Virtually worry free: Briercrest alum provides online counselling for clients with anxiety disorders

Julie Cole | Aug 22, 2013
Stacey Ellertson with his wife LeeAnne and daughters Cara Marie (left) and Kahlan. (Submitted photo) Stacey Ellertson with his wife LeeAnne and daughters Cara Marie (left) and Kahlan. (Submitted photo)Stacey Ellertson with his wife LeeAnne and daughters Cara Marie (left) and Kahlan. (Submitted photo)

Thanks to the World Wide Web, Stacey Ellertson has found an important niche to fill in the field of mental health. 

“I specialize in providing anxiety and stress disorder therapy for clients . . . via Skype, Google Chat, Face Time – whatever social options are available,” he said.

He chuckles as he considers his work providing counselling via the Internet.

“I couldn’t have planned it,” he says.

The Briercrest alumnus graduated in 2003 with two seminary degrees – an MA leadership and management and an MA Christian ministry with a marriage and family counselling focus.

“I came out with a better understanding of who I am, and how I represent God in my leadership and as a therapist,” he said about the impact of his time at Briercrest.

Upon graduation, Ellertson followed a more conventional career path.

“Until 2006 I was doing two half-time jobs,” he explained. “(I was) serving as an associate (counselling) pastor but also working as an executive director for nonprofits like Big Brothers/Big Sisters. In 2006 the Anxiety Centre brought me on board. I’ve been with them ever since.”

Anxietycentre.com is a resource website that provides viewers with information about the wide variety of anxiety disorders.  For additional fees there are self-help resources as well as personal counselling, which is what Ellertson provides.

Ellertson, who lives Swift Current with his wife LeeAnne and their two daughters, understands anxiety first-hand.

“When I was in (seminary), I had my very first panic attack,” he explained. “I was having panic attacks every day to every second day for the period of a year.”

Counselling and a self-help program eventually helped the seminary student overcome his anxiety.

“I ordered a program by Lucinda Bassett from the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety,” he said. “But I also was in my counselling program at the time so we were doing peer counselling. One of the other students and I would counsel each other. So I was able to talk about some of the underlying issues that created anxiety for me. . . that’s how I was able to overcome it.”

Having successfully dealt with his own anxiety, Ellertson felt the counselling work through Anxiety Centre might be a good fit, but he was a bit hesitant at first.

“I was a little suspicious about how it would work doing Skype and Internet-based counselling,” he admitted. “I was used to doing things in person but I was surprised to discover that especially for anxiety and stress related clients, it works better because people can work from the comfort of their own home. The only discomfort they have to deal with is talking to a stranger. That’s easier when it’s from your home or on the phone. That seems to create a sense of safety.”

With internet counsellors being self-employed, Ellertson says he has been challenged to trust God more completely for his finances.

“I can’t rely on my skills. I can’t rely on my abilities,” he said. “I have skills and abilities – I’ve got to do my part but I’m 100% reliant on God providing work for me. He has been always there every step of the way.”

The counsellor is quick to answer what he finds most rewarding about his job.

“I love it when my clients get it,” he exclaimed. “There’s nothing more rewarding when you get a client whose life is debilitated by anxiety and stress and you get them to a point of recovery where they get a job – they live life to their fullest.”

“Stacey gave me the ability to breathe again (literally) after our first appointment,” wrote one client in his testimonial on the Anxiety Centre webpage.  “Stacey has shown compassion when needed and held me accountable at all times. He has provided me with all the tools needed to move forward with confidence and balance.”

Ellertson seems to take such praises in stride.

“(I tell clients) ‘I don’t want you to share a testimony that is going to be about me as your therapist,’” he said. “’I want you to share about your story because I really believe that when you share honestly about your experience, it’s going to help others want to get the help that they need. That’s the most important part – when a person makes that shift and they get it. I know other people are going to have the courage to get it too.’”