By Mary McPhail Gray
NVW Board Chair
When Linda Sanders walked into her therapy room at Nonviolence Works, she felt as if she was coming home—again and again! Sanders was raised in Texas, and for her entire childhood her family spent most of their vacations in New Mexico—and Taos was the favorite place. She loved the environment and the rich cultural traditions, and at a critical point she and her husband were determined to live here.
Sanders has had an outstanding career as a licensed clinical social worker in Texas—including ten years working with veterans and fifteen years working with adults in other critical decision-making processes. She served for five years as a mitigation specialist completing comprehensive biopsychosocial investigations of clients referred in capital murder cases. For ten years she was the clinical director of a 100-year-old private adoption agency and for eight years was the clinical director in a family social service agency.
Sanders has often been an administrator. The VA Medical Center in Dallas is the second largest in the country and as the Assistant Associate Chief Social Worker Sanders supervised a staff of 170. In her first VA position she was the Suicide Prevention Coordinator at a time when Veteran’s Affairs was just beginning to recognize the need for identification, assessment and treatment of veterans at high risk for suicide. She developed community partnerships to coordinate services and was part of a national team that developed an award-winning process to manage suicidal calls coming into all VA call centers.
In all of these administrative positions, Sanders was skilled at analyzing systems and determined to help make them more humane and responsive to the needs of clients. As a mitigation specialist, she tried to discover “where things went wrong” that resulted in an individual committing criminal acts.
“How are systems failing us?” Sanders asked. “I ordinarily had two years to complete an investigation of family and friend systems around an individual before they came to trial—so I had in-depth looks at how a path to crime developed.”
Eventually, she said, the “dark tragic stories” became too hard to deal with, and she moved to the prevention position in the VA.
When Sanders describes her direct service work—her face lights up. Coming to Nonviolence Works has allowed her to come home again, this time to work directly with clients. “I loved working with the vets,” she declared, and she enjoys work with adults of all ages. In her practice, she has worked with a wide range of diagnoses, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder, Military Sexual Trauma, and other serious complex issues. While working in the adoption agency, she experienced challenging ethical issues that required a compassionate and respectful support for a client’s decision making. “We were working with a process that originated out of loss, and the decisions were never easy.”
It is the emphasis on support for a client’s decisions that Sanders bring to her work. The depth of her training and experience means that she can use a great variety of interventions to support change.
“I am here to respond to what Taos needs. I am coming home to the work I love,” Sanders said.
Sanders has a sister and niece who live in Taos, and her two daughters and their families will visit often. Sanders and her husband are building a house according to their own design and feel they have come home.
Sanders is accepting clients and can be reached at NVW at 575-758-4297 or our new offices at 105 B Bertha St.
NVW has the largest staff of licensed and credentialed behavioral health workers in northern New Mexico. We can be reached at www.nonviolenceworks.us or 575-758-3297.
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of NVW and can be reached at 575-779-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.