Endings are often a time for reflection. As I approach the end of the academic year and thus the end of my time at Pennock, I find myself looking back on the several months that I have spent as a part of this unique community. Though I could name 100 items, here are the top 10 things I have learned at my internship at Pennock (in no particularly order):
- Mental health touches everyone. It’s funny to me that we, as a collective society, expect everyone to see the doctor for a checkup but that going to a therapist is often kept hush-hush. The truth is that mental health affects us all – whether you know someone, are close to someone, or are personally struggling with a mental health issue – mental health is a part of the human experience. Each therapist, staff member, and client at Pennock is somehow connected to or affected by mental health issues on some level. The more we share our stories, the less stigmatizing mental health issues become.
- It takes a village. Hands down, the best and most unique parts about Pennock are the people and the culture. Our team of staff and therapists are truly a team – that is, everyone pitches in, everyone is passionate about their work, and most importantly, we gain support from each other. Therapy is work! It is amazing work and work that revolves around human interaction and relationship, but sometimes it is heavy, and it is in those moments that I have been so grateful to be a part of such a supportive team of people.
- Access matters. I am so proud to be a part of an organization that has its consumers’ best interests at heart. Our sliding scale makes it possible for anyone to receive the services they need. Plus we have providers who take insurance (looking forward to getting licensed). In a corporate world where even mental health is a largely for-profit business, Pennock remains non-profit which makes your donation go so far!
- Brighton is not that far from Denver. It’s really not. If I go the speed limit I can make it from my apartment in downtown Denver to Pennock in just under 30 minutes. I’m from a small town so I have enjoyed getting out of the city and exploring Brighton and the surrounding area.
- Parenting is hard. I have had this hunch for a while, but working with children and families has sealed the deal for me. Parenting is probably the hardest thing anyone will ever do. Every child is unique and has their own individual set of needs, wants, and challenges. My hat goes off to you parents!
- Pets heal. Dogs, cats, horses, snakes etc. – the human-animal connection is well-researched and an evidence-based intervention in the mental health field. I have lost count of the number of times my clients have referenced their pets as huge sources of support and relief. In turn, when we lose animals, we are subject to the same grief process that can occur with any other loss. As someone once said “grief is the expression that we loved well.”
- Auctioneers are hilarious. If you have yet to attend Pennock’s benefit event, Healing Hearts, go! Just go. It’s for a great cause (accessible mental health services) but it is also the best live entertainment show this side of the Mississippi. I had never seen a live auction and I will never forget this year’s Healing Hearts in which the most interesting items were auctioned off by very talented performers to very generous people.
- Humor is a necessity. Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. As I have said before, working in the mental health field can be heavy. Lightness is the antidote and humor is the avenue (at least for me). A good meme or YouTube video can turn around my day – especially when shared with someone else who shares my bizarre sense of humor.
- The separation of mental health and substance treatment is problematic. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In our country, so often mental health treatment is separated from substance abuse treatment. If it were this simple, I think people would recover faster. Ideally, we would treat mental health issues and substance use at the same time since they are so interconnected. Unfortunately, things are not set up that way. I hope someday things shift so that we can treat the whole person all at one time.
- Self-care is important. Those basic things like food, water, shelter, and sleep – those things matter – a lot. In our culture that values productivity, efficiency, and “keeping busy,” sometimes our basic needs get neglected – mine included. One of my biggest regrets from my internship at Pennock is that I didn’t take enough walks in the neighborhood where our office is located. Those days when I walked in the building in the morning and didn’t go outside until the evening – big mistake on my part. We are lucky to have beautiful weather year round and mountain views on top of that!
I am very grateful to have been an intern therapist at Pennock for the 2016-2017 academic year. I wish the Brighton community the very best in years to come!