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Child and Family Services

A Conversation with Matthew Witham, PhD 

Matthew WithamMatthew Witham, PhD, is the manager of Child and Family Services at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and has worked at Gillette since 2017.

Learn more about Witham and the comprehensive approach Child and Family Services provides to support Gillette patients and families, here:


Why did you choose to enter your field?

Originally, I started my undergraduate degree in business management, but I ended up being drawn to psychology after an introductory course. I was initially just intrigued by gaining a better understanding the psychological, social, and emotional aspects of people and how to promote health and healing. Once you have a psychology degree there are a lot of different directions you can go.

After undergrad, I was working with boys in the juvenile justice system for a time and I saw the way that some of the mental health professionals were able to work with the kids and I thought, “I want to be that person.” That pushed me towards pursuing a degree and career in psychotherapy, specifically Marriage and Family Therapy. I wanted to expand the meaningful, tangible help I could provide to others.

How did you arrive at Gillette and what has changed about you since you began working here? 

When I was interviewing for the Child and Family Services manager position in 2017, I wanted to transition to an organization that I could believe in, to a place where I could participate in something bigger than me.  

I found that at Gillette. 
 
Each of the people I encountered during my interview process revealed such passion, commitment, and enthusiasm. One might imagine that over time my perception of the Gillette community could have changed now that I am “behind the curtain” and able to see more regularly the inner workings of the organization on a day-to-day basis.  

However, the opposite has been true. If anything, my appreciation for the dedication and fervor of my colleagues has only grown. Their daily collective commitment to improving the care we provide is truly inspiring.  

I believe I am a better person both professionally and personally since coming to Gillette. I also have a deeper appreciation for our staff, providers and for the services we offer to help patients and families navigate what are very often difficult and complicated situations. 

Child and Family Services plays a wide-ranging role in supporting Gillette patients and their families, what is it like for you to manage and be a part of that team?

Frankly, it’s awesome! Our team is incredibly passionate about the work that they to help our patients live their best lives. I’m very proud of the important role our team plays in providing holistic care that meets the diversity of needs of our patient population.

What’s your morning routine like? 

Like a lot of people, COVID-19 has really put a damper on my daily routines. Some days I am at Gillette, other days I’m at home. 

Despite this, I try to start my day with a cup of coffee and a quiet moment to gather my thoughts for all that is ahead of me. When I’ve got a good routine going, I like to anchor myself with a daily reflection and a few minutes for reading the news. 

What was the best moment of your day so far? Your week? 

Today, my favorite moment has been connecting with colleagues about improving our practice of assessing and treating patients’ and families’ social, emotional and behavioral needs.  

My favorite moments of the week are always when I come through the door after coming home from work. I sincerely love my work, but my family is my first commitment. There is nothing like turning the doorknob of the garage to hear my family welcome me home.  

What are you working on right now that you’re excited about? 

Honestly, there are so many things.  

I really love any project where I get to work across departments with diverse professional disciplines. There is so much we can learn from one another to improve our own work.  

Earlier in my career, I worked almost exclusively with other mental health professionals. Although I look back on that time with fondness, I believe the opportunities I’ve had at Gillette to work alongside colleagues with different professional training has been transformational.  

It's been thrilling to be a part of helping to create spaces where people with multiple perspectives and voices come together for a common purpose.  

What do you want people to know about you? 

First, I love my family. I enjoy being outside. The north shore of Lake Superior is one of my favorite places to get away. There are very few things that are as relaxing as walking on a beach with my family skipping rocks and looking for agates.  

I try to enjoy simple things—a cozy fire, conversations with my close friends, good meals, going for runs, playing catch in the backyard with my children, walking in the woods, cooking and reading. 

If you could give any piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be? 

I am a big fan of the notion, “Believe the best of everyone.”  

In our work and in life, there are inevitable interpersonal tensions and conflicts that can arise, but these difficulties are frequently the onramp to progress. With that said, when we encounter others in those processes, it is essential to have faith in the positive intentions of others.  

I believe we are all trying to do our best. If we believe the best of each person and this is transparent from the beginning, we have a much better chance of being psychologically and emotionally prepared to tackle the work ahead.  

There is also a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that inspires me, “There is no beautifier of complexion, form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.” I would advise all groups to believe the best of others and seek to share joy! 

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