that counselors should not assume that clients engaged in self-injury are suicidal because many are not. "However," she says, "if self-injury is not addressed in treatment, a client's risk of suicide may increase over time.
Remember that the end goal may not be to eliminate the self-injurious behavior completely, Johancen-Walt says. Instead, it may be to change the client's relationship with the behavior. "For example," she says, "when the client is triggered and experiences an urge to 'use,' they can view that event as an opportunity to practice more effective coping skills, to figure out what they need and to validate themselves. This is a process I refer to as 'shaking hands' with self-injury."
Johancen-Walt says counselors must also understand that these clients are engaging in self-injury in an attempt to survive; otherwise, they wouldn't be doing it. She encourages counselors to share that sense of understanding with their clients. "I have had several clients over the years tell me that if they had not been self-mutilating they would have completed suicide," she says.
Finding the "soft spot" within each client means recognizing that each individual is unique - something Johancen-Walt says is vital in this work. One of her mentors taught her that counselors get into trouble as soon as they think they have clients figured out. Johancen-Walt carries that lesson with her, especially in her work with self-injuring clients.
"This is an important reminder for therapists who may think they have 'seen it all,'" she says.
Kim Johancen-Walt at
Board of Directors - SPCC, 30 Dec 2013 [cached]
Kim Johancen-Walt, Licensed Counselor and Assistant Training Director at Fort Lewis College
At age 16, Kim Johancen-Walt ..., 1 July 2010 [cached]
At age 16, Kim Johancen-Walt became a suicide survivor after her brother, Kevin, took his own life through carbon monoxide poisoning in 1988.
Johancen-Walt, who grew up in a suburb of Denver, recalls being both deeply saddened and incredibly angry with her brother for ending his life. "I remember [a friend's father] telling me the night Kevin was found that there would never be a day in my life that I wouldn't think about my brother and the circumstances surrounding his death," says Johancen-Walt, an American Counseling Association member who works in private practice in Durango, Colo., and serves as a senior counselor and assistant training director at Fort Lewis College. "Although I am happy to say that I actually have had days - many, in fact - that I have not thought about Kevin or his suicide, those words were my first lesson in coming to terms with how much my life was going to be changed. Accepting the full impact of my brother's decision to commit suicide has been an essential part of my own healing process."
After her brother's death, her own life took an altered path, Johancen-Walt says, which included developing a passion for suicide prevention. Growing up, Johancen-Walt was sexually abused by her brother. Although it was never confirmed, her family believes Kevin was also sexually abused at a babysitter's house when he was a child. "Kevin had untreated anxiety, had developed a substance abuse problem with alcohol and was having problems at work and in meaningful relationships at the time of his death," Johancen-Walt says.
"From my experience, there is great opportunity for the counselor who has a suicidal client who is talking about [his or her] suicidal thoughts or behaviors," concurs Johancen-Walt.
That said, Johancen-Walt believes a client's previous suicide attempt is a risk factor strongly deserving of counselors' attention.
Johancen-Walt offers several treatment suggestions to counselors. First, she says, give unconditional acceptance. "Early in treatment, I offer clients my belief that they are doing the best they can to survive painful thoughts and feelings. Suicidal and other self-destructive behaviors serve as coping strategies for many clients desperate for emotional relief. By framing behaviors this way, we can create a therapeutic container absent of judgment while also targeting feelings of shame that may contribute to the isolation many suicidal clients feel."
Next, ask the client direct questions and create a safe space for talking about feelings, Johancen-Walt says. Also helpful is exploring client supports and resources. "To foster an environment in which change is possible, it is important to help the client identify supportive others in their life while also capitalizing on the client's inherent strengths," she says. "For example, through the exploration of how a client may have survived a previous crisis, the counselor can assist the client in creating a list of specific skills and strategies that can help the client survive current challenges."
Strive to understand the client's unique experience, she adds, because the client might be more willing to try out new skills and strategies with a counselor who "gets it. Finally, teach clients effective coping skills. "Many clients engaged in either suicidal or other forms of self-destructive behavior have a limited toolbox of coping strategies," Johancen-Walt says.
Hope is another key ingredient, Johancen-Walt adds.
"It is important to ask clients why they are feeling suicidal instead of only focusing on their behaviors," Johancen-Walt says.
"Through ongoing assessment, we are able to also highlight our clients' success while identifying potential roadblocks to recovery," Johancen-Walt says.
"It is important that we are helping our clients set themselves up for success in regard to their therapeutic treatment goals," Johancen-Walt says.
DON'T work in isolation, Johancen-Walt says.
DON'T give up, Johancen-Walt says. "It is important always to communicate to our clients that their lives are worth saving, even if they do not believe it in a painful moment. We can hold hope for our clients until they are ready to hold it for themselves."
All recommendations aside, Johancen-Walt says it is important to remember that both the counselor and the client share responsibility in preventing suicide. "As a counselor and also as a survivor of suicide, I believe that if a client has committed suicide, it is important to look at our responsibility as mental health providers and as a larger community that strives to prevent suicide. Through this process, I believe we may find opportunity to strengthen our prevention efforts."
But no less important, she adds, is the subsequent ability to let it go. "In fact," Johancen-Walt says, "I routinely tell counselors that they will not last in this field if they are not able to ultimately give responsibility for the client's life back to the client."
The treatments have been employed to ..., 21 Dec 2010 [cached]
The treatments have been employed to treat trauma not only among sexual-assault victims and returning military personnel but also abused children, accident survivors and natural-disaster victims, said Kim Johancen-Walt, a counselor at Fort Lewis College and therapist in private practice.
All sexual-assault victims dont develop post-trauma stress disorder, Johancen-Walt said. But 50 percent of them experience PTSD compared to 15 percent of victims of other types of trauma.
The goal of therapy is to find meaning out of what happened, she said.
An unidentified woman who has been a victim of rape three times meets every week with Fort Lewis College counselor Kim Johancen-Walt to discuss the memories and emotions of her trauma.
Kim Johancen-Walt, 946-8737.
Her therapist, Kim Johancen-Walt, an FLC counselor and therapist in private practice, said the womans reaction is typical of victims of sexual assault. The woman in her poetry wrote: I tried to tell you, but the words I was screaming were being hurled at ears that could not hear. Over five years, the woman descended into drug and alcohol abuse and was raped twice more and suffered an attempted assault by the first attacker. In time, the woman stopped her substance abuse, but it has taken much longer to open up. Im talking about my experience because it has happened and could happen to many women, making them think theyre alone, she said. Each experience is different, but each is valid. At FLC, she copes by meeting weekly or biweekly with Johancen-Walt. Johancen-Walt said in the womans therapy sessions, she forges forward little by little in confronting painful memories. I think she has tremendous resilience, Johancen-Walt said.
Therapist Kim Johancen-Walt, left, said she makes sure that the healing process makes sense to a victim and doesn't cause renewed anguish. Johancen-Walt and other local therapists are using counseling techniques similar to those used on war veterans, centering on healing the body as much as the mind.
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