Gateway Longview's Employee Spotlight features Gateway Longview employees recognized for outstanding work. This month's spotlight showcases Rachael, a Mental Health Counselor 1 at Gateway Longview's Children and Family Treatment and Support Services (CFTSS) since October 2019.
Q: How did you get your start at Gateway Longview?
I worked at Gateway Longview about 6-7 years ago through the residential program. I worked within residential girls CAB (Changing Attitudes and Behaviors) for about a year and then left for other opportunities. When I obtained my Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling, I knew Gateway Longview had some great counselor opportunities from my previous employment. Gateway Longview was one of the first places I applied to once I graduated from school and I was very excited to have obtained my position within CFTSS.
Q: What is your role within Gateway Longview now?, Take us through your typical day.
My current role is Mental Health Counselor 1 through CFTSS (Children and Family Treatment and Support Services). I work in the community providing clinical counseling services to families within their homes. This allows many of our busier, more hectic families to obtain services without stressing about driving to clinic appointments and instead having the clinic come to them. It also allows us as the counselor to get an inside view of how home life is for some of these clients and offer support with home environment struggles. Typically my morning involves catching up on notes, phone calls to coordinate care with other providers and checking in on clients who may be in crisis from day(s) before. The rest of my day is sessions with clients, either at home or at school. With COVID this year, my school visits have stopped and my sessions are balanced between the clients’ home or through Telehealth.
Q. How has COVID affected your role and our services?
It’s been more stressful adjusting in terms of being a counselor and doing the phone sessions and video chats because that’s all new, but it’s also been more stressful on the parents, so I feel my role is a lot more supportive to being understanding and a listener to these parents, homeschools rough, kids are home all the time and they are stressed, parents are not able to go to work because they have to be home with the kids. We have to be a more supportive role and understanding of the stress the parents are falling under, and the kids are struggling too because their lives are being turned upside down.
Q. Do you see any changes as we get almost a year into COVID? any changes, any positive changes, what have you seen?
I have seen the adjustment in growth where families are learning how to be together, where at first it was stressful, they don’t know what to do, but now it’s part of their everyday life. It’s a really good growth I have seen with a lot of families, kids are starting to see that video chat school sessions are not so bad, teenagers who don’t like to go to school are finding out online style of school is actually better for them and works for them, and are doing better in school than they did before.
Q: What do you love about coming to Gateway Longview every day, what motivates to you come in to work?
I love my clients, my connection with the families as a community worker. I am always excited to hear from clients that things that may have been rough have gotten even slightly better based on our work together. I love the challenge and unknown of my job; every day is different and even when prepared for a session, new things can come up and as the counselor I need to be ready to adjust on the fly. If I am unsure about something on ways to best help a client or how to handle a certain situation learning something new is always amazing and rewarding. I feel I have grown so much as a counselor since starting with Gateway Longview, through working with the clients directly and also in talks with my supervisor.
Q: Tell me about your best day at Gateway Longview:
Best Day at Gateway…..hmmm. I would have to say I remember one day coming home from sessions and telling my husband today was a good one! Middle of my day, I had a session with a client in a crisis situation, crying/yelling/pulling their hair….whole deal as they walked out of school into my car. Once I calmed this client down and was able to get them to talk to me they switched to repeatedly apologizing for getting so upset and acting the way they did. They were embarrassed by their reaction and by their level of being upset/crying/yelling, etc. I stopped them from apologizing and told them you don’t have to apologize for being upset and mad, it seems like an upsetting situation you found yourself in. In which they got upset all over again because they didn’t understand why everyone tells them to not apologize for their behavior and being upset. My response was, “I don’t know about why other people say this to you but I can tell you why I am saying it”. In which I explained to the client, I don’t accept apologies for being upset, because I don’t think you should apologize to me for having emotions. Emotions are part of our lives, emotions make us who we are. We are often taught by society to not have emotions, or only have appropriate emotions for specific situations. When we struggle with our emotions or don’t know how to recognize them in us they tend to be bigger than normal and then people are unsure what to do. They tell us to stop, we need to change, we shouldn’t be like this; teaching us emotions are something to apologize about. I am not here as your counselor to change you. I am not here to teach you to never be upset, to never have emotions about things. I am here to help you understand these emotions, to react in safer ways, decrease the intensity of those reactions so you are not so emotionally drained by one incident. Never apologize for being you. This client looked at me very quiet and just smiled and gave me a hug. This quiet hug said it all to me.
Q: What kind of person makes an exceptional Mental Health Counselor?
Someone who cares, really cares and is involved with a family and their struggles. Some things are smaller easier areas to focus on and resolve while others are more challenging and require more digging, fact finding, and empathy. The challenging situations and how one handles those is where one becomes exceptional. This can include a challenging client who may have been through a lot, may have not had too many good counseling experiences in the past or are shy. How a person handles the tough cases, how they work to connect with them can make a person exceptional as a Mental Health Counselor. Connecting to the client on their level, rather than making them meet us at ours.
Q: What kind of personality traits and characteristics are important in this role?
Patience! Working with families and around their personal schedules, everyday lives requires a level of patience. Parents with multiple children struggle to remember the many appointments of everyone, children /clients can get over whelmed with how many demands on them plus counseling appointments with us. Being patient and understanding on the rough days is important. Having empathy and just being human is important for this role. Focusing less on the clinical side of counseling and remembering these are people trying to get through each day despite their mental health struggles is important.
Q: What do you hope that the youth, family or clients you work with now take with them when they leave Gateway Longview’s services?
I hope clients I work with have a better understanding of their mental health struggles and how to overcome them to get through each day. The knowledge set that despite we aren’t working together anymore, they still have people to reach out for help as needed. I hope the families feel a little calmer and more in control of situations when they leave our services, better directed on how to handle the difficult days.
Q: If someone is on the fence about applying for a position within Gateway Longview, what do you say to convince them?
Gateway Longview offers many opportunities for staff, the experience in both my past role and current role has always been that of support and understanding. That despite the stress our jobs involve, everyone still remembers we are all human and can only do so much. Everyone is so helpful to each other, helping new staff to learn the job, learn tricks of the trade and just help out as needed. Apply!
Q: Outside of work, what do you like to do for fun? Any hobbies?
Outside of work I enjoy time with my family, my husband and son. My son is a year and a half old and hilarious to hang out with. I enjoy reading, DIY crafts, and painting. I am a huge advocate of outdoors; so hiking, walking along trails as a family, taking our dogs on “adventures” to new woodsy areas for them to run free is always a blast.
To learn more about CFTSS visit our program page here.
To learn more about Career opportunities visit our Careers page here.