Rebecca Sakl Interview
This is file #21, cycle 4. Today’s date is August 27, 2019. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Rebecca Sakl of the Housatonic Youth Service bureau. She is the longest serving clinician at that wonderful service. She is going to talk about her job. But first we will start with…
JM:What is your name?
JM:Would you tell me your educational background after high school?
RS:I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Mt. St. Mary College in Newburgh, New York. I have a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, Ct.
JM:When did you graduate from Mount St. Mary’s?
JM:When did you graduate from St. Joseph’s?
JM:How did you happen to come to this area?
RS:I live close to this area and when I was in my Master’s program I was looking for an internship closer to home. I stumbled upon the Youth Service bureau. I did my first semester of my internship program at HYSB. Then I decided to continue with latter part of my internship program closer to my school. I ended up working at my internship placement for a few years. Then I wanted to come back closer to home and get a different kind of experience from what I had already done. I contacted HYSB because I had had such a wonderful experience. They had an opening!
JM:You had worked in Middletown, Ct. before so this is a very different area.
RS:Yes, it is.
JM:What is your job title?
RS:I am the Clinical Director or Director of Clinical Services.
JM:What are your responsibilities?
RS:I oversee all of the programs at HYSB: enrichment programing that we do in the schools and also after school, as well as all of the mental health pieces, referrals, one to one and so forth.
JM:Roughly can you tell me how many programs that would be?
RS:It depends on the year, anywhere between 5 and 10 programs. They do not all run at the same time.
JM:When did you actually join the HYSB as a clinician?
RS:June 7, 2013.
JM:Do you go to all of the School in Region #1?
JM:The age range is?
RS:About age 3-21. Typically most of our case load is about kindergarten to 18, but we do see kids from 3-21
JM:The 21 year olds, you explained that they are kids that have left high school, maybe gone to college or into the work force and because they have a relationship with a clinician, they have come back.
RS:Typically that is how it works. We see kids through the high school, they graduate and perhaps in the summer they would to come back and have a connection with the clinician. If they are still under 21, we will see them.
JM:All your services are free?
JM:In general what type of at risk pupils do you serve?
RS:We see a spectrum. We see substance abuse, trauma, suicidal agitation and depression, anxiety, family discord, and divorce. We see anything that a big mental health agency would be seeing in cities. We see the same types of things here at HYSB.
JM:You had given me three examples of different kinds of trauma.
RS:We see sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, verbal abuse, domestic violence: kids in families do witness domestic violence, and inter-generational traumas.
JM:Generally how often do you see a student?
RS:Typically we have a session once a week. There are cases that need more services so they are seen a couple of times a week as needed on a case by case basis.
JM:What kind intervention program do you have? You mentioned some specific ones.
RS:Right now we have 3 clinicians who are trained in different kinds of clinical modalities.
CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is specific type of therapy that we use for kids that have depression or anxiety. If focuses on thoughts, feelings and behavior. We are all trained in that
A few of our clinicians are trained in EMDR which is Eye Movement Desensitization Therapy. It is a little more in depth and more difficult to explain, but it has to do with reprocessing memories of traumatic experiences in the brain through bilateral eye movement.
JM:Is that something like talking it out to desensitize the memory?
RS:It is not talk therapy: it has to do with bilateral stimulation of the brain through even movements of the eyes. There are also a lot of other ways that it can be done. We have tappers, and different bilateral stimulations that we can use to get those memories processing. It is about processing the stuck memories of a traumatic event that get stored systematically in our bodies that keep people who have been traumatized continually triggered in a cycle. We also have clinicians trained in TFCBT which is Trauma Focus Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. That is another modality in working with kids. We have clinicians trained in Yoga, Mindfulness, and other areas of expertise in our little agency here.
JM:For the lay person that is a lot of different modalities. What are the problems inherent in this area that is different from that of an urban area?
RS:I think access is a big one: access to mental health services at a higher level of care. We see kids once a week, maybe twice a week. We are a referral agency so we work with families to place them with different levels of care where there is a need such as psychological testing, psychiatry, or management. Perhaps a particular group of our clinicians have specific expertise in things that we feel the clients need. There are PHP programs Partial Hospitalization Programs where adolescents can go for an extended period of time 4 or 5 days a week for three or four hours. Those types of resources are limited in this area.
Transportation is also difficult. When families come in and we assess what they need is that higher level of care, not only is it difficult to find that level of care within this community, but when we do find it in neighboring towns like Torrington and New Milford, the availability, the means of those families to get there, gas or a car, conflict with job scheduling and driving the distance. That can be a real challenge.
JM:How about affordable mental health services? Is that included in your Partial Hospitalization Programs?
RS:Yes, finding affordable mental health services is definitely challenging. We have wonderful private practice clinicians in this area, but there are a lot of kids that we work with. Parents can’t pay that fee out of pocket or they don’t have that kind of insurance and/or the private practices have such a long waiting list that they can’t get in. This is also an issue that we are up against daily.
JM:There are some problems that just can’t wait three months.4.
JM:How about your collaboration with the school counselors? Do they help?
RS:Yes. We work closely with the school counselors and school principals in each school. They refer kids and families to us. We work with them on behavior plans that are needed; we have meetings which are helpful. We have had a long-standing relationship with those key players in the school which is an important part of HYSB and letting us go into the schools. If we did not have their support, and their collaboration it would be much more difficult to meet the needs of the kids in the school.
JM:You are a separate organization from Region #1 Pupils Services, aren’t you?
RS: Yes. That is an in-house organization.
JM:You supplement what has already been provided. You add another more in-depth layer.
RS:Right, we at HYSB we offer the mental health counseling piece.
JM:The thing that surprised me when I was interviewing some of the other people connected with HYSB was the kids would refer themselves or peers. So it is not always the adults who do the referrals.
RS:NO, thank you for mentioning that. We do get kids that that just walk right over. Our office is located on the campus so it is easy access for them. We have also counselors who bring kids over. We get kids who tell other kids that if they need a good clinician, they know of one. A student will bring their friend over.
JM:What do you like best about your job?
RS:I really like going into schools to provide a free service to kids and families who really need it. The kids are great. I love working with the age range too from 3-21. Every day is something new, something refreshing: you don’t feel that you are stuck in the same old conservation or the same old development. It is always a challenge. I really like that. It is high energy which is fun.
JM:What do you like least?
RS:It is the discouragement that comes with the lack of resources in this area. When you know you have a family that needs something more or something different or something in addition to, it is a real struggle to find that resource to fill that particular need.
JM:That is an issue that has come up time and time again. Is there anything else that you would like to add before we close?
RS:This is my 7th school year at HYSB: it has been a wonderful experience since we have grown so much as an agency. We have helped so many kids and families. I think there are so many people in our community that don’t know really what we do or how to access us. We are trying to bridge that gap with
our new Executive Director (See Laurie Collins interview). We hope to offer more services and become more visible to the community in general. I am really happy with the direction we are going in. I love every minute of serving this community. I hope to be here for many more years.
JM:Thank you so much.