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Bringing hope to Afton

Karen Heyer and her dog Jade help clients work through stress, trauma and depression at the House of Hope in Afton. Staff photo by Riham Feshir

That charming old house on St. Croix Trail in Afton with the big porch isn't just home to Afton Leather and a couple of residential tenants.

It's also where The House of Hope Christian family therapy center set up shop.

"The front porch here is just so welcoming," said owner Karen Heyer. "People feel comfortable when they come here."

When she saw the space was open for rent last year, without hesitation, she decided to open a location in Afton.

House of Hope already has an office in St. Croix Falls, Wis., but Heyer said she wanted to expand into Minnesota.

The licensed family therapist specializes in marriage and premarital counseling. However, she said she sees clients as young as 2 years old, all the way up to 88 and anything in between.

With her dog Jade in tow, Heyer said she's able to calm down those who suffer from anxiety and depression.

The spot she chose to open her second location is in the original part of the old house. She set up a playroom for the kids and she's also right next to Selma's Ice Cream shop.

"It's not like a lot of therapy offices," she said. "It's just got so much character to it."

Aside from having the convenient location, House of Hope attracts clients for the therapy techniques therapists there use to help treat anxiety and depression.

Heyer said one that is used often is the "eye movement desensitization reprocessing," which is a therapy tool that helps process trauma.

She said she uses it in combination with talk therapy to help people move through trauma instead of staying stuck, which in turn leads to anxiety.

In addition to treating trauma, Heyer said one big issue facing families today is the "enormous levels of stress."

"Stress that creates anxious parents, which creates anxious kids," she added.

Heyer works on helping families prioritize in order to focus their energy on one thing at a time to gain the successful outcome they desire.

"Just by talking about it, they figure it out," she said.

She touched on a serious issue she's seen recently that's caused by stress and trauma.

"We're seeing suicide rates increase among teenagers," she said, referring to reports of suicide in St. Croix Falls and Hastings.

It's a challenge, she said, when there isn't one reason to blame stress on.

It can be the economy, jobs, family expectations, she said.

"People have a hard time remembering how to slow down and take care of themselves, too," Heyer said.

House of Hope provides some pro bono work with families and kids based on income levels.

Additionally, interns who need to complete Christian based therapy training hours are able to gain some experience at the House of Hope.

"The need of people needing the help and the helpers needing the hours" balances things out, Heyer said.

To learn more about the House of Hope, visit

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.