Tell us about yourself.
My name is Michele; I am currently pursuing a master’s degree in Psychology and am employed through Community Action Partnership of Cambria County. My background includes involvement with intellectual disabilities, mental health, and corrections. I am an avid reader; my preferences have grown drastically from fiction to autobiographies to my current interest of research articles. I have a genuine interest in helping people better understand themselves and their abilities. I am a firm believer that change comes from within; the only way to change your outcomes is to know yourself well enough to acknowledge the need.
What do you feel is the most important quality for a CHW to bring to the table when working with a client?
I believe that the most important quality for a CHW to possess is interpersonal awareness. Only once a person has the ability to truly understand themselves are they able to understand others. This is important because it allows the CHW to utilize empathy rather than sympathy, as well as being able to comprehend a persons’ knowledge, skills, and abilities.
If you could help people understand one thing about the clients you’re working with, what would it be?
The first step to understanding is acknowledging – there is no person the same as another. Some of us may come from similar backgrounds, but we are all our own unique individual person. Some people did not have access to a worthy education, while others attended the best schools in the area. Some were born into poverty, while others created it for themselves. The world is full of challenges and realizing that every person has their own struggles is the first step. The first step is understanding that a persons’ limitations can be improved, accommodated, and changed completely with the right resources and approaches. Those resources could be anything from religious studies, drug and alcohol treatment, obtaining a GED, or referrals to behavioral/intellectual services.
What are the systemic issues and challenges our community faces that you’ve seen brought to light in your work so far?
I think that a systemic issue within our community is the blatant barrier in obtaining care for physical and mental health. There is a great lack of psychological providers in the area. I am unsure of why, but I would assume it is due to the diminished pay rate in this area. This makes it hard for people to even obtain an appointment in a timely manner. Most places are scheduling nearly 2-3 months from contact date. To make matters worse, I believe that people with mental health diagnosis’ are believed to be incapable or unable to understand said diagnosis. They are seen as someone who must have a learning disability or must have a criminal record. This is not true. It is, from my personal experience, that some individuals performing intakes in mental health practices are often concerned more with reading questions from a paper, rather than paying attention to the person in need that stands before them.
What are you learning in your current coursework that would be applicable to the HUB framework and what you’ve learned from your clients?
I am currently enrolled in courses related to cognitive and neuropsychology. This coursework is directly related to the HUB framework. Cognitive involves the mental process in comprehension and process such as: thinking, knowing, and remembering; as well as, language, perception, and planning. Neuropsychology involves the functionality of cognitive behaviors and their relationship to brain function.
The CHW should have basic understanding of these fields. This allows for understanding of the clients and will provide a more trusting relationship because instead of ‘understanding’ a client, we are able to ‘relate’. Involvement with my clients’ thus far has taught me that there is a drastic distrust in the community when it comes to involvement with professionals in social service fields.
Tell us more about your interest for working with those within the prison system.
I believe that one aspect that is important to the future success of our community is the realization that rehabilitation is necessary. Prisons are home to individuals of all walks of life, serving sentences for a variety of criminal activity. Prisons are not meant to be permanent homes. By addressing core behavioral issues that usually result in criminal acts from the time a person is incarcerated until their release, they can be better prepared to maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of prison walls. There are many approaches that involve individual and family therapy, education, and many other programs.