Postgraduate VSW Certificate Program Participant
I am a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years in the social work field. I’ve worked at BJC Behavioral Health for over 23 years, working with clients who have mental health and substance abuse issues. I’ve been involved in the Wellness Coaching program and became certified to teach Compassion Fatigue, which is prevalent in the helping profession. I presented to leaders at the hospital on the importance of making self-care a priority, using mindfulness skills to reduce stress and creating resilience during challenging situations.
I have always valued the importance of the human-animal connection. I’ve been involved in activities with my dogs (agility, obedience, conformation competitions) for years. Two of my golden retrievers have become certified pet-therapy dogs through Support Dogs, Inc. One of them also became certified in animal-assisted crisis response, so she could be a second responder during crisis situations. My other dog goes with me to a local children’s home, and he visits clients and staff at BJC-BH.
I am enrolled in the Veterinary Social Work program offered by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, which combines the social work and veterinary professions. In this arena, social workers assist with pet loss, compassion fatigue and anything related to the care of people who are caring for animals.
In 2015, I started my private practice called Wellness Alley, LLC. I see clients individually to help them overcome or reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, addictions, unhealthy coping skills and other life challenges. Often these clients, referred to me through local employee-assistance programs or other referral sources, are struggling with compassion fatigue and burnout, pet loss and bereavement. I will be starting a pet-loss support group that will be available at my office twice a month. I am also interested in starting compassion fatigue groups so people involved in the care of animals can support each other while learning coping strategies to deal with challenging situations.
I write pet-related articles for St. Louis Health & Wellness Magazine, Metro Pet and I’ve been a regular guest on the Health & Wellness Live radio show, speaking on caregiver stress-related issues, animal-assisted crisis response and the use of therapy dogs among other topics.