Sandra Rulon, 43, recently moved to Maine from California. Working in Penobscot County, she is a Clinician who works with low-income families and children with behavioral issues.
Out of high school I was in the Coast Guard for four years and when I got out, I got my bachelor’s degree in accounting, which I did for a decade. I wanted to do something different, so I did a bunch of personality tests which told me I should be a nurse, a teacher, or a therapist. I decided I liked the therapy field the best and got my master’s degree in mental health.
As a Clinician, I go into the home and work with the parents and the kids, usually on behavioral issues. There’s a lot of trauma and PTSD in the kids we work with as they’ve been through an unbelievable amount of stress and neglect. I do outpatient work and HCT. The Clinician and BHPs work with the parents, guardians and children to identify strengths, challenges, and needs of the children and families.
If we can get kids to interact with us on a daily basis, that’s considered success. Or another success is if we can get kids to de-escalate a behavior and work on coping skills to get them to calm down. In the long term, we like seeing parents using the parenting skills we taught them or seeing the kids have healthy relationships with their guardians.
Working with kids is different from working with veterans or working with older populations. You have to be willing to be a lifelong learner. There’s always continuing education units, new therapies, and treatments to be updated on. You have to be incredibly patient and you have to know yourself very well. You’ll have stuff trigger you and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll have burnout. You have to be aware of your own emotions and know when to take time away and when you need to talk to someone.
I know that I’m doing something that betters someone’s life. We’d all like to wave a magic wand and make everybody happy, but know that it’s not going to happen. If I can work with one kid and give him a little bit of joy or if I can work with one family and hopefully break that generational pattern of unhealthy relationships–that’s the reward. Even if I’ve had a bad day, I touched someone’s life.