What she does
Nina Albanese-Kotar, PhD, runs a private practice in Eau Claire, Wis., called Mente Salus, Italian for "good mental health." As one of few generalists in her area, she offers individual and couples counseling, group therapy, evaluations and workshops to clients of all ages, except children.
Her practice, which opened in November, also emphasizes privacy — Albanese-Kotar schedules clients with ample time between them and offers a separate room where they can wait in the case of a backup. "Eau Claire is a small town, so you could sit next to a client, a student or a neighbor" in the waiting room, she says. "Discreet access to service is important."
Why psychology practice?
With an undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry, Albanese-Kotar had planned to pursue a teaching career in the sciences. But after about 10 years of working in various lab, academic and other positions, she felt that the competitive pace of academia didn't jibe with her laid-back, self-deprecating personality. What did fit her nature? College counseling. "I really wanted to get out of the lab and work with people," she says. So at age 37, Albanese-Kotar and her husband, a now-retired forest ecology professor, moved to Madison, Wis., where she began graduate school. She earned her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Wisconsin in 2001 and became a college counselor at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.
Albanese-Kotar's only child, Katerina, was born in the middle of her training in 1997. "I made it with my pure stubbornness," she says. "That's an attribute that characterizes me well — being persistent and sticking with it."
Getting down to business
Learning to run a practice is the newest phase of Albanese-Kotar's education. She's quickly getting up to speed on insurance contracts, credentialing issues and changing CPT codes. Her next step is to market herself in the community. "I'm motivated to take this to the next level," she says.
When she's not treating clients, Albanese-Kotar and her family see the bright side of long Wisconsin winters. This year she and her husband skied together in the American Birkebeiner, North America's largest cross-country ski marathon, spanning 50 kilometers. She has completed 20 races and her husband, one of the race's founders, has skied all 40.
Albanese-Kotar also volunteers with the Red Cross, serves on the board of the local disaster preparedness organization and enjoys gardening, traveling and listening to Katerina, now 15, play the cello. "I have a lot of hobbies — sometimes to the detriment of my career — but it's a good life and I wouldn't trade it for anything."