The name for the Juniper Center was inspired by the life of juniper treesshaped by the wind and sun, junipers form incredible root systems that allow them to survive and thrive with very few resources, in the most inhospitable places.
The Juniper Center is a group of practitioners providing holistic, state of the art care to those wanting to make changes in their lives. "Our team is committed to providing the kind of care that we would want for ourselves or for someone we love," said Dr. Margo Jacquot, the center's founder and director, who is a licensed clinical psychologist, certified supervisory addictions counselor and board-certified expert in traumatic stress. She is a local and national lecturer on trauma recovery, substance abuse, and LGBTQ and couples issues, among other topics.
Jacquot, 52, was born and raised in Chicago and now lives in north suburban Skokie. An out lesbian, she is married to her partner of 20 years and they have two children, ages 11 and 9.
"I had been a private practitioner for many years and 10 years ago, when we adopted our first son, I decided to work toward being home for dinner every night with my family," she said. "This is no small task for a therapist as many of us work evenings. I had always been very fortunate to have a waiting list in my practice and decided to take on an associate to help fill the need. We are now up to 15 therapists and have five locations. As such, I have been able to move into more and more of an administrative role in the practice and to create 'centers within the center' that will more completely meet the needs of those we serve."
All 15 therapists work out of the Juniper Center's suburban Park Ridge office, though several work out of the other locations as well. "We are a team and that feeling of team is incredibly important to the vibe of the practice, no matter what location, and the level of care that we provide," Jacquot said.
The Juniper Center moved into a new, larger office in Park Ridge in early March, outgrowing its former office of the past 18 years.
"I [am] very committed to having a comfortable, welcoming space for our staff and our clients," Jacquot said. "This space also will afford us the opportunity to hold groups, conduct trainings, offer workshops and generally expand our services."
The Juniper Center has smaller satellite offices in Chicago ( at Michigan and Chicago Avenues ) Oak Park, Northfield and Barrington.
"When I began practicing, it was easy to find LGBTQ-affirming therapy services in the city, but many, many people who lived in the suburbs were then tasked with making the long drive to find the help they needed. This was 1996 and I hoped that an office in the suburbs would help meet the need[and] it did," Jacquot said. "My practice filled quickly with LGBTQ people from surrounding areas. I had people driving in from Rockford, Kenosha and Crystal Lake.
"The good news is that the world is changing and there are many LGBTQ friendly/aware therapists to be had. We still pride ourselves on having members of our staff who self-identify as queer, gender variant, GNC, trans*, poly- and/or kink-friendly. Our therapist's personal and professional experiences add a richness to their work with people from these communities. We've been there; we understand."
Jacquot splits her time, serving clients and managing/developing the practiceand she enjoys both roles.
"But the best part of my job is being able to help people find their way out of a partor the entiretyof their lives that causes them pain," she said. "To say that my work is rewarding is an understatement. To have a job that allows me to help people make incredible changes in their lives is an amazing gift."
That's why the most challenging part of her job is simply not being able to serve everyone. "While we have an incredible staff, many of whom will adjust their fees to help serve those in need, we are a for-profit clinic," she said. "We do not receive funding from any external sources. If we do not get paid, we cannot pay our bills. As such, there are times where someone will call for help, but all of our sliding fee scale slots are filled.
"I hate [to] turn away someone in need."
One of the major programs offered at the Juniper Center is the Rainbow Family Center, which provides therapy for people whose relationships do not reflect what might be considered typical. "Whether someone is LGBTQ, pansexual, polyamorous, practicing kink or their relationship is in some way atypical, The Rainbow Family center provides a safe, educated, informed space to work through issues resulting from living with difference and/or just provides a safe space for people to be themselves," Jacquot said.
Jacquot, in the mid-1990s, became a volunteer at Horizons Community Services ( now Center on Halsted ) in their psychotherapy department. "This was an amazing experience for me both in the client work, and also because it was accompanied by the opportunity to participate in a consultation group with other LGBTQ therapistsand of the therapists remains one of my dearest friends to this day," she said.
"There are so many rewarding periods of my career, but I have to say that one experience at the top includes in 2000 being invited to participate in the development of curriculum and to teach in the first LGBTQ Cultural Competency training program for therapists in the country. This was a cooperative effort with some LGBTQ therapist icons in the Chicago area, [such as] Bruce Koff, Jeff Levy and Theo Pintzuk. Howard Brown Health Center, BHC, Center on Halsted and Chicago Center for Family health were all participating agenciesand the program lasted for about seven years, and we trained dozens of therapists. Perhaps the best part for me, in addition to working with such an amazing team, was learning how much I didn't know. I am a much better therapist for having participated in this program."
Jacquot serves as the chair of the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity Section of the Illinois Psychological Association. In addition, she sits on the Legislative Committee of the Association. She said she is "incredibly proud of IPA's championing of legislation to pass marriage equality and currently to ban conversion 'therapy' practices."
Jacquot added, "As a team, we could not be more thrilled at some of the social changes that have occurred over the past few years, [including] marriage equality, a broadening of acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, couples ( poly's ) and families, strides in trans* awareness and acceptance, to name a few," she said. "While there remains much work to be done, we are committed to continuing to expand the safe space that we provide. An example of this safe and affirming space is Gendernautsa new group for trans* and gender non-conforming teens that we will offer this summer. I am excited about the group and our ability to serve these young folks, and I am excited that The Juniper Center will be doing so in collaboration with another LGBTQ-affirming practice, Chicago Counseling Associates."