What does your organization do?CAC is dedicated to providing high quality, affordable and accessible counseling services to the people in our community. We do this so that those who want to invest in their mental health do not have to go without because they are uninsured or do not earn enough money to cover current private-pay therapy rates.
CAC is also a leader in the training, supervision, and mentoring of new therapists in the Professional Counseling (LPC), Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT), Social Work (LCSW) and Counseling Psychology professions. Our integrative model allows us to tailor services to support each client's individual goals. By not imposing session limits, we are able to pace services in a way that honors a person's natural healing rhythm. Starting at $10 per session and stopping at $55, our sliding scale fee range continues to be one of the lowest in the Austin area.
It was 39 years ago that a group of licensed psychologists decided to personally address the mounting need for affordable professional psychotherapy by donating their services; giving uninsured and underinsured Central Texans access to treatment that was unheard of at the time. Today, now over 100 volunteers strong, we are still unwavering in our commitment to this core purpose. As a result of this driving conviction thousands of uninsured and underinsured individuals, couples, and families have received the professional treatment, help and support they were seeking. Last year alone we provided 26,000 sessions!
How did you become interested in this work?I guess you could say I was born into this field. I was advocating for mental health services with my mother (at that time the local AMI Chapter VP) when I was 8 years old. I had an up close and personal view of the good that can be done as I watched my big brother grow up and utilize multiple different counseling services. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 8 and is now in his 40’s living a wonderful independent life! I credit that to the mental health resources available in Wisconsin and my mother’s unwavering love and support!
What drives your passion?The seemingly endless need for services and public education. I will continue to advocate and push towards stigma free mental health services until it is as commonplace and accessible as any other issue.
Did you have a mentor or a role model?Absolutely! I credit two wonderful women with helping me discover my path and passion. The first is my mother Lynda, who is my greatest role model and the biggest cheerleader in my life. She is my best friend and confidant, my teacher, and my greatest source of advice. She has been in our field for decades and has also been an Executive Director so she understands the issues that can arise in my position. But more than anything else she is always there to remind me that I’m doing the best I can and that I should be proud of myself and my work. We all need to hear that sometimes.
The second role model in my life is Jan Anderson. She was my LPC supervisor when I was going through my internship towards licensure and she is still in my life today. I credit Jan with opening my eyes to all the different directions our path may take and owe her more than she will ever know. She was the most wonderful supervisor a young intern could hope for and is the reason I became a supervisor myself. I want to pass on all the meaningful teachings I received from her and work to make sure my interns are treated fairly and ethically.
What's the biggest challenge in your work?I am truly blessed to be surrounded by amazing people. The team is small, only 7, but the amount of work accomplished is enormous. There are many times when I feel pressured to do more or commit to more. In those times I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and work with the team to ensure we don’t “bite off more than we can chew”. I’ve worked hard to create an environment where the team is able to openly voice their concerns and provide input into the decision-making process. However, there are always constant pressures for new programs and services, or for expanding to be able to accommodate more clients. The balance between the communities needs and our ability to effectively execute our charter is always a very difficult part of what I do.
What's the best advice that you have ever received?The best advice I’ve received comes from a favorite quote of mine - “the same hammer that shatters glass forges steel.” That quote reminds me that there must be balance in my role as Executive Director. At times the role can be lonely. And during those times I focus on doing what is best for the organization and the team. I believe in working alongside my team with each member having a valued voice. Some of the greatest ideas for positive change within our agency have come from team members who were comfortable enough to share their ideas. Had I not been open to hearing it, the entire agency may have missed out. Build up your team – don’t break them down. Challenge them. Show them you value them with your actions AND your words! They work WITH you not FOR you.
What are your top tips for new Executive Directors?1. Be honest with your team and be vulnerable. The same passion you display is the passion you’ll see from them. Let them take the lead on things! The fresh ideas they bring to the table are great both for morale and for your agency!
2. There will ALWAYS be tough days. Remember that those days do not define you as a leader. Keep things in perspective and lead from both logic and emotion.
3. Don’t just say “I have an open-door policy”. Get out of your office and show your team you are ready and willing to help. I know we’re all busy but you should never allow yourself to get so busy that you miss what’s happening with your team. Take some time to not just learn, but DO other jobs that fall under your team’s responsibilities. Get your hands dirty. Your team will appreciate you showing genuine interest in their work. Additionally, those moments will make you a better leader than any meeting will. I personally have learned more in doing that than in any meeting I’ve had.
4. Just one extra and often overlooked thing …This job is very hard, do not forge ahead without a person in your corner that you can really talk too. Make sure you have a person to bounce ideas off of, talk about stressful things, and just generally detox from the day – you’ll need them! If you don’t have one yet – drop me a line!