For years, Jesper and Amy Nielsen had mulled over the idea of offering their own behavioral health provider practice.

Three years ago, they gave it a try – with an eye on offering something people-focused – with three employees in a Richland Township location.

“For us, it's very important to do something that makes a difference beyond just a paycheck, to make a difference in the community with the talents that we have,” Jesper, Croyle-Nielsen Therapeutic co-owner and CEO, said.

“Beyond that, the mental health field and the populations that typically need those services are really underserved,” he said.

Now, Croyle-Neilsen Therapeutic employs 15 in two locations – Richland Township and Somerset – and is expanding its Richland location.

On Monday, Jesper said, the practice's Richland Township practice will open at a new location, moving from a Scalp Avenue spot to a 2,000-square-foot space along Bloomfield Street, doubling in size.

But the growth, he said, wasn’t the end goal.

“There are stigmas attached to mental health,” he said. “People don't always seek the help and don’t always get the quality they should be getting.

“From the beginning, we wanted to take a very person-centered approach. Some other providers are so overwhelmed that people become numbers. When someone is suffering from a mental health issue, they feel hopeless to begin with. Treating them like a number makes them feel more hopeless, and they are less likely to complete treatment.”

Along the way, Jesper and Amy have made sure to hire clinicians with the same values – and to offer enough diversity in talents that they confidently can pair not just a patient’s condition with the appropriately trained therapist, but also match their personalities and approaches, he said.

“One of the ways we stay person-focused is that is we pair them people with the therapist that matches them in terms of therapeutic style, not just the clinical specialty,” he said.

With experience as a strategic planning director for an area company, Jesper brings business acumen and has continued working in business circles to help grow the practice. They also reached out to doctor’s offices, but he said setting up the right frame of mind in the practice's offices has made the biggest difference.

“We've done some marketing, but really what we've focused on is developing internally and developing the competencies skills and person-centered thinking in everything we do, whether it’s on a payment issue or someone calling to try to get in,” he said.

His wife and practice co-owner, Amy (Croyle), brings her background as a longtime area behavioral specialist. She and Jesper purchased the practice, founded in 1989 by Dr. Grant Croyle, Amy’s uncle.

The practice continues to offer counseling/therapy and psychological testing services, and also has expanded their offerings to include services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, she said.

“For us, it is important to help as many people as we can, including some of the area’s most vulnerable residents, who really need caring and competent professionals to help them live a better life,” Amy said.

The intellectual and developmental disabilities population faces greater challenges – including significantly higher rates of sexual, physical and emotional abuse – than others, she said.

“I feel that how we take care of our most vulnerable individuals is a reflection of what we value as a society, and, at Croyle-Nielsen Therapeutic, we hope our work will help tip the scales in the right direction,” she said.

With the expanded location and plans to roll out new services over the next year – working with local healthcare providers to create custom programs – Jesper said the practice leaders likely will need to made some additional hires in 2016.

Michele Clapper, vice president of economic development at JARI, which helped the practice from the start and with site selection for the expansion, said the two make a solid team.

“Amy brings the technical and counseling side and business is Jesper's strong suit,” she said. “With the two of them, they have a strong, well-rounded company.”

They’ve also integrated themselves with others doing business locally, she said, and show what small businesses can do.

“It's good that their approach has been to be very receptive to advice, not only from us but from other business owners and throughout the community,” she said. “They are receptive to understanding best practices, and they have an understanding of where their strong suit is.”

Kecia Bal is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at @KeciaBKay