Behavior specialists: supporting patients as they seek lasting changePosted on 06/16/20 03:11:pm
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For patients struggling with mental health challenges, a behavior specialist is an integral part of the therapeutic team at Rogers Behavioral Health.
“A behavior specialist spends several hours a day, every day of treatment with patients,” says Rochelle Mendoza, speaking to her more than three years of experience as a behavior specialist at Rogers’ clinic in San Francisco East Bay. "The best thing about my job is I get to see the treatment work.”
What does a behavior specialist do?
1. Build rapport.
“It’s important to build trust and positive relationships with patients.” says Mendoza. “We meet patients where they are, which is typically at a low point in their lives. We ask patients to share very personal things and there are often tough conversations to be had. It’s important to be compassionate and nonjudgmental”.
2. Provide psychoeducation.
“We do a lot of psychoeducation,” says Amy Bahr, behavior specialist in the OCD and anxiety program for children and adolescents in Kenosha. “Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a main component of evidence-based treatment at Rogers. We work closely with the patients to help them understand the connection between their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.”
3. Develop hierarchies and create exposures.
“We work with patients to create lists of things that make them uncomfortable and afraid. We help the patients rate each item of the lists then we create exposures for the patients to help them work through their challenges and build confidence,” says Bahr.
“We gather detailed information about a person’s specific obsessions, compulsions, and/or decreased activities to create individualized exposure and/or behavioral activation hierarchies that are tailored to each patient,” adds Mendoza. “We support patients with navigating through exposures and/or behavioral activation activities while providing guidance and instilling appropriate use of skills.”
4. Communicate with families.
“We participate in family meetings and correspond with family members. We work to help them understand the process of recovery and guide them on how to best support the patient,” says Mendoza.
5. Foster independence.
“While we take the lead when it comes to patient exposures, we also want to foster a sense of independence, so patients are confident they have the skills they need when they leave,” says Mendoza.
More than 200 behavior specialists are employed across the Rogers system. Both Bahr and Mendoza say the work they do to help patients rise above their mental health challenges is very fulfilling.
“It’s rewarding to be there and support patients,” says Bahr. “We are right there with our patients as they experience success in overcoming things they haven’t been able to address on their own.”
Working with patients has helped Rochelle grow personally, too. “Working every day to help people face their fears and anxieties has caused me to look at myself and say, if they can do it, so can I!”
If you are interested in becoming a behavior specialist or exploring other career opportunities with Rogers, visit rogersbh.org/careers.