Mentors helped shape a career in mental health – Loveland Reporter-Herald

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Fifty years ago this month, I set foot in a new world.

In July 1972, I was hired as a therapist at the Larimer County Mental Health Clinic.

To go back a bit — before I got hired, I did an unpaid internship at the clinic and fell in love with my job.

But would the clinic want me on staff?

A lot hinged on that – I had spent the two years heavily invested in classes at the University of Northern Colorado.

Online courses weren’t available at the time – so I spent a lot of time on the windshield on what was then a two-lane highway between Loveland and Greeley.

The clinic – a small brick building on Doctors Lane in Fort Collins – is now demolished. It was adjacent to Poudre Valley Hospital – an easy drive from Loveland.

My hours were good, 8 a.m. to noon.

This left me time to be home in the afternoon with my children.

In addition to loving my job, I had made friends with the dozen or so staff members, and the idea of ​​leaving them saddened me.

I approached the clinic manager, Jim Dooney, LCSW, and told him I wanted to stay – as an employee.

I remember his words, “Well, I think the county commissioners will approve a salary that will at least cover your child care costs. »

I had a job. On the spot.

No formal contract, no HR meeting. Just Jim’s word.

I guess Jim didn’t care if the county commissioners approved my salary.

I was not an expensive item.

I was surprised that Jim hired me.

My internship gave Bill Gwynn, Ph.D., my supervisor, and Jim many opportunities to see my mistakes, my stumbles, and my naivety.

In my mind, my performance as an intern wasn’t exactly stellar. But Jim and Bill pushed me, encouraged me and didn’t give up on me.

And I’ve been grateful to them for 50 years.

From the moment I walked through the door as a wide-eyed intern, I knew I was in over my head.

A wide gap has arisen between counseling theory and actual practice.

I had a lot to learn. The learning process continued for the next 30 years.

I loved the gentle rhythm of daily work at the clinic.

It wasn’t the “Dr. Phil show.

Once a week I met with Dr. Gwynn. We discussed my cases – he helped me figure out the best ways to help my clients.

He pulled me off the edge of doubt. He helped me face my weaknesses and challenged me when I needed to.

The clients I initially saw were no different from you or me. Or at least no different from me.

People often wonder what happens in therapy. It is helpful to think of each therapy session as an hour of problem solving. Take an hour to understand his emotions.

A client may want to find ways to reduce stress at work. A young mother might want to know why she feels overwhelmed with a new baby.

The clinic also served patients who suffered from more serious emotional illnesses. It was rewarding to play a role in helping them. Many of these patients benefited from medication donated by staff psychiatrists.

After six years in the clinic and more schooling, I entered private practice. Even though I missed my colleagues at the clinic, it was time to strike out on my own.

My mentors who gave me a start 50 years ago are both deceased.

I honor them for nurturing and pushing me into a profession that offers rewards beyond measure.

Readers, who were your first mentors?

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