By Mary McPhail Gray
NVW Board Chair
Everyone in the behavioral health field is wants to support their clients through changes they have identified—whether it be relieving depression, processing grief, learning more self control and goal setting, or acquiring new relationship or parenting skills.
How do we help them change? What makes it possible for people to change in a relationship with a counselor or social worker? Is there a special “one size fits all” program or approach?
Researchers and behavioral health care providers have asked these questions in order to improve their success with clients. Recent research gives some interesting answers. Repeatedly, findings describe the “therapeutic alliance” or the partnership between the therapist and the client as a key variable. This essentially means that a trusting relationship is developed where the client feels empathy, acceptance and warmth from the therapist. They develop a shared work plan devoted to the client’s needs.
Further research also suggests that the greater and varied life experiences a therapist has is often a key factor in being able to relate to a variety of clients. At Nonviolence Works, our clinicians have a range of experiences and skills. Several have ongoing creative roles such as Steve Moser—a well-known local actor who worked in New York City before landing in Taos. Rima Ralff is regularly seen as the bass guitar player in the band “Out of Nowhere,” and Sadie Quintanilla has been an instructor in Pilates, belly dancing and snowboarding. Lisa Stern has for many years been an active photographer with commercial contracts. Marcella Skogen and her husband had a band and managed other stage acts for a number of years in the Denver area.
Clinicians have therefore explored a variety of activities in working with clients. Rima Ralff has used dance/movement therapy and music when appropriate, and Marcella Skogen has used yoga, art, meditation, and music with her clients. Marsha Carlson has an undergraduate degree in art which led her into certification and supervising of other therapists in art therapy. Moser says that his dramatic training helps him show “tough love” to his clients, and Ryan Daly states that his varied experiences internationally in the military and in high-risk pursuits such as sky diving—helps him confidently hold a “safe place” for his martial arts students.
Personal life experiences are richer with experienced therapists who have themselves seen the “dark nights of the soul.” Ryan Daly comments on the extreme poverty of his youth and troubled teen-age years. Zach Garcia spent 18 years in law enforcement and gradually began seeing how he was becoming negative and only saw the bad in people. “The images of gruesome crimes never go away,” he stated. Now he and James Mondragon share their life experiences with more than 700 students in Taos through the Gang Resistance is Powerful Program (GRIP). Lisa Stern knows that her journey beside her adult son who died of cancer helps inform her work with clients experiencing grief.
Marsha Carlson is skilled in working with adolescents and feels that this relates to her capacity for love based on a rich variety of personal experiences—living in a multi-faith, politically active commune, working with abused children, and moving through her own depression as a reaction to the cruelty in the world. Carlson states that “it is the relationship that transmits healing,” and Daly comments “if you can’t create a climate of trust—they will just move on.”
NVW is here for you with deep caring experiences.
Nonviolence Works has the largest staff of behavioral health counselors and social workers in northern New Mexico. Reach us at 575-758-4297 or www.nonviolenceworks.us.
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of NVW. She can be reached at 575-779-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.