By Marc Geroux, LPC, QMHP, Newaygo County Mental Health
NCMH – 50 years
N3- Newaygo County Mental Health has been providing services to the community for the past half century. As part of Mental Health Month we are running a series of articles highlighting the good work that has been done as well as the good work currently being done. In this third piece Marc Geroux describes his professional growth during his career in the mental health field.
I was asked to write about how I entered into the field of mental health, and about my training, my practice and my experience. There is a tendency for people to enter the field due to having some vested interest from having a family member struggling with mental health, or struggling themselves. While problems existed in my family, my path was to it as a result of finding it interesting and connecting with it when taking classes in college.
My career began working in a program that assisted families in their efforts to avoid removal of their children or reunify them after spending time in foster care. I moved to West Michigan and was hired at Newaygo County Mental Health in 2002. During my time at NCMH I was lucky enough to be trained in DBT, EMDR, Motivational Interviewing and a Neurofeedback program.
Following my studies, it took little time for my eyes to be open to many different environments that were not covered by the curriculum. Naively, I made the mistake of viewing cases in terms of labels or diagnoses, however I quickly learned this was not close to sufficient. It wasn’t until the training in DBT that I learned to look at things with curiosity and the benefits of taking the time to understand the cause and effects of symptoms.
This was further reinforced when learning about trauma with the Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children and EMDR. My practice now tends to be trauma informed, primarily utilizing interventions from DBT and EMDR. From this scope of practice it became clear that behaviors are mostly a product of their experience, seemingly more so than their biology or anything that can be summed up in a diagnosis.
Looking back, I held a view that people seeking mental health treatment were somehow different from those who did not. I failed to appreciate that most, if not all, people could benefit from seeking help and the vast majority of people who come into our office do not have organic based symptoms. I also realized that the symptoms identified in the DSM-Diagnostic and Statistical Manual are things that all will experience on some level, what makes it a disorder is that it interferes with at least one area of functioning. These are often patterns of behavior often passed down through generations and tend to be inadvertently reinforced within their environment.
I also want to note that the reinforcement tends to be based more on care that comes from wanting a problem to be solved and stress response to be extinguished; rather than malicious intent; as it is often viewed. Individuals are not broken; rather they are a sum of their experiences. The impact of trauma and function of emotion on behavior is something the field is now appreciating on a deeper level. The DBT program promotes a belief that it is a mistake to focus on fixing the problem without understanding the parts. This practice appears to be gaining relevance and hopefully will continue its presence in the field; and appreciated as a community.
We are now also increasing our understanding of the functions within the brain and are offering Neurofeedback, which shows promise to help train the brain to decrease problematic symptoms of anxiety, depression, issues with attention, addiction and symptoms associated with Autism. While this does show promise, it is in the early stages of development. It is my hope that Newaygo County Mental Health continues to make efforts to pioneer treatments that can improve quality of life. While it has many challenges, it is important to maintain our efforts.
I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the individuals and families who allowed me the honor of entering into their lives and sharing their experiences. My growth would not happen without you.
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