Press Release


Downing to join Champion State of Mind

Downing to join Champion State of Mind

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Champion State of Mind is proud to announce the addition of Annie Downing as their newest mental health therapist beginning in February 2018.

Downing will see clients in Estherville, Okoboji (satellite office) and provide school-based therapy in the Okoboji School District.

"I look forward to joining Champion as it will allow me to continue serving my current clients in the Iowa Great Lakes as well as expand into the Estherville area," Downing said. "Transitioning to private practice has been one of my long-term goals for quite some time. By joining CSM, it will allow me to broaden my scope, both therapeutically and geographically. I look forward to the partnership with CSM and the potential for future changes which will positively impact the clients we serve."

As a native of northwest Iowa, Downing has been serving children, adults and families in the area for the past eight years. Downing holds a masters degree in social work from the University of Northern Iowa. She is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Iowa and a registered play therapist.

Downing specializes in working with children and adolescents, trauma issues, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, eating disorders, adjustment issues, anxiety and depression. She is trained in cognitive behavioral play therapy (CBPT), Adlerian play therapy, parent child interaction therapy (PCIT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), lifespan integration therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Downing also has experience working with adults and families with trauma issues, depression, anxiety and adjustment issues.

"Annie's dedication to quality mental health partnered with her compassionate and tenacious spirit, undoubtedly will be an empowering combination with CSM," Amanda J. Olson MS, LMHC, NCC; Founder and CEO of Champion State of Mind, said. "We are thrilled to have Annie as part of our growing team."

Champion State of Mind is a private-practice mental health company based out of Estherville. CSM offers a range of mental health service options to assist youth, adults, couples and families with emotional, behavioral and traumatic issues which include: Trauma-informed care, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), play therapy, art in therapy, animal assisted therapy (AAT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), grief and loss therapy, lifespan development, LGBT counseling and solution-focused brief therapy.

Anyone looking for appointment availability or general information related to Annie Downing and Champion State of Mind may contact their office by calling 1-800-592-0180, Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. or visit their website at

Mental Health First Aid empowers crisis responders

Mental Health First Aid empowers crisis responders
Iowa Lakes CC, Champion State of Mind sponsor first public Mental Health First Aid class Wednesday

Estherville Daily News
September 2016

About 35 people became certified in Mental Health First Aid Wednesday. Miranda DePyper, director of EMT and emergency services for Iowa Lakes Community College, and Darrin Adams of the Emmetsburg Police Department became instructors of the class after traveling to Seattle to qualify as instructors.

Amanda Olson, owner and head therapist of Champion State of Mind in Estherville, had wanted to get the class to Estherville for the last couple of years.

DePyper said, “The brain is the most complex organ of the body.”

Adams said, “Two of the biggest problems are stigma and access. It gets down to money.”

Mental health first responders are trained to assist and intervene until a person in crisis is connected with appropriate professional help.

Just like the procedure first responders learn for CPR: C–A–B, which stands for chest compressions, airway, and breathing, Mental Health First Aid provides an action plan on how to help a person in a mental health crisis. Its mnemonic is ALGEE:

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
  • Listen non–judgmentally.
  • Give reassurance and information.
  • Encourage appropriate professional help.
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

Olson and therapy dog, Murphy visited class to talk about animal assisted therapy and trauma informed therapy.

“If we encounter something unknown [like mental illness] – we can be very scared of it,” Olson said. “Mental health issues are not something we can see like a broken leg. Mental Health First Aid really gives an introductory level knowledge of mental health issues and empowers people by teaching them what to do.”

Adams said, “I use Mental Health First Aid dang near daily in my job.”

Olson said, “Despite mental illness, there is a future. You can heal.”

Loverink joins Champion State of Mind

Loverink joins Champion State of Mind

Estherville Daily News
July 2017

Suzan Loverink, LMHC, has joined Amanda Olson at Champion State of Mind in Estherville as its newest Mental Health Therapist. Loverink will be working part time, and is accepting new clients with immediate openings available.

Olson said, "I am beyond thrilled to be working with Suzan, and excited for the support she brings to our community."

Loverink is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Iowa and a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. She holds a Master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.

Loverink's specialties include working with children and adolescents with adjustment disorders, anxiety disorders, ADD/ADHD, depression, and trauma issues, as well as adults with trauma issues, depression, anxiety, and personality disorders.

Loverink also works with couples and families. She is trained in PCIT (Parent-Child Interaction Therapy), DBT (Dialectic-Behavioral Therapy), and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing for trauma). Loverink also works with children and adolescents in school-based therapy.

Olson brings promising therapy techniques to Emmet County

Olson brings promising therapy techniques to Emmet County
A Champion State of Mind is Amanda Olson’s solutions-based therapy practice

Estherville Daily News
August 2016

When Amanda Olson was asked how she became interested in the mental health field, Olson reflected back that her high school guidance counselor told her years later that even as a student she was escorting upset classmates to the guidance office. “I’m told I have an approachable personality and a natural ability to comfort others,” Olson said. These qualities partnered with Amanda’s passion for mental health lead her into the counseling field.

“I have an enormous passion for empowering others. Sometimes people need help finding the light within the darkness,” Olson said.
Mental health issues can originate from many areas such as a person’s environment, from other health issues, from genetics, and from the stress of life in general, Olson said.
Olson’s face lights up when she talks about two of her therapeutic special interests: Animal-Assisted therapy and EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.
Enter Murphy, the therapy dog. Murphy, a one-year-old black Labrador Retriever, is a re-careered dog from the Puppy Jake Foundation in Des Moines. The Puppy Jake Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to help wounded military veterans with the assistance of well-bred and professionally trained service dogs.

“Service dogs have a rigorous program. They are highly trained animals who must meet exceptionally high standards,” Olson said.
“To qualify as a certified PTSD service animal requires high point marking in multiple areas of testing,“ Olson said. Such as navigating large crowds, waiting patiently for long periods, or ignoring all distractions. “Sometimes, however, you find a dog that scores high in some testing areas, but average in others,” Olson said. When this happens, the dogs are then re-careered to an adoptive family.

That description fits Murphy, who is very disciplined while in his vest, but is highly attuned to the passing squirrel and finds some outdoor distractions hard to resist. “We were more than thrilled to adopt and re-career Murphy as a therapy dog,” Olson said.

Murphy wears a bright blue vest when he is working. He helps people who have experienced trauma, as well as people with anxiety and depression in large part by his presence. With some patients he sits beside them on the couch, and some patients like to sprawl on the floor with him. Much of the time, he sits on the floor and allows the patient to pet him.

Murphy would also be suited to visiting nursing homes and other facilities on a volunteer basis, Olson said. “We would love to give back to the community that way,” Olson said.
When the vest comes off, Murphy doesn’t hide his feelings. He shakes. And shakes. And shakes some more. Then he is in play mode, wiggling and kissing, and offering his belly for a rub like any other yearling Lab pup. “I think it is also important for Murphy to take a break from work and simply be a playful dog.” Olson said.

“I am interested in methods that help the brain heal itself,” Olson said. EMDR is one way to help people who have experienced a traumatic event and get “stuck” in the memories, Olson said.

“With frightening experiences like accidents, abuse, violence, death and natural disasters, and also divorce and other relationship issues occur, someone can lose a sense of control over their lives,” Olson said.

“The best way to get unstuck from repeating the cycles of trauma and avoidance of anything associated with the events, or of nightmares, expressions of anger, guilt, anxiety, and depression, is to work through the memories or troubling events until they are less traumatic,” Olson said.

EMDR has been used to treat people who lived through traumatic events such as the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, the Boston Marathon bombings, the Columbine shooting, the Joplin, Missouri tornadoes, and the tragedy of September 11, with positive results.

During EMDR therapy, the client calls to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard, thought, etc. and what thoughts and beliefs they currently hold about the event.

The therapist facilitates the directional movement of the eyes while the client just notices whatever comes to mind without making any effort to control direction or content. Gradually, the memory becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about his or herself. “It is important to know that EMDR is not a type of abrupt exposure therapy. The goal is to help gradually process the trauma from a person’s memory while the client is in control,” Olson said.
“A lot of anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders can come out of trauma,” Olson said. “Trauma is vast.” Olson treats mild to moderate mental health issues. “My practice currently has me as the sole practitioner and is not set up for severe and high risk clients whose conditions require constant attention,” Olson said. In the future, though, this structure may broaden.

Word of mouth “has been huge,” about Olson’s practice since it opened this summer. Olson shares office space with chiropractors and massage therapists on West Central on the outskirts of Estherville. “It’s been really nice for networking, to share a building with chiropractic care and massage therapy,” Olson said.
Olson believes mental health issues are connected to body issues. “The mind, body, soul and spirit are all connected. My practice is holistic at its base,” Olson said.

While raising a young family, Olson works three days per week. “We might open a fourth day, Monday, once school begins. Currently I have only a few openings at this point,” Olson said.
“The need [for mental health services] is so great in Iowa and especially in rural Iowa,” Olson said. “I’d need to clone myself about five times to do what needs to be done here,” Olson said.

Olson shared some tips for self-care for those experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
“Allow yourself to feel. We so often try to talk ourselves out of our own emotions,” Olson said.
“Don’t sugarcoat or suppress them. Be honest with yourself about what you’re feeling,” Olson said.

Having said that, Olson said, “Emotions do not automatically equal fact. Just because you feel a certain way doesn’t always mean it is the truth. Emotions can play tricks on us. You can get stuck in a bubble of your emotional mindset. Such as, we might emotionally believe we’re going to fail a test or that our best friend now hates us, but having these emotions does not make these thoughts 100% true. It is important to take a step back, take deep breathes and logically look at the purpose for your emotions and search for possible solutions to your situation.”
Olson’s hope for the near future is that mental health issues are free of the stigma they now carry.

“If someone has diabetes, and they’ve made healthy diet, exercise and lifestyle changes, but they still need insulin, we say, ‘okay, this person’s condition may still require more medical help.’ But if someone has a mental health issue, which could include a medical chemical imbalance, and they try therapy, lifestyle changes and making positive choices, but still need medication, we as a society tend to say ‘they didn’t try hard enough.’ It is this misconception that continues to perpetuate the stigma against mental health issues.” Olson said. “I don’t prescribe medications, but I do make referrals to other mental health professionals for people who might benefit from medication management options. It’s okay to need help,” Olson said.

Olson stressed that if anyone has thoughts of self- harm or harming others, to reach out to professional help. A mental health provider, primary care doctor or the emergency room are places to get help. Someone could also call The National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 which is open 24/7. “I hope people aren’t afraid to reach out for help when they need it. Please don’t make a permanent decision based on temporary emotions.” Olson said.

Olson has a Master of Science from Walden University in which she specialized in trauma and crisis intervention. Olson, who attended Wartburg College for undergraduate study, is also a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and holds a National Counselor Certification credential and a certification in Leadership and Public Management.