By Mary McPhail Gray
“As a student of human behavior, I am fascinated to learn about the experiences that have contributed to people’s actions today,” states Linda Sanders, Clinical Supervisor at Taos Behavioral Health. In her 28- year career as a clinical social worker, Sanders has enhanced her learning and understanding of people in a rich variety of contrasting roles—from work with veterans, to heading an adoption agency, to directorships at large social service agencies, to mitigation investigations in murder cases. She relates a deep understanding of the emotions involved in all these situations.
Sanders joined TBH in 2018—after working at Tri-County and provides clinical supervision for all clinicians who are completing independent licensure and masters level interns who are completing their field work. The fact that she has worked in so many different settings—that presented intense challenges– gives her a broad core of skills that guide her supervision.
Working for ten years as the director of a 100-year-old adoption agency gave Sanders a deep understanding of grief and loss that is often not understood by others. The birth parents experience the loss of their child, the adopting couple is often in grief over their infertility failures and the adopted child loses the experience of being raised by her biological family. These feelings of grief have to be dealt with to complete a successful adoption.
In her mitigation work, she might investigate a case for two years—traveling to different states to learn from family, friends, teachers, etc.—what went so wrong that this individual performed an act as egregious as murder? The stories were complex, and they inform her clinical practice with a variety of clients. In her role as a medical social worker in a Dallas Hospital Emergency Room team and as a Child Protective Specialist in the Texas Department of Human Service she gained more insight into developmental experiences that are life challenges.
During her ten years at the Dallas VA Medical Center Sanders supervised 170 social workers, organized trainings and advocated for evidence-based practice, and served as the Suicide Prevention coordinator for Northern Texas VA clinics. In these roles, she became skilled in the treatment of serious behavioral health challenges: Suicide, PTSD, Depression and Military Sexual Trauma. She comments that while the military culture now recognizes and talks about the reality of behavioral health crises and the need for treatment among our services, an attitude of discouraging counseling is still felt.
Sanders understands that one of the things the military excels at is to support a sense of belonging and camaraderie. After discharge and return to civilian life—that bond disappears. Gone are buddies who shared the same fear and horror and can relate to your memories. And the realization that you experienced and saw violence because our nation asked you to—and then seemingly abandoned you when your tour is over—contributes to grief and anger in veterans. “They often feel they are walking alone and seeking help from a counselor takes deep courage,” states Sanders.
Sanders believes that greater access to news and information about available help gives some veterans the courage to come to an agency like TBH. They need to know that treatment CAN work—you do not have to bear your burden alone. Goals in treatment are to improve functioning skills—to manage symptoms such as nightmares, anger and depression or “triggering” events and restore a modicum of self-respect and balance. It is a slow incremental process and a skilled clinician takes the journey with you. Sanders is a unique and skilled clinician who is here at TBH to guide your journey.
Please call at 575-758-4297 or stop by at 105 Bertha St. in Taos or check the website at www.taosbehavioralhealth.org .
TBH has the largest licensed and credentialed behavioral health staff in northern New Mexico.
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of TBH and can be reached at 757-779-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.