Center for Active Minds opens in Lititz

By on September 20, 2019

Offering a refreshing approach to counseling techniques, Dr. Sarah Haas has recently opened The Center of Active Minds at 100 Highlands Drive, in Lititz.

Haas, a Buffalo, N.Y., native and a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, hopes to fill a void in the community’s services by using empirically-based techniques to work with children and teens with behavioral or emotional difficulties.

The Center for Active Minds aims to accommodate an underserved and growing need.

“My experience in this area is that there are a lot fewer therapists who are focused on working with children… my training is pretty intensive in working with kiddos,” Dr. Haas explains. “I like working with kids and adults, but this seems to be a really good fit for my training as well as what the community needed.”

After earning her degree in clinical psychology from the University of Buffalo, Dr. Haas, who prefers her clients to call her Sarah, worked at Florida International University Center for Children and Families with Dr. William Pelham Jr.

“He is the gentleman who pioneered behavior therapy for kids with ADHD and conduct problems and other attention and behavioral difficulties,” she says about Dr. Pelham. “I was really happy that I got to work very closely with him.”

Upon completing her training, Dr. Sarah was awarded a grant to complete her dissertation on children with ADHD and behavior problems and their memory capacity. She then moved to Ohio to complete an internship with the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. While the focus on mental health was strong, Dr. Sarah’s training had a heavy emphasis on the importance of physical health as well, which brings a bigger-picture approach to her methods.

“One of my catchphrases is mental health is not just mental,” she explains. “I really pitch myself as being very integrative… I rarely, if at all, see a client coming in with anxiety, for example, who is sleeping and eating well and exercising. They all impact each other so it can be short-sighted to focus solely on the mental health concern without discussing the client’s physical activities as well…Those things are so important. That’s why I focus on sleeping and eating as part of my integrated treatment. When those things aren’t as impairing, we can better focus on what’s really going on mentally.”

The emphasis on physical health in relation to techniques to improve mental health all goes into to Sarah’s belief that therapy is a treatment, not a lifestyle.

“My goal is for me to be fired,” she says with vibrance. “I love telling my clients that. I want to be an integral part of your life but not forever. I just want to see people achieve their goals, be successful, and get out of here.”

Dr. Sarah Haas of the Center of Active Minds of Lititz. Photo by Carlee Nilphai.

Despite her strong belief that counseling is a positive way to achieve success in life, Dr. Sarah understands the stigma that goes along with the idea of therapy. But in Dr. Sarah’s office, transparency and honesty is the number one rule, especially when it comes to working with kids. Even if it gets to the point of terminating herself, the most important thing is doing what is right for the client.

“Research shows that one of the really important factors in you making change is how well you click with your therapist… If you don’t like your therapist, you think they’re full of baloney, you aren’t willing to open up to them — you aren’t going to make progress. So I always tell my clients if you are not clicking with me, that’s really important and I can refer you to someone who might be a better fit.”

That doesn’t mean she gives up without a fight. Understanding that counseling isn’t for everyone and that there are different methods for treating mental illnesses, Dr. Sarah always demands a good chance.

“A kid could come into therapy and they could say ‘I hate her, I don’t want to go to therapy.’ But that could be an avoidance tactic. As long as we give it a good chance, if parents tell me what I can change or what I can do better, as long as it doesn’t contradict my training that’s what we’ll do.”

Even if it creates a path that doesn’t lead to her own practice, Dr. Sarah has a few pieces of advice when picking a therapist. She is a huge advocate for ‘doctor shopping’ as she calls it, and always tries to put client needs before her own. Rather than preaching she is the best out there and advocating for herself, finding out who and what works for her clients is the most important part of therapeutic methods at her practice.

“Look for somebody who niches down. If somebody says that they can do everything, that means that they can do lots of different things okay versus somebody who niches down, they do a few things really well.”

“The other piece of advice I give is looking for folks who do empirically based therapies, which means using techniques that research shows works really well. If somebody is using what the research shows tends to be most effective with you and they’re able to adapt that to your specific impairments and your family’s functioning, that’s what’s going to work.”

In talking with Dr. Sarah, it quickly becomes evident that her practice is all about the well-being of her patients and their improvement. Her spunky and warm personality makes it easy to talk to her, which, according to her, is a top priority when choosing a therapist for all ages.

For more info go to CenterForActiveMinds.com, or call 717-879-9797

Visit her blog for tips and tricks for parents and teachers on relating to children and teens, and how to best understand ADHD or anxiety in children and teens at centerforactiveminds.com/blog.

Carlee Nilphai is a correspondent for The Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at csnilphai@gmail.com. 

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