M. Craig Counseling Services Looks to Expand after Pandemic’s Challenges
Mark Craig formed his private practice in 2014 while also working in the emergency department at UnityPoint Methodist Hospital. He received his Bachelor of Science in 2007 from Bradley University and continued his education there to receive his master’s degree in 2011.
Even though working full-time in the emergency department and building his business simultaneously posed its challenges, he persisted because he believed in what he was doing and thought he could do it.
Craig grew his business by taking on clients and hired Jaimee York as an additional counselor in 2016. M. Craig Counseling Services currently provides individual and couple counseling.
Counseling services are essential, so the practice remained open throughout the pandemic; however, many clients were not comfortable with receiving in-person therapy. Craig offered some telehealth therapy, but not seeing the client face-to-face was challenging for both parties involved.
“It’s really difficult for the client to maintain confidentiality because they’re at home,” Craig said. “It was difficult for myself as the therapist to decipher what’s going on and voice tone, and if we were able to do some video stuff. Nonverbals are really big in therapy, obviously, so when that’s taken away, it can be quite the challenge.”
With a large portion of clients not seeking in-person services during the peak of the pandemic, the practice saw a dip in clientele. Craig started communicating with Jim Foley, director of the Turner Center of Entrepreneurship at Bradley University, in March 2020. Since then, they have spent over 50 hours working together.
“The Illinois Small Business Department was a beacon in a sea of uncertainty, and to stay with that theme, Jim was the lighthouse in a sense,” Craig said. “In contacting Jim, my experience with him was he was patient, kind, thorough, maintained communication … He was this lighthouse that provided so much guidance and so much direction along the way.”
Craig added that Foley provided encouragement as Craig did not have prior business experience to opening the practice. Foley aided in the application process for disaster assistance programs such as two rounds of the Paycheck Protection Program and others through the Small Business Administration.
“Without Jim, it just wouldn’t have happened,” Craig said. “To have him really help me navigate through that was just so beneficial and I’m just so grateful for his wise counsel and encouragement and communication along the way.”
Additionally, Foley has also helped Craig with revamping the practice’s website and establishing more of a presence in the community.
As daily lives started to return to a level of normalcy, some clients were comfortable going back to therapy, and Craig said a new set of issues presented themselves due to the pandemic. Craig mentioned deeper states of depression, isolation, withdrawing, marital discord and anxiety as some of the issues he saw occurring.
“One of the difficulties was helping those clients, and we’re still working through that, helping them navigate those new issues and how to best regulate those new emotions and feelings and thoughts,” Craig said.
As COVID-19 becomes less prevalent, Craig is looking at his plans that were put on hold due to the pandemic. He wants to open another location, hire new counselors and start group therapy sessions. Craig is also planning to start speaking engagements on anxiety reduction at local businesses. These sessions would include how to best manage anxiety at home and in the workplace.
“I love what I do,” Craig said. ‘It’s an honor to really lock arms in a sense with the individuals and the couples who walk through that door. Whether it’s the first time or the 50th time, it takes a lot of courage.”