Mary Onstead, LCSW


Onstead counseling services

Hours:  Mon, Wed & Thu 8am-5pm | Tue 11am-8pm | Fri 8am-4pm 

call: 814-445-9930  |  email us 

My long and winding road began in Somerset, as the third of eight children.  My father was a psychiatrist, and my mother was an RN who stayed home with us for most of my childhood, returning to work and later becoming a nurse-midwife.  Being surrounded by medical and mental health discussions through my childhood left me fairly certain that neither of them were for me!   Yet studying retail management at college never felt right.  A very wise advisor suggested I take a year of “any course that interests you,” and at the end of the year my social work course was far and away the best experience I had had at school.  I received my bachelor’s degree in social work in 1984.

My work experiences have been varied over the years, starting with work at a residential camp for emotionally disturbed youth in NH (thank you Wediko Children’s Services).  After my first few summers there it led to work in Boston and eventually I earned my master’s in social work (MSW) in 1989.  Other early work experiences included inpatient psychiatry and chemical dependency programs, school-based therapeutic services, and long-term residential treatment for adolescents.  In addition to Boston, I also worked in the Washington, DC area and Savannah, GA before relocating back to Somerset in 2003.  I was a member of a private group practice in the Richland area for several years before opening my own practice here in 2012.  My career has taken me many places and essentially has strengthened me as a therapist, giving my work more depth and helping me appreciate the ways in which we all struggle.

Since entering the mental health field I have wanted to make therapy interesting, and to de-stigmatize the process.  I often tell clients my wish would be that mental health could be seen in the same light as dental care – to come in twice a year for a “cleaning” so as to avoid most major problems!  This would allow clients to feel less shame about seeking out help, which I see as one of the major obstacles to creating change in our lives.  I am also not as much interested in “techniques” in therapy as much as the relationship between each client and myself.  I don’t adhere to one specific type of therapy, but borrow from many useful models in order to meet the needs of each client.  Thus, the time frame for treatment work is flexible and individual to each client relationship, and is part of the treatment conversation.

I don’t present myself as an advice-giver, or the one with all the right answers, or an “expert” in making life choices.  Rather, I’m here to listen to each client’s story as someone not intimately tied into their relationships, and to offer honest feedback.   I respect that having a mirror held up is a challenging experience but occasionally it’s necessary to be uncomfortable before making a change, or to understand things differently.   I will offer suggestions for change, and work together with each client until the presenting problem(s) are resolved.

If this sounds like something you want to do, please feel free to call at your convenience to discuss your needs.  All calls are confidential. 814-445-9930