At Polaris, we pride ourselves on having some of the best trained, compassionate and personable counselors in the area. In addition to having experience in all our core counseling areas, each counselor has their own area of clinical expertise, ensuring workable solutions based on real world situations and needs. Furthermore, each of our counselors is equally as passionate as the next about helping you!
Feel free to learn more about our counselors and click on our bio’s below! You will get a snapshot of each counselor’s professional experience and personal interests, a list of their favorite book recommendations and testimonials from their clients.
Need more information? Don’t worry. At Polaris, we understand that starting counseling can be a scary experience. Before your first session, your counselor will call to introduce him/herself to you, confirm the time that you will be meeting and will answer any questions. Don’t be shy, we expect you to have questions. Ask away!
Shannon Aldridge is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with extensive experience in working with individuals, couples, children and families. Through the use of psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioral and family systems theories she works with clients to fully explore their struggles, re-establish balance and empower them to maintain healthy relationships. Shannon also possesses a passion for and an understanding of Christian counseling needs.
Amanda is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has over 10 years of experience providing therapeutic support to parents, families, children, teens, couples and individuals. Most of Amanda’s experience has been in child welfare and her areas of expertise include parenting education, child development, child abuse and neglect, co-parenting in separated families, domestic violence, addiction, attachment/bond and group facilitation. Amanda is well versed in family systems theory and utilizes components of several other theories including solution focused, cognitive behavioral and structural.
Marilyn Andrew is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has extensive experience working with children, families, adolescents, and adults with diagnosis of Depression, Anxiety, Attention Deficit, Oppositional Defiant, trauma histories, and Adjustment Disorders.
Julie Barbosa is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 20 years of experience working with individuals, couples, and families. Although Julie tailors her approach to the needs of each client, she finds Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy, and Family Systems Counseling to be the most effective.
Lisa Banner is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. For the last ten plus years, Lisa has worked with groups, individuals, adults, children, adolescents, and families. She is here to support, introduce new life tools, and help her clients heal from and overcome difficult situations. She has an extensive background working with depression, anxiety, self-injury, bipolar, ADD/ADHD, grief, addictions, and cognitive deficits. To identify obstacles and support change she uses cognitive behavioral theories. “We all have struggles. Sometimes asking for help is the hardest thing we do.”
Elizabeth Bulmer is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over nine years of experience working in the field of mental health and counseling. Elizabeth has worked with individuals (from adolescence to geriatric), couples and families dealing with a wide range of issues from relationship problems to depression and anxiety. Elizabeth offers a caring, non judgmental approach to helping people through life transitions, difficulties and emotional pain. She has experience working with those with trauma and abuse history, eating disorders, self harm and suicidal thoughts. Elizabeth believes in a holistic and strengths based approach to healing and uses sessions to encourage personal growth, self-awareness and self-acceptance.
Lauren Sax-Hanninen is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who brings more than a decade of experience to her work with children, adolescents, parents and families. Her approach to treatment helps clients consider their current thoughts and behaviors in order to assess whether these choices positively or negatively affect their quality of life. She also utilizes coping skills training, problem-solving and relaxation strategies in her sessions to help clients bring themselves to a more peaceful center. Her goal is to make therapy a place where clients can learn skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Jennifer Loughran is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with extensive experience working with individuals, children, adolescents, families, and groups. She believes that when people are experiencing difficult times in their lives, the proper support and introduction to new skills will provide a sense of relief and a skill set to be utilized in the future.Her goal for her clients is to walk away from treatment feeling empowered and confident in conquering their day to day struggles. Through the use of Cognitive Behavioral and Solution-Focused Therapy along with the use of problem solving skills and anger management replacement training Jennifer is able to guide her clients toward the emotional balance they are seeking.
Mandy Semenik is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Divorce Mediator and Divorce Coach. She has the ability to put people at ease and get to the heart of the issue. Mandy utilizes a mixture of treatment modalities to provide the best fit for her clients.
Prior to joining Polaris Counseling, Mandy worked for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) providing individual, couple, group and family counseling to children, adolescents and adults. During her time at LSSI, she presented educational seminars to local churches and developed a support group for girls at a local high school. Mandy also provided counseling for students, faculty and staff at Northern Illinois University following the campus shooting in 2008.
James Smithers is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and is the Founder and President of Polaris Counseling. For over a decade, his passion for helping others has led him to become a counselor, consultant and advocate. As a father of six and experienced clinician, James knows how physical, emotional and socioeconomic factors can impact even the strongest of individuals, couples and families. James founded Polaris Counseling to give special attention to the unique needs of his clients in a warm, friendly and supportive environment.
Jenny Wagner is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor with more than ten years of experience in treating children, teens, families, couples and individuals. Her approach to treatment creates a safe space for clients to share their stories, face their fears and find their own solutions to obtain their goals. She utilizes cognitive-behavioral, experiential and family systems theory in her work, and often challenges her clients to have the courage to change the things they can. She also provides addiction treatment and Christian counseling.