The beginning of Shannon Marchand’s career at Ryther began with a master’s level internship in the Cottage Program. With lots of hard work and a few years later, Marchand is the new Program Director of the Cottage Program – Ryther’s inpatient program for children ages 6-14 who struggle with trauma, mental health, and behavioral challenges. Marchand’s remarkable story isn’t uncommon at Ryther where 93% of leadership positions at Ryther are promoted internally.
Ryther is not only a leader in providing mental health and behavioral services to youth, it is also taking strides to provide important resources and support for its staff. It’s all too common in the healthcare industry for staff to suffer from burnout and secondary trauma. Ryther is working to address this through frequent debriefs and meetings with supervisors as well as through its new trauma-informed model: ARC (Attachment, Regulation, and Competency). This promising practice not only impacts clients, but also impacts how staff relate to one another and how managers supervise their staff. Empathy and understanding one’s own emotional state is key to responding effectively and positively.
Ryther values community and creates time for staff members to build relationships across campus and create a support system. Individual staff teams come together in annual “staff retreats” to eat good food and build teamwork. During Field Day, the entire campus participates in fun games and special events. Ryther also provides breakfast/brunch socials for the staff while also maintaining a strong mentorship program. Meetings with supervisors include professional development planning so that staff have a road map to reach their career goals. Ryther provides a variety of resources on campus for training and psychoeducation. For example, skilled professionals from within and outside the agency come to educate on specific diagnoses and how to work with struggles clients may have. There are various trainings on therapeutic modalities such as sensory training in the Garvey Center, or experiential therapy training through the Challenge Course or climbing wall.
Among the many mental healthcare providers, Ryther is unique because of its all-encompassing services for children, youth, and young adults. Therapists work with a variety of populations, some of which include: facilitating parent-child interactions, treating substance abuse disorders, and addressing self-harm behaviors. Ryther’s residential Cottage Program provides clients with many treatment options and resources. There is a Challenge Course as well as many experiential activities such as yoga, drumming, canine and equine therapy, art therapy, and groups to address issues from social skills to identifying feelings. To further its goal of building community within, there is much collaboration and communication between therapists, staff, case managers, caregivers and all involved. This collaborative environment also provides for opportunities for mentorship of new staff.
Despite the challenges that come with working with children with complex developmental trauma, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences when watching a child make progress. It is moments when Shannon Marchand hears from a Ryther kid that, “She never knew love until she came to Ryther,” that encourages her and her staff to persevere in helping these youth reach their treatment goals. It is also after the most challenging moments when supervisors are there to debrief and support staff in a timely and knowledgeable manner that make a huge difference. Staff have remarked that one thing they didn’t know about Ryther before working in the Cottages was how supportive their colleagues are. It is a tough job and a really important one, but it is also one that is based on teamwork, trust, and camaraderie with new friendships formed and paths to future endeavors discovered.