Many of the passionate and moving stories heard at AllHealth Network come from within our walls. Our staff, and the teams that serve so many in the community come to us from a kaleidoscope of experiences and journeys, and together create an embracing environment, known to us as the AllHealth Network community. It is with that spirit that a new series of story sharing, connecting and getting to know each other better and differently is unfolding - welcome to Stories from Within.
Our first story is a profile of Rebecca Wilson, who many know and for those of you who have not had the pleasure, I will introduce in this inaugural profile.
Let’s meet Rebecca Wilson...
Rebecca Wilson, Clinical Manager - Adult Outpatient Services
Rebecca is not a Colorado native, her journey began about forty minutes south of St. Louis in a small town called Hillsboro. She moved to Denver to complete her Master’s Degree and like many of us… fell in love with Colorado. She successfully completed her MSW from University of Denver after earning her undergraduate in psychology at MIZZOU (yes, you read that correctly), otherwise known as University of Missouri, Columbia. You might think that her next stop was at AllHealth Network, but not quite… there were a few stops along the way.
Life before AllHealth Network for Rebecca was varied, and helped pave the way to her current work. When asked about her work experiences prior to AllHealth Network, Rebecca said, “I did a lot of things over the last decade. I worked with Community Reach Center for about 7 years as a clinician and as a PASRR evaluator. I did some private practice as well for about 5 years. I also have taught, and continue to teach, as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Denver in the Graduate School of Social Work. I’ve taught there for about 5-6 years now and teach a Clinical Skills class for first year graduate students and a Trauma Interventions class for 2nd year students. In addition I did some work with a safe house, the local Rape Crisis center (now called the Blue Bench), and also worked at a transitional shelter for women and their children through Catholic Charities. I also worked for a bit with older adults struggling with Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Of course with that many jobs I am always working in multiple roles. I have never in my professional career worked only 1 job. I always have my hands in multiple pots.”
No doubt that with all of this experience, she is a premier professional in our organization, highly regarded and respected for her compassion matched by talent. From youth to elders, Rebecca has shown a gift for reaching out and helping many. In addition to her work with AllHealth Network, Rebecca continues to teach and will be this fall at DU, her alma mater.
In first speaking with Rebecca, our conversation focused on her contributions and involvement with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). At AllHealth Network, there are those familiar with EMDR , and for lay people it is explained in this way-- it is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. With the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes (definition from the EMDR website). The external relations team had the opportunity to learn of the inner workings of EMDR and published an article this past spring in the AllHealth Network newsletter.
With so much time devoted to work, I wondered what time Rebecca may have to pursue volunteer efforts. Here is what Rebecca had to say on that “I am also a volunteer with Trauma Recovery Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP). HAP is an international organization of volunteers who train clinicians in EMDR who work in non-profits. They also offer free trainings after major disasters or traumatic events, such as the Pulse Nightclub shooting and Sandy Hook, to clinicians in the area to be able to help heal and treat the mass amount of trauma these communities are experiencing. I volunteered actually to help AllHealth Network complete an EMDR Basic Training for about 20 of our clinicians. We just completed their second round of training last weekend and I am providing all of their required consultation hours to officially be done with Basic Training. This helped us to double our pool of EMDR clinicians!” And even with all of this… Rebecca finds time to consult on EMDR.
It is clear that passion is at the “root” of Rebecca’s devotion to the field. In Rebecca’s words, here is why she is in the field she has chosen.
“A number of reasons. First, I think it’s in my genes. My great grandfather was a psychiatrist in St. Louis, Dr. Frances Barnes. My parents have a lot of his journals and books in their house and I grew up with these around and one day started looking at them and it keened my interest in psychology. In undergrad, my freshman year, I took Psychology 101 and was hooked immediately. The science just made sense to me and I was fascinated. I was very lucky to identify my major very early and I never changed it. I actually graduated in 3½ years, early, as I was so interested in the subject matter and so went to summer school and kind of over achieved my BA. I also completed some master’s level courses while in undergrad; yes, a bit of an over achiever. After my BA I pursued social work given it is such a versatile degree. An MSW grants you a lot of career options within a variety of settings. I also appreciate the focus of social work in that we focus on strengths and the system. I think this is so important as we always need to look at what’s working and consider how events, changes, decisions, etc. impact not only an individual but an entire system.
One analogy is to think about when you throw a rock into a pond it makes the biggest splash where it lands, but it ripples out through the entire pond. I find this perspective to be very helpful in my work as a manager as we must look beyond the immediate impact and consider how changes and decisions affect an entire system. I have a great opportunity with EMDR to widely affect a system in a large way. Training clinicians in EMDR not only fills them up in regards to their passion and motivation to do the work but also then offers their clients an amazing and highly effective treatment to heal, which then impacts that client’s life, their family, their friends and their community. So training and supporting our 50 EMDR clinicians at AllHealth Network allows me to have a large, positive impact on our community as a whole as we aren’t only healing individuals, we are helping those individuals to better engage with their loved ones and connect to their communities…therefore fostering healthier families, relationships and communities.”
When you learn more about Rebecca’s journey, you see and sense what inspires her, and I wanted to know specifically what she is most passionate about in her work. Rebecca shared the following:
1. Trauma work and specifically EMDR. I have never seen a treatment that has a more profound, robust, long lasting and sustainable impact on clients and their lives, nor one that even closely compares. When EMDR is done right, clients may no longer meet criteria for their diagnosis. I’ve seen this in my work and in my staff’s work with diagnoses such as PTSD, Anxiety Disorders, and Depressive Disorders. How amazing to help people heal from trauma and reclaim their lives! I believe if we can heal trauma we can heal the world. That may be a really big and tall order, but I do believe it is the avenue to creating more peace and compassion in our very challenging and often very scary world. Even our presidential candidates for example I believe behave the way they do due to trauma. At the DNC there was a speech about Hillary, that when she was a little girl (4 years old I think) she was being bullied and told her mom and her mom told her to go back out there and not be a coward. This was told in a way that made it sound like it was a positive thing. That’s not positive, that’s traumatic to a 4 year old! Trauma, without healing, breads trauma. Traumatized kids grow up to become traumatized adults who may traumatize their kids as they know no different. If we could bring more healing to those suffering from unresolved trauma I believe we could have vast impacts on our community, our nation and our world.
2. Supporting staff. I love supporting those I work with. We have very hard jobs; I would bend over backwards to support those that I work with as they are the ones out there in the trenches, day to day, doing the really hard work. I am so passionate about doing what I can to make their days a little easier whether that be with a thank you or a positive comment, or sharing some chocolate, or encouraging self-care, etc.
Rebecca’s commitment to her work and staff are clearly what defines her professional purpose. She has inspired staff, colleagues and the community.
With individuals like Rebecca working so diligently for those needing support, the future of behavioral health has a bright future, yet we do know it doesn’t come without challenges. Rebecca messaged it in this way: “I HOPE that the future is one that continues to grow in regards to competency and ability to recognize trauma, respond to trauma, and resist ways in which we traumatize others intentionally or unintentionally.”
As I close this interview, I want to share a perspective of Rebecca’s on the vision of mental health.
“In the trauma world we try to put things in the perspective of “what happened to you” rather than “What’s wrong with you”. This is a core value of trauma informed care. So I would like to encourage others to try to take this stance. Rather than looking for what’s wrong with someone else, their behavior, their attitude, consider where they might be coming from. Consider what might have happened to them. Maybe that person at the grocery store who was rude to you just had an argument with their partner. Maybe the person who flipped you off in a fit of road rage experienced a lot of abuse as a child and doesn’t know how to feel anger in a safe way. Nothing is ever about you (this is one of the principles from the 4 Agreements, which I highly recommend!), don’t take things personally. Nothing makes any of us so special that anything is really ever about us. I think when we can take this stance we can be more compassionate with ourselves, others and the world. And we could all certainly use a bit more compassion in today’s day and age.”
Additionally, Rebecca recommends a free online video, sharing a very powerful and a true story at Healing Neen