I began my career as a dispatcher/call-taker for police, fire, & ambulance service. I became a police officer, a member of the Critical Incident Stress Management and Peer Support Team. There, I gained valuable experience helping fellow first responders with their reactions to traumatic events, as well as the day-to-day wear and tear of the job.
My dad was an officer for almost 40 years so I grew up a policeman's daughter. This experience helps me understand what it's like to be affected by the police member's work.
I've also been happily married to an officer for 20 years (and counting!). Again, this gives me another perspective, another source of understanding.
I believe experience as a first responder and my work with them has been my greatest teacher. But I have also formally prepared to assist first responders to be mentally healthy. I earned a PhD in Counseling Psychology and an M.S. in Criminal Justice. I trained in EMDR, the recommended treatment for trauma. I studied factors that influenced officers' ability to cope with traumatic stress, factors that helped officers maintain work-life balance, and the decision-making processes of seasoned first responders regarding leaving the job. I've studied the work of others to better my understanding of the impact of the work to prepare compelling arguments for better services and coverage for mental injuries from the job.
My heart is in my work. When I was an officer and peer support team member, I found a shortage of mental health providers who understood the unique nature of the work. I realized my greatest contribution would be to fill this gap. I've taught other providers what I know about the first responder culture but there's no substitute for experience. I get it. I've had many roles in the last 20+ years in the profession: dispatcher/call-taker, victim services, police officer, and clinician. I've also had the benefit of decades of personal roles: daughter, wife, and friend of officers. All of these experiences have given me a well-rounded understanding of the impact of the work.
I grew up on military bases in North Carolina and New Jersey until I was 9 years old. We moved to Wisconsin where my stepfather became a deputy sheriff. My father retired from the Air Force after 20 years as a detective with the military police and became a police officer with the St. Louis Police Department. My experience growing up as the daughter of officers has helped me understand the impact the demanding work and culture has, not only on the individual as a first responder, but also on the family that loves them.
I received my Master’s in Professional Counseling and
am a Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor. I am trained
in EMDR which has been proven effective in treating trauma and PTSD symptoms. I continue to increase
my knowledge by reading books, attending trainings,
and consulting. I love hearing people’s stories, and I
learn through those connections.
My training in Dialectical Behavior Therapy has helped me understand that, by learning and using skills, we can continuously develop ourselves and our abilities to manage our lives. I also take a cognitive behavioral approach by looking at the way we think, feel, and behave are interconnected, and by looking deeper at where those thoughts came from and by challenging them, we can
come to a place of acceptance and change.
My philosophy is that there is no such thing as normal or perfect. We live in a world that is messy, unpredictable, and complicated. Sometimes we are the thing that complicates life, and other times we are merely caught up in the chaos. All we can do is our best with what we have, at any given moment. It is that belief, that we are all doing the best we can, that I try to lead with in my interactions with others. Whether we are looking at the past and choices that we have made, reflecting on the impact of choices others have made, or simply trying to navigate current situations and present choices. I believe that learning skills to manage the big reactions that we experience can help us slow down to look at the entire picture and consider our best options.
I work with adults and teens (14+), helping them manage anxiety, depression, substance use, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and trauma. I use a variety of modalities that include Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and trauma informed care.