May is Mental Health Awareness Month. To mark the occasion, two experienced Gillette psychologists describe the services available, the importance of psychotherapy for kids who have a disability or a complex health issue, and why they find their jobs rewarding.
“We influence the stories people tell themselves,” Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare psychologist, Ellen Snoxell, explains.
“And once people create the stories, we help them rewrite the endings,” adds her colleague, Gillette supervisor of psychology and psychotherapy services, Erin Tentis-Berglund.
Snoxell and Tentis-Berglund have years of experience helping and treating kids and young adults at Gillette. The two are part of a team of Gillette specialists who work with patients to diagnose and treat a wide range of psychological disorders including; anxiety, depression, adjustment to a medical diagnosis, mood disorders and executive functioning issues.
“One of the hallmarks of the psychotherapy we offer at Gillette is the fact that we help people adjust to their disability and help them with their self-identity,” Snoxell says. “We don’t have a cookie-cutter approach to therapy and we tailor our treatments to each child or young adult.”
Children and young adults who have disabilities and complex conditions often require mental health care and Gillette incorporates this need into its care model.
“The fact that our psychologists work with the team of other providers really makes the care at Gillette stand out,” Tentis-Berglund says. “We can look at a patient’s chart, talk to a therapist or doctor and really are able to look at the whole child so we can customize our treatment plan to coordinate with their personal goals.”
The psychology team at Gillette uses the biopsychosocial model of care. This model examines the interconnection between biology, psychology and socio-environmental factors. The goal is the help children integrate into their school, community and family and feel good about themselves.
Helping Kids Reach Goals and Milestones
“We really listen to our patients and families and use that information to help shape our plan of care and goals,” Tentis-Berglund says. “For example, I worked with a boy who had some anxiety issues. His goal was to be able to attend his first sleepover. The team at Gillette helped him come up with some strategies so he could do this and feel successful. It’s so rewarding to be able to help kids reach their goals and milestones.”
“It’s important for people to know the depth and variety of care we offer at Gillette,” Tentis-Berglund adds. “One thing I would like families to know is we don’t treat ALL psychological problems. For example, we don’t treat eating disorders. We also don’t do an in-depth behavioral analysis for a child. That said, we can be a resource to families and help them get a referral to an appropriate provider.”
Snoxell came to Gillette after working in several medical settings including the VA, Regions Hospital and Courage Center where she treated adolescents and adults with serious medical conditions. "It was rewarding and helped prepare me for the work I do with young adults at Gillette,” Snoxell recalls.
Tentis-Berglund’s desire to work at Gillette began in her childhood. “My aunt was the Gillette in-house teacher and she often shared stories of the remarkable kids she taught. When I was a psychology student I had the opportunity to shadow and interview Gillette psychologist, Nancy Wagner, and that experience really helped to shape my goal of one day working at Gillette.”
Helping the Entire Family
The psychology team at Gillette can help the entire family. Parents and siblings of Gillette patients are often dealing with mental health issues connected with the stress of having a loved one who has a disability or an injury due to a trauma. Tentis-Berglund and Snoxell often include family members in therapy sessions.
“We’re focused on helping this family handle things now and in the future. By including everyone we can make sure we’re providing this family with the skills to improve their everyday life,” Tentis-Berglund says. “We offer play therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback. We have many tools and really want to be strong advocates for our families.”
Snoxell and Tentis-Berglund recommend the following websites to learn more about mental health and disability.
- Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare
- PACER Center https://www.pacer.org/
- United Cerebral Palsy of Minnesota (UCPMN) https://ucpmn.org/
- National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) https://www.nami.org/