Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Jo Thyr ready to serve mental health needs as therapist at Promise

by Derrick Vander Waal

SIOUX CENTER, IOWA – Jo Thyr is eager to transition into behavioral health counseling at Promise Community Health Center in Sioux Center after serving as a medical social worker for most of her career.

She sees it as a natural progression.
Jo Thyr, a licensed master social worker
(LMSW), looks forward to walking alongside
people as they go through difficult situations
in their lives as the behavioral health therapist
at Promise Community Health Center in Sioux
Center. She will begin seeing patients at the
health center on a full-time basis this month.

It’s also a natural progression for Promise as the health center moves from providing part-time behavioral/mental health services on a contractual basis with partner organizations to having its own full-time behavioral health therapist on staff. In doing so, Promise also will expand into offering substance abuse services as Jo becomes certified in that area – with a particular focus of addressing people’s addiction to opioids, which are drugs used to reduce pain.

“I understand the connection between the physical and emotional aspects of someone’s life,” Jo said. “A new medical diagnosis or adjustments with medical situations can affect someone emotionally. At times, anxiety and depression can develop. I believe I will still be teaching Promise patients, such as in the case of developing more positive coping skills.”

She finds it highly rewarding “to observe someone taking back control over their emotional lives.”

“Overall, people are resilient and have strengths they may not notice in themselves,” she said. “I am honored to walk alongside those who find themselves in a difficult spot in their lives.”

Thyr grew up on a farm near Gowrie in central Iowa and graduated from high school there. She then went on to Northwestern College in Orange City, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in social work in 1982.

She then served as a social worker for about 30 years for various medical services, including Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo; Villa Health Care Center in Mora, MN; Greater Sioux County Hospice in Sioux Center; and, most recently for 20 years, at Orange City Area Health System. For the past school year, she served as an assistant professor of social work at Northwestern College. She earned her licensed master of social work (LMSW) degree from the University of Iowa in May 2017.

Jo now is eager to care for patients at Promise. After serving on a limited, part-time basis for a few months, she assumed her full-time role in June. She will begin seeing new patients on Monday, June 18, with the help of new behavioral health coordinator and interpreter, Michelle van Beek.

Here are her reflections as she begins this new role:

Q. Why were you interested in serving at Promise Community Health Center?
A. I am interested in serving at Promise Community Health Center because I believe in its mission, vision and values. I especially was drawn to Promise’s values of acceptance, teamwork and integrity. Those Promise serves have the right to be accepted and respected. I appreciate that Promise is welcoming to those no matter the income, ethnic background or life experience. Promise works with those who may find themselves in a financial crisis but still need services. Promise provides holistic care looking at the whole person, not just the physical aspects. I appreciate Promise’s acceptance of others, respectful care and adaptation to the needs of community members in this area of Iowa. I am honored to be a part of an organization where everyone is welcome. This inclusive nature is much needed in our world today.

Q. In particular, what interests you about this opportunity to provide behavioral/mental health services at Promise?
A. Promise is already helping our area to become healthier in order to grow. I believe the addition of full-time behavioral health services will also help this area to grow emotionally healthier. We human beings come with our bodies, as well as our minds. These two aspects are very intricately connected.

Q. How would you describe behavioral health care in simple wording?
A. In simple wording, behavioral health care is walking alongside someone when they are going through difficult situations or stressors in their lives.

Q. Why are behavioral health care services so important? Why should they be integrated with primary care?
A. Behavioral health services should be integrated with primary care due to the importance of the mind/body connection. Combining behavioral health with primary care can lead people to more quality of life, as well as a healthier life. I will work closely with our medical providers to assess patients’ needs and be available for a referral as soon as possible. Consulting and collaboration will be my priorities in working with the clinic providers. Providing consistent, full-time behavioral health services will be an asset to the already amazing services that Promise provides.

Q. How else will you be able to help patients?
A. The behavioral health services of Promise will also include counseling to assist with substance abuse, opioid abuse, mental or physical illness, poverty or unemployment. In behavioral health, we will also provide bilingual therapy with a caring behavioral health coordinator as the interpreter. This again reminds me of the respectful care that Promise provides its patients.

Q. What do you hope you can bring to Promise in your role?
A. I hope to bring a positive, refreshing perspective about behavioral health to Promise. It takes courage to share life’s struggles with a therapist. I want to help break down the barriers or possible uncomfortable feelings about sharing. I want to provide a safe, welcoming area for those to share in a confidential setting. I desire to build bridges for others to be healthier in all aspects of their lives. This would entail the holistic services that are provided by Promise. Behavioral health services will now be more accessible to our patients, as this will be offered on a full-time basis. Offering services when a patient needs it is vital to the community and those we will serve. I am excited and honored to be a part of the team and offer quality services.

Q. What are your impressions of Promise as an organization?
A. My initial impressions of Promise were those of respect for all persons, inclusivity, as well as integrity. I believe these aspects are vital to the success of an organization. I learned that services are patient-centered, which also shows the value that Promise places on its patients and their families. I observed positive teamwork within the various departments at Promise as well. Teamwork says a lot about an organization, and I am proud to be a part of the Promise team of providers and staff.

Promise Community Health Center of Sioux Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center serving the northwest corner of Iowa. Promise provides medical, prenatal, dental, vision, behavioral health and family planning services. To learn more, visit and watch this video. To read more Promise news, visit

Jo Thyr will see patients for behavioral/mental health care during the following hours at Promise Community Health Center: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday. To make an appointment, call 712-722-1700. To learn more about Promise’s behavioral health services expansion, read this story.

Jo Thyr and her husband, Kevin, live in Orange City. They have five children and six grandchildren who live in places throughout the country: Seattle, WA; San Francisco, CA; Honolulu, HI; and Mahnomen, MN; and as a student at Northwestern College in Orange City. In her spare time, Jo enjoys drinking coffee with friends and family, sitting on her deck, reading and showing hospitality to others – with the coffee is always on at home for visitors.