An Interview with Our Valley Heroes - Valley Behavioral Health
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June 26, 2020 By Julie Rael, LCSW, CCO Valley Behavioral Health

During my career, I know that those working in behavioral health limit what they share outside of work. The nature of our work is confidential, but we have learned that those in other lines of work may not understand what compels us. When we share what we do, our experiences are met with comments like “That must be very difficult”, “I couldn’t do that,” and “we need more people like you in this world”. Sometimes I feel like the odd-one-out in casual conversations at social gatherings, and I find myself evading the “what do you do for work question”. I do this, not because I am ashamed, but because I am passionate about what we do at Valley and feel that others may not understand, and to share this passion seems too sacred to share in casual conversations.

Throughout my career, I have sought out others that share this passion, and I have witnessed how it can awaken and renew those who become discouraged and question continuing in this line of work. I have seen those that share this passion draw strength from each other when they share their stories of inspiration and hope. Recently, I have read posts by our employees sharing their incredible stories that demonstrated their resiliency and the excellent care we provide. I reached out to some of them to gather and share their experiences and ask them why they continue to work at Valley when things get difficult. I hope this blog encourages and inspires those that may have become discouraged and struggling during this time.

Taylor Psalto, our Team Lead of our Jail Diversion Outreach team, shared her and this team’s experiences while working in intense situations that require an advanced ability to implement solutions. Taylor has described their work as challenging and seemingly impossible at times due to the multiple issues encountered when helping these individuals. Her team continues to tackle the impossible every day. Taylor shared their work with the mental health court program, and how this program gives the clients multiple chances to successfully complete the program. She describes an encouraging result that treatment and successful completion that the mental health program provides for the clients and the privilege that she feels working with them.

“Successful completion of the program allows my clients to receive reductions in their convictions, so they typically no longer have felonies on their records and are eligible for expungement. This opens a whole new world of opportunity for my clients as they are now able to gain employment and obtain housing that is not available to felons. Hearing their sweet words, seeing their tear-filled eyes, and counting the family members that accompany them to graduation, truly makes all the stress worth it! I’m beyond blessed to work with such a vulnerable and difficult population. They’ve taught me an immense amount of compassion and understanding. My team works incredibly hard to coach them through things and to show that they do have a support system and not everyone has turned their back on them, but I think we end up being taught the most in the end. I’m obsessed with my job and seeing my clients succeed is such a beautiful thing”.

Michelle Moyes, Clinical Director of our Residential Treatment Programs and her teams help adults with substance use and mental health concerns obtain and maintain sobriety while learning relapse prevention skills. Michelle has seen that it can take time and multiple treatment attempts for those with trauma and addictions to recover but sees their worth and shares the insights that help her, and her team continue in this work.

“I love to come to work every day, I work with a wonderful team that cares about the clients we serve. We all work with a common goal of helping clients obtain the skills that they need to make necessary changes in their lives. I learned years ago that you can not fix people because they are not broken, I know that sometimes people are not able to make the changes immediately, but when someone feels that they are valued as a human being it allows them to make a change in the future. This job can be very difficult because we see the potential for each individual. Sometimes they are not able to make the changes. Some lose their life to their disease of mental health and/or addiction and when that is the case, I know that the time I spent with them they felt valued and cared about”.

Veronica Carranza, Clinical Supervisor of our CBTU and KIDS Day Treatment programs has embraced challenging situations and her positive attitude and de-escalation skills, and training of these skills have shown to impact the outcomes of the programs she has worked with. Veronica shared a story with me that had me in tears and helped me to visualize how she approaches challenges and what compels her in this work.

“There was a client I had early on, when I began at CBTU, he used to spit in my face, shoved me into walls, crush me into doors and curse at me using some pretty derogatory names. He was destroying the classroom daily, holes in every wall, those were tough days. He used to refuse to meet for sessions and wanted nothing to do with therapy or my help. I asked myself “Why not walk?  I thought of the folks who inspired me when I was young and the positive effects they had on my life. Then I thought of the people that I wished had been there and were not. So, I decided that’s why I don’t give up. I’m not built to give up. It took about two months of tough days like that, and little by little, he settled down, he became compliant, he argued less and listened more. He learned coping skills and laughed often; he just wasn’t angry anymore. He even cried sometimes and turned to me when he just needed to be heard. I had the support of a dedicated Valley team.  About five months later in a session, he talked about his history of rejection and judgment, the kid who didn’t want to speak to anyone, processing, open, and accepting feedback. He then asked “Ms. Veronica, why didn’t you give up on me? Everyone else does, all the people from my old schools, everyone gives up, why didn’t you.” That question makes it all worth it for me. That response was my proof and validation that I was in the right place, doing the right work for the right company. I choose Valley to do this work because of our mission to our community, who come from the hardest times and some of the toughest places. So, thank you Valley for your support; without it, I couldn’t have been there for this client or the many who sound just like him, that we help every day”.

Finally, I have had the privilege of getting to know Leslie Curtis a therapist at our Tooele clinic this past year. Leslie has demonstrated a passion and authentic approach that removes barriers and puts others at ease. When I asked Leslie, what helps her endure and continue working at Valley, she shared:

“I choose to work for Valley because I believe in our mission and our values align with my core values. We truly are an organization committed to helping people on their healing journey. We do this with integrity, teamwork, and in collaboration with the client and multiple team members. Valley is family to me, and I get to work with some of the most amazing individuals who challenge me, encourage me, and support me which enables me to grow into my fullest potential. I could not do my job effectively without all the people I work with doing their part, we are an extremely resilient group who know how to persevere when things get hard. I am truly honored to work with Valley leadership, my colleagues, and coworkers. This brings me to why I am so committed to helping our clients even when it is hard”. I love that I get to be part of the reclaiming of spirit and taking back power from whatever has affected these precious lives. I love that I get to share space for someone when they meet themselves for the first time in many years and bear witness to the courage it took to take on the work of healing and to walk in the world, with the confidence of achieving the goals they never thought they would achieve. And lastly, I am grateful that I get to learn from my clients, experience unconditional positive regard, bear witness to growth, form a connection of trust and respect, experience the beauty of humility, and never underestimate the power of one’s spirit to overcome and thrive. I feel blessed to work for an organization that values my contribution and that I get to do what I love and am good at, daily”.

These experiences illuminate the elements of this work that inspire us, and they give us internal strength that we can draw from any time we need it. There are so many experiences and not enough room in one blog, but I hope that by sharing what I have, it will inspire, encourage and provide a brief respite from all the problems many are facing in the world. I want to fully express my gratitude to our Heroes here at Valley, and I hope this blog conveys all the gratitude that I hold in my heart.

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