Categories
Anniversary Blogs Recovery Service Treatment

Nick Riefner: Recovery Mentor

Nick Riefner is one of our beloved Recovery Mentors. He has been with Visions since 2011. nickriefnerNick spends his time at our Residential and Outpatient facilities, carrying with him a sincere, honest dedication to working with teens. Coupled with his passion for being of service, his genuine kindness and a commitment to quality care, Nick  is someone to celebrate.  He’s playful when he needs to be; he’s serious when he needs to be, and he has a keen ability to relate to the clients in a way that they can genuinely relate to. Working with teens is an adventure; Nick is skillful at navigating the terrain with a sense of humor and relatability. Nick not only cares for the teens he works with, he shows the same level of compassion for those he works with every day. For Nick Riefner, helping others is more than a job; it’s lifestyle.

 

Check out what some of the staff had to say when I asked them about Nick:

 

“It is an absolute honor working with Nick. I met him when I walked into Latigo for my first night shift and he immediately made me feel comfortable. There’s just something about him- everyone loves him. I’ve learned a lot from Nick and so have the clients. He’s a prime example of what recovery looks like.” Ashley Harris 

Nick is an amazing recovery mentor because of his passion for his work and ability to relate to clients. He openly acknowledges that recovery is a day by day process, which helps clients see the silver lining of their storm cloud. – Corinn McWhinnie

 

The moment I met Nick I knew he was special. He is a calming, kind, and supportive soul. One of Nick’s best qualities is his ability to level a room with his passion and sincerity. Nick truly has what it takes to work with teens. Every day when I get to work, Nick is right there checking in to see if I need any help. I feel honored to work with such a great guy whom I trust and depend on.  – Noelle Rodriguez, Psy.D

“Dude… that’s gnarly bro”!!  When talking to the kids about an issue that they are having a rough time with in their lives. And that language the kids get, they 100% relate to what Nick is saying and he is being genuine and real. – Koreema J. Walden, MA., MFTI

 

And last, but certainly not least are Nick’s answers to Visions 10 questions:

 

1: Sand, Sea, or Surf?

Sand.

2: What made you decide to work with adolescents?

I decided to work with adolescents because my journey and experience began when I was an adolescent.

3: Would you rather be Gonzo or the Cookie Monster?

Cookie Monster all the way.

4: What is your favorite way to give back?

My favorite way to give back is listening to someone who needs to be heard or who wants to be heard.

5: Who inspires you and how are you like them?

Who I am inspired by would definitely be my co-workers.  I strive to carry out the same love and compassion given to both myself and the residents in my personal life on a daily basis.

6: Would you rather have Morgan Freeman narrate your life or have Chuck Norris narrate your life?

Morgan Freeman.

7: A nice cuppa tea or a locally sourced pour-over?

Locally sourced coffee for sure.

8: What superhero power do you have?

My secret super power is I can instantly make roller skates appear on whomever I want.

9: What piece of advice would you offer someone scared and newly sober?

I would suggest they embrace the possibility that change might be a good thing and to learn how to start embracing love.  Especially for themselves.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I choose to work at Visions because I feel the care given to clients and the dedication to seeing they are set up for a successful life are amazing. Most of all, the care for given to each other not only as coworkers but as family can’t be found anywhere else.

 

 

Categories
Mental Health PTSD Recovery

Treating PTSD in Children and Adolescents

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not just for adults:

it also occurs in children and adolescents. Children and teens that witness violence and have post-traumatic stress symptoms require psychological care, but studies are suggesting that while children may experience the full range of post-traumatic stress symptoms, the manifestation of symptoms can differ from that of an adult.

 

The Journal of Pediatric Psychology says, “in the DSM-IV, eight criteria require verbal descriptions of experiences and emotional states. The lack of developmental modifications may result in an under-diagnosis of PTSD. “(Pynoos, Steinberg, & Goenjian, 1996). Scheeringa et al. (1995) Additional  “evidence suggests that children may experience disabling PSS (post-traumatic stress symptoms) that warrant treatment, but not meet criteria for PTSD (Carrion, Weems, Ray, & Reiss, 2002).

 

What has become crucial in defining this diagnosis for adolescents is the way in which clinicians understand how PTSD presents in youth. There is still a debate within the field of pediatric psychology about whether or not distinct youth criteria should be established — thus far, post-traumatic stress symptoms have been assessed primarily using criteria outlined for adults.  When assessing youth for PTSD, the adaptation for youth includes the “simplification of language and concepts.” However, there continues to be discussion amongst clinicians about the need for separate qualifiers for youth.

 

Symptoms of PTSD might include classic stress responses such as nightmares, fear and a general response to distress, but according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, there may be some symptoms unique to children and adolescents like:

 

  • Reenactment of the event
  • Regressed behavior
  • Separation anxiety,
  • Specific forms of behavioral, academic, and somatic problems”

Did you know: Between 25 and 87% of youth report experiencing at least one traumatic event before age 20, with girls reporting more episodes (Elklit, 2002)

 

Noelle Rodriguez, Psy.D. and Visions Outpatient Psychological Assistant shared some of her experience working with teens who suffer from PTSD. She listed some of the manifestations she sees and how she helps treat them:

  • High levels of depression because PTSD is misdiagnosed
  • Inability to formulate trusting relationships
  • Drug use to attempt to access or regulate feelings

Noelle also finds teens with PTSD also present with some or all of the following:

  • Poor time management
  • A need to find a voice but feels silent inside
  • Loss of self, feeling fragmented
  • Somatic symptoms i.e., body pains, headaches, etc.
  • Disassociation
  • Sexual promiscuously–looking to feel connected
  • Paranoia
  • Lack of boundaries, which leads to more mistrust

Noelle takes her PTSD clients through a process of deep, insightful work that helps them strive toward shifting their paradigm to include:

  • Empowerment;
  • Sobriety (if applicable) on their own terms;
  • Replacing maladaptive behavior with healthy behaviors, for example:
  • Learning to ask for help, finding a support group, becoming able to  recognize and identify PTSD symptoms before they have a chance to fully manifest
  • Self-care
  • Learn how to identify danger vs. safety
  • Develop tools with which to to deal with blame, shame and doubt
  • Time management
  • Honesty in relationships
  • Finding their voice and learning how to speak up for themselves
  • Learning to get grounded when one is in emotional pain.

 

Peter A. Levine, Ph.D, originator and developer of Somatic Experiencing and the Director of the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute has transformed the way in which I personally view PTSD.  He says in his book In an Unspoken Voice, “I hope to convey a deeper appreciation that their lives are not dominated by a ‘disorder’ but by an injury that can be transformed and healed.” Like Noelle, he talks about the need for someone working with PTSD to learn to self-regulate. Levine says this self-regulation “allows us to handle our own states of arousal and our difficult emotions,” and that it is what fosters the ability to “evoke a sense of being safely ‘at home’ within ourselves, at home where goodness resides.” Trauma work is a deep process. It involves learning how to hold ourselves with a sense of compassion while we look at the darkness that has swaddled our hearts.

 

So whether or not the DSM catches up, knowing that we have clinicians who are well versed in trauma work and who are willing to guide our youth to recovery is profound. Triggers eventually become tools we work with instead of against. And ultimately, with deep, consistent work, we develop the skills to change our relationship to our trauma and to heal.

Categories
Recovery

Noelle Rodriguez, Psy.D. – Outpatient Therapist

Noelle Rodriguez. Psy.D, is one of our primary therapists at our Outpatient program. She is truly an incredible woman who carries the essence of recovery and compassion in her bones. I have often said that if I were a troubled teen, Noelle would be my mentor. She truly cares about those she works with and does it with a divine mix of tough love and compassion—maintaining those boundaries a struggling teen so desperately needs. Noelle is a wonderful example of someone who has dedicated her life to service. She persistently gives back that which has been given to her—tenfold—always leading by example with either service work or the need for self-care.  Guided by her heart and operating with a high level of intellect, Dr. Rodriguez has quickly become and integral piece in the Visions family.  We are beyond grateful to have her in our midst—both the kids and the staff benefit greatly from her influence.

Of course, the staff has some amazing things to say. Read on:

“My work wife is the bestest!   Big smile, bigger heart, we are so lucky to work with her!” – Jesse Engdahl

“Noelle is one of the most relaxed and confident people I have met, the perfect combination for a therapist. I have found myself in her office numerous times, just to take in some of her “mom” energy. She is a source of great comfort for our students, who clearly gravitate toward her centered nature.” Joseph Rogers

“Noelle has quickly become an integral part of the Visions family. Noelle is always ready to help and support our clients and families at the drop of a hat. It is a pleasure to work side by side with Noelle.” – John Lieberman

“Dr. Rodriguez seamlessly joined our team and has added so much in a short period of time!  We have known Noelle for years through shared recovery experiences, and have been amazed at her ability to take her knowledge from personal recovery and integrate it into treating our dual-diagnosis clients.  Her education and past experiences have more than prepared her for our most interesting cases.  Noelle’s compassion and love for what she does shines through on a daily basis.  She connects with the clients and provides a guide for the family in its entirety.  We are so happy to have her onboard!” – Chris and Amanda Shumow

Let’s not forget those quirky queries we love to ask! Read on for Noelle’s interesting answers:

1: What inspired you to become a clinical psychologist?

My mom, she was a therapist, she believed in me. My therapist was a huge influence as well.

2: Are you a morning or night person?

Love to get up early before anyone else and walk on the beach. Problem is I love to stay up late and watch old movies…eeek!

3: Do you prefer the heat of the summer, the chill of winter, the breeze of spring, or the scent of fall?

Winter, spring is my favorite time. Love to bundle up and take walks, love to see the earth waking up in spring.

 4. What’s your favorite book?

I’ve been reading psych books for so long I don’t remember any more! I’ll get back to you on that one.

5: What literary character do you identify with the most?

Huckleberry Finn…troubled, wise, kind, funny, loving, misunderstood.

6: If you could time travel, where would you go and why?

To go see my kids, one is at Loyola in Chicago, the other one is at Humboldt State, they’re my heart and soul.

7: What’s your guilty pleasure?

Eating in bed late at night with my sweetie.

8: How do you incorporate self-care into your busy schedule?

I really do like to exercise, just don’t always have the time…even if its in my care I take time to breathe.

9: Favorite place to eat in Los Angeles?

 My sister’s, amazing cook…lots of laughter always.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

Love the family atmosphere, my co-workers are amazing people, supportive kind, funny, loving I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I appreciate the Shumows’ work in the community and how it sets an intentional culture within the workplace.