As I have had the honor of getting to know and work with A Home Within clinicians and clinical directors, I have been struck by how unique each chapter is in both strengths and character. In fact, it is one of the reasons I have found the group and individual meetings with clinical directors so energizing.
Earlier this summer, Reed, Grace, and I had the pleasure of meeting with most of the volunteers in the Hudson Valley chapter. The impetus for this meeting came from the current clinical director, Kathy Adorney, and I am so glad that we took her up on the suggestion. From this meeting, I came up with the idea that we could spotlight a chapter in the A Home Within newsletter every couple of months. This way, our diverse community can learn about each of the chapters and share ideas with one another. The first chapter spotlight will be for Hudson Valley!
The Hudson Valley chapter was founded in 2009 by Hal Chorney. The chapter is composed of eight volunteer clinicians (with a ninth about to join), two consultation group leaders, and one clinical director. The clinicians see child and adolescent clients ranging from 6 to 15 years old. The two consultation groups meet weekly, and all clinicians participate enthusiastically. In fact, when we met with the Hudson Valley volunteers, there were many comments about how vital the group meetings had been for their learning and ongoing engagement with A Home Within. Click here to hear one volunteer, Danielle, describe how she values consultation groups.
A hot topic for discussion in the meta-consult groups with clinical directors is whether to require volunteers to attend consultation groups as part of their commitment, as well as how to ensure that the consultation groups are professionally meaningful and engaging. Clinical directors are all over the map about these topics, so I specifically asked Hudson Valley what they do. The founder, Hal, responded with a strong endorsement of the value of consultation groups:
“We began with the requirement that everyone had to commit to weekly attendance in a consultation group. I remember one of the first questions raised in the group was: When will our treatment plan be required for clients? No one anticipated treatment to be “as long as it takes,” which is our goal and a service the government could not provide. Our aim has always been to make every treatment individually suited to that child and to treat every therapist as individually as possible, trying to work with strengths and weaknesses, without criticism. The consultation leaders were all people with extensive clinical experience. We avoided the polemics of the field by focusing on the clinical needs and allowing full discussion of problems. Our view has evolved, and our goal of the work is to facilitate stability for the child and that love bonds between the child and the parental figures would be the curative agent. Thus came the need to work with anyone with important contact with the child. The result has been that even though we are a volunteer organization, the consultation groups provide a high level of supervision not easily available at any price. All members of the group contribute as well as the group leader. Consultation group participation remains a requirement and has proven to be a major source of recruitment of therapists.”
One of the consultation group leaders, Tim, spoke here about what being part of A Home Within has meant for him both professionally and personally, by “simply looking to make a connection, a change, and a difference.”
Another aspect of the Hudson Valley chapter that is worth highlighting is how it is perceived in their local community. Kathy, the current clinical director, shared some thoughts:
“The Department of Social Services values the clinicians’ work and eagerly fills every vacant position with a new client. Among therapists, there is an awareness of and respect for AHW. Many former AHW therapists have spread the word. We are hoping to expand our footprint in the therapeutic community by creating a Facebook page for our chapter, reaching out to training institutions in the area, and offering workshops that would be open to other therapists in our community.”
In my view, the support and engagement that volunteers receive from consultation groups, and their reputation within their local community, are two major strengths of the Hudson Valley Chapter. The strong relationship with the Department of Social Services provides them with a steady flow of referrals and community support for volunteers’ ongoing work within their community.
Speaking of strength, Kathy inspired me with her response to my inquiry about why she decided to take on the clinical director role. (Side note: I was curious about this because we are short a few clinical directors in other areas of the country.) Kathy said:
“My husband has been a therapist with A Home Within for over 10 years and is now working with his third client. Working with AHW has enriched his life and the lives of his clients. When the former clinical director asked me to take the position because she was retiring, I wanted to be of assistance to this incredible organization.”
Finally, as is the case for most of our chapters, Hudson Valley needs more volunteer clinicians to join their chapter! They need therapists who can work with clients of all ages as several local organizations that serve young adults would like to refer to A Home Within. So, if you are reading this and know of any potential recruits, please reach out to them. You can tell them that they will find a community of dedicated, caring, and experienced volunteers.
Deanna Linville, AHW Programs & Research Consultant