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First Annual Wellness Mental Health Staff Retreat

In January 2023, Clinical Director Dr. Angelica Soto hosted Plan-It-Life’s first ever Mental Health Staff Retreat in downtown Riverside.  Participants included therapists, mental health specialists, and case managers from all four facilities. Opening with team building activities, the team learned about various mental health topics as it relates to our adolescent client population.  This targeted training will enable mental health staff to understand and treat trauma’s impact on the brain, body, and behavior.

Day One: Foundation

On day one, the team was introduced to trauma and how it impacts the body, brain. and behavior. Dr. To kick off the training event, Angelica Soto, Clinical Director, presented on Trauma Informed Care, which included topics such as attachment, cognitive development, and Secondary Traumatic Stress. Next, Dr. Alkenia Blackmon, clinician for the Jurupa home, provided a summary on the book The Body Keeps the Score. This information served as a foundation for the rest of the presentations and interventions.

Day Two: Interventions

On day two, trainers provided other foundational information and introduced trauma-informed therapies. To begin, Karinka Preston, doctoral trainee, presented on Polyvagal Theory to explain how trauma impacts the nervous system. Next, Melissa Patton, clinician at the Murrieta home, introduced the team to Dialectical Behavior Therapy as an intervention for mood dysregulation problems. This was followed by “bottom-up” interventions presented by all participating team members. As a result, the team gained “take-home” activities to immediately implement with the youth.

Day Three: Personal Development

The final day of the retreat was reserved for personal development in the workplace. Terrence Ireland, Mental Health Specialist Manager, started the final day of presentations by providing a training on assertive communication. Latoya Jackson, clinician at the Banning home, then provided a training on self-care and the use of mindfulness techniques. To round off the training, Dr. Angelica Soto facilitated an exploration and discussion of how the clinician’s and client’s attachment styles impact therapy. This final day of the retreat enhanced our clinical team’s skills to work more effectively with their coworkers as well as with their clients.

This targeted agenda provided different theories, interventions, and practices that will make our team more effective in working with youth who have experienced trauma. Feedback from participants was incredibly positive, and all team members seemed to have enjoyed the learning and comradery. The team has already begun implementing their new skills and interventions with our clients, which exemplifies the staff’s excitement to apply the skills they learned. “They are motivated and hit the ground running. They are a great team!”—Dr. Angelica Soto

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