Q: Describe a typical day as a Social Rehabilitation Specialist.
A: Nothing is typical anymore! On a typical day pre-COVID, clients would start to come into the CSP around noon or 1:00 pm. During COVID, I spend a lot of time every day talking to clients virtually or on the phone. Right now, one of the things we’re doing is virtual groups online.
The other part of my job right now is helping the Housing Support Team. I call the clients to ask how they’re doing and how can I help with their housing needs.
I dedicate Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to the CSP. On Mondays, I have a face-to-face group in the park. It’s nice because it gets me out of the house. Wednesday and Friday, I lead virtual groups. Right now, I have two CSP check-in groups. We watch TED talks often. Thanks to IT, I got all the equipment and gadgets to be able to do that. Wednesdays and Fridays I also lead a “What’s Happening?” group.
Q: How is the pandemic affecting the CSP?
A: It’s really affecting people. Unfortunately, I have dealt with people in crisis more so than before, which takes me out of my Rehabilitation Specialist role and into my Mental Health Practitioner role. I help folks to refocus and give them the right tools to go to crisis stabilization or the hospital.
Before we started the virtual groups, I found that when I was calling people, it was like, “Diane, I want to go back to the CSP.” “Diane, when will the CSP open?” They feel helpless. You can talk on the phone all day, but there’s nothing like face to face connection.
Groups have been helpful for some people to connect virtually, but only a small portion of folks have accessed it. I like to get people to feel more connected with each other. I think we’ve accomplished that with virtual groups and socially-distanced face-to-face meetings.
Q: How did your career path lead you to your current position at Guild?
A: I started in Therapeutic Recreation and was one of the first to participate in the testing to be a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Therapist (CTRS). I have a bachelor’s degree in Education with an emphasis in Therapeutic Recreation and started working in a nursing home. My first real job in the mental health field was at Washington State Hospital. I worked on an admission ward alongside a team of psychiatrists, doctors, nurses, social workers, vocational, and occupational therapists. My job as a Recreation Therapist (RT) was to evaluate and provide a therapeutic plan to assist with the barriers that clients often encounter while providing activities that help reduce those barriers. That’s how it started for me.
In 1998, I interviewed at Guild to be a Case Manager and ended up being offered a role at the CSP as a Social Rehabilitation Specialist. This was a perfect opportunity to transition from a hospital setting into a community setting. Therapeutic Recreation isn’t just playing games. You have fun interacting, but while you’re doing that, you learn a lot about people, and they start to open up.
Q: Is there anything a client has said that has stuck with you?
A: Probably the biggest thing I’ve heard since COVID is something along the lines of, “I’m so glad you guys are here for us. I don’t know what I would do if Guild wasn’t here for us.” It makes me feel like what I’m doing makes a difference.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: I have a lot of flexibility. Some days we might do things like take people out to an apple orchard. We’re always meeting the needs of clients and members.
Q: What is something you’ve learned throughout your time at Guild?
A: Being a person of color working at Guild is challenging. I am dealing with clients and co-workers that have limited interactions with people of color. Being a black woman in the field, you are always questioned about your abilities and skills. Growing up in a little town in Iowa, I was always in the minority and I didn’t know about Black history until I went to college. I didn’t know about the Black National Anthem because we were not taught that in a school which was 99% white.
Yes, I have experienced firsthand the inequality and discrimination as a Black employee at Guild, and also while working with the clients we serve. In the past Guild has swept some of these issues under the rug. As an agency promoting diversity, it’s important that we stand up and take action. It’s important that our care for all clients is person-centered.
Our clients have a mental illness diagnosis. That carries a stigma. Imagine being a client of color; that means there are two strikes against our clients. As an agency, we need to promote diversity whether it’s with our clients or our co-workers. Let’s speak up and go for the common cause: helping our clients.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I like to cook and collect cookbooks. Sometimes I go on cooking rampages where you might get two or three meals out of me. In the summer and spring, I like to go to garage sales and grilling. I also like to attend church and volunteer with my church at Dorothy Day twice a month.