Jennifer Zerfas, a Licensed Professional Counselor, is a partner at AGAPE Counseling Center LLC in Brandon, South Dakota with specializations in Mental Health & Addiction Services. Jen has a Masters Degree in Community/Agency Counseling and is a National Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor Mental Health (LPC-MH), Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC), and a Quality Mental Health Professional (QMHP).
Jen didn’t start out with her own practice. She spent several years working for different organizations, but says joining the partnership practice as a sole proprietor was the absolute best decision for her. As a counselor, she works with children, families, couples, and individuals to provide mental health and addiction treatment. Active listening is the most critical skill in her field, but relationship building, empathizing, and helping people feel at ease are also important.
What Did You Want to be Growing Up
Growing up, Jen wanted to be a movie star singer….yes that’s right! But, by 5th grade, decided she wanted to be a psychologist and that’s what she did! She said, “Sometimes when I work with kids, I get to role play during a session and that brings out the actress in me…sometimes I even sing.”
Jen became interested in psychology when she started to see a psychologist for general anxiety and depression while dealing with her parents’ divorce. Dr. Joe, as she calls him, inspired her to be who she is today.
She planned on getting a PhD, but put that plan on hold when she endured a nervous breakdown and moved home. While a PhD is still an option, she got through a very challenging time and still pursued her dream career. That experience helps her relate to patients. Having been there herself, she understands what they are going through and how they feel.
When asked what advice she would give to anyone interested in counseling, she said to study both specializations: alcohol and drugs, as they go hand in hand. She recommends having patience with the process and said a common misconception of being a counselor is that patients lay on the couch while she takes notes. She does have a couch, she also has a chair. Believe it or not, sometimes she sits with clients on the floor or even plays games with them in order to build a to connection.
The most challenging aspect of Jen’s job is having too much empathy for her patients. She says she often hurts with her clients, but knows in order to help them she has to learn about their struggles.
She is most proud of her client retention rate which is consistently 100% — nearly unheard of in the counseling profession. But, that just reaffirms she is in the right career!
Jen Zerfas MA, LPC-MH, NCC, LAC, QMHP