Having grown up in the Northland, I’ve always valued time spent in nature and found it important for one’s well-being. Working in the mental health field, I was also aware of Amberwing’s – Center for Youth & Family Well-Being work. In Fall of 2020, I began my final Master of Social Work (MSW) clinical internship at Amberwing. During my first week, I shadowed one of the Partial Hospitalization Program teams while Behavioral Health Technician, Mark, was teaching a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills session. Instead of pulling out a worksheet for the patients to learn from, Mark suggested that the Amberwing youth grab their jackets. The group then headed out to a wooded area behind Amberwing. That’s where I learned about mindfulness.
The session included a focus on staying present and mindful as they took in the sights, sounds and smells of Fall. The integration of nature into mental health treatment for children and teens helped confirm that I was in the right place to practice. While not every session includes spending time outside, Amberwing’s approach encourages each child to try new things and search for skills that work best for them. I also appreciated the level to which Amberwing staff genuinely cared about the patient’s well-being long past discharge and work with the child and family to establish successful transitions.
While interning I was also able to work with Amberwing’s Chemical Dependency Technician, Lori, in her efforts to provide earlier substance education and intervention. Most youth are exposed to substance use in some way whether it be substance misuse or experimentation. All too often the first encounter with substance intervention is when there has been a long progression with use, high severity or legal involvement. The goal is to address a problem before it becomes a major life disrupt. It is so important for mental health professionals to consider substance use when addressing mental health concerns.
Towards the end of my time interning with Amberwing, I was overjoyed to find out that Amberwing and the Miller-Dwan Foundation were searching for a Psychotherapist Fellow well-versed in DBT –– someone who would emphasize DBT in their work with youth and families struggling with substance misuse. In this new position as an Amberwing Psychotherapist Fellow, I look forward to working towards integrating more substance education and early intervention into patient’s mental health treatment.
Thank you to all the community members who donated to the Miller-Dwan Foundation through ARTcetera, the foundation’s gala fundraising event. Funds from this event have allowed me to pursue this amazing endeavor to help our region’s youth address their substance abuse problems.