For as long as she can remember, Dina Mark wanted to empower children and teens to live full and fruitful lives.

This passion inspired Mark to create Heartspace Counseling for Kids, a private counseling practice designed to empower young clients to be successful. Located at 1287 Lake Plaza Drive, the business supports the healthy social and emotional development of children ages 5-18 via coaching, counseling and education.

“Kids are amazing, resilient and fun. I love working with them because they have a wise innocence about them. I want to teach kids to hold onto their authentic selves and love themselves despite their challenges. When we foster self-love and self-acceptance, everyone wins,” Mark said.

Mark specializes in social-emotional learning for children and teens, and parental workshops. Stress management, anxiety reduction, social skills, bullying and aggression and emotional regulation are among her areas of concentration.

She earned a Master of Arts in counseling and human services from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and a Master of Education in elementary education and Bachelor of Science in early childhood education from Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, Ga.

Mark is a national board-certified and licensed school counselor and teacher with more than 20 years of experience working with children and families.

“As a former teacher, school counselor and parent of two Cheyenne Mountain High School students, I understand the rigor and challenges students face every day,” Mark said.

According to Mark, society is experiencing a mental health crisis and suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24. Children are struggling and parents often are at a loss on how to help, she said.

Mark believes social and emotional learning is essential for enhancing a child’s ability to succeed in school and life. Social and emotional learning cultivates critical life skills ranging from establishing and maintaining positive relationships, understanding and managing emotions and responsible decision-making.

“The skills I teach through counseling, coaching, and small group classes are lifelong skills needed to live a happy, healthy, successful life,” Mark said of Heartspace Counseling for Kids, which she opened Sept. 1.

Mark said parents often wait for their child to experience a crisis before seeking counseling. She wants to change that mindset and encourages parents to be proactive with their child’s mental health so the child is able to handle a crisis when it happens.

“We have to be proactive. We have to invest in the mental well-being of our kids, just as we would SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) prep or violin lessons. Their future and the future of our world depends on it,” Mark said.

“We’re all learning how to navigate this world of social media and technology. Not to mention the threat of school violence, stress of nearly two decades of war, heartache of the extreme political and social divide in our country, all while trying to get into the ‘best’ college at an enormous cost. It’s no wonder anxiety and depression are at an all-time high.”

Society is starved for children’s mental health services, Mark said. Schools are working to meet this need, she said, but lack of time and resources often hamper providing students with comprehensive social-emotional learning programs and counseling.

“I hope to meet a tiny part of that need by offering affordable social-emotional learning programs, counseling, and coaching for kids and their parents,” Mark said.

Upon meeting prospective clients, Mark outlines the company’s goals and expectations. The company name, Heartspace, describes the place where people hold their emotions. “Our ‘heartspace’ holds the healing power of love, empathy, and compassion,” Mark said.

The scores of art supplies, pillows and stuffed animals that take up residence in Mark’s office invite visitors to feel at home. “Comfort is key. If the client doesn’t feel comfortable in the space, the therapeutic and/or learning process won’t be successful.”

Presently, Mark is conducting small groups for stress management and anxiety reduction, executive-functioning skills and self-regulation. Her practice also offers daytime groups to accommodate homeschool families, and traditional after-school groups.

In the spring, Mark plans to offer groups to build growth mindset and resiliency, and tackle body image and self-esteem issues. Next summer, she plans to offer weeklong half-day social skills camps for ages 5-12. Intensive study skills and executive functioning programs for older children also will be available. Registration will be held in January.

“I want to help kids and parents live their best lives. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true,” Mark said.

To learn more, call 362-5440 or visit HeartspaceKids.com.

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