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An Interview with Jennifer Newbold, MFT

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PathPoint’s Behavioral Health Division’s goals are to help our people live healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives through stable housing as well as supportive services for the homeless (and those at risk of becoming homeless), the mentally ill, and those struggling with substance abuse. As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, PathPoint interviewed our Vice President Jennifer Newbold, an MFT and the Director of our Behavioral Health Division.

What are some philosophies you and your staff adhere to?

There are two philosophies: The first is hope – recovery is possible. The second is empowerment. You, the client, are in control of your life. You are meaningful and important and you can have the life that you want. That life will be achieved by your goals, which will be set by you in collaboration with your caseworker, who will support you in achieving them. So you see there is a dynamic relationship between the person served and the staff. Our services are so powerful because that’s where the change happens.

What makes PathPoint unique?

The tenure of our staff is notable in the community. There’s a clear passion for the work in the Behavioral Health Division and PathPoint facilitates the success of that work. We have a reputation for skills-building, meaning tangible tasks, learned in the community. We are not office-based, we’re 99% community-based. We place control of the services in our clients’ hands; even setting up their own appointment empowers a person. It’s about, “How can we support you in getting where you want to go?”

There’s that quote, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” We still embody that. We don’t want to take someone’s life and create dependency – we are not their parents, we are collaborators. We teach someone how to do something as opposed to just doing it.

You believe in “treating the whole person.” What does that mean?

It’s a conversation about what’s important in a person’s life. “Where do you find meaning? Is there a cultural practice that’s important to you? Do you have a circle of friends? A spiritual activity or practice?” In our treatment planning we talk about those things and encompass them as components of the totality of life.

We let our participants know that we support them as much more than a person with schizophrenia, for example. Everybody has a whole life, even if awaiting fulfillment, so let’s talk about all those aspects of meaning instead of segmenting them. “How are you creative? Do you engage in some work or leisure activity? What is meaningful to you?”

Historically it’s notable how services and approaches were limited. We would talk about person’s illness first, but all clients have many other qualities! It’s moving from the identity of a sick person, to a person first. We all have mental health needs. You can’t help but treat someone with respect if you see them as a whole person.”

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, you have an interest in supporting people through grief.

It’s a human experience. Having a sociology background, I think of how people fit within community. I look at those marginalized and not marginalized. Then those individual experiences of having lost something and the pain involved in that. Often in this society, parents avoid talk that the goldfish died, because we don’t want to hurt anybody. I want to flip that and say “this is life.” Death is part of life. There’s still a connection, but the relationship can’t take place in the same way anymore. One of the things that drew me to mental health work in the first place was realizing that even when a person is in the throes of a psychotic episode, perceiving things uniquely, frightened, maybe angry… you could still connect on some level as a human being. When you realize that this profound connection can still be made, it is very powerful. It just permeates.

What do you like the most about your job?

I like that my job is always stimulating. I appreciate the ability to be creative, and to have an atmosphere that empowers creativity. We stay cutting edge, and we don’t stagnate because of that. I appreciate that I work with people a lot smarter than me. I learn something every day from a colleague, or person I’m working with, and I improve how I do my job based on the people I meet with.

If you get to be creative, and feel good about it, and have joy about what you do… laugh a lot, cry about it sometimes… it’s honest, it’s real, and it’s powerful. I get to be genuine. My daughter says she hopes PathPoint stays around so that she can work here!

Any final thoughts to share?

I appreciate the quote, “Good leaders do things right. Great leaders do the right thing.” It’s important to me to make the right decision even if it’s the hard one. How you treat people is how they treat other people. If you don’t treat people with respect and collaboration, they’re not going to treat others that way.