Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"I love how the property and how the outdoors are seamlessly embedded in the curriculum"

      Kristy Wrigley studied political science in college and started her career working in residential care with at-risk children.  She ran a group home in Burlington for five years.  She spent time outside, engaging the kids in therapeutic outdoor activities.  They went camping, building deep connections amid nature’s peacefulness.
     “I wanted to go live outdoors for a few years,” Kristy said with a smile.
     She began a Masters in Mental Health Counseling at Trinity College and interned with Mike Gray at The Howard Center in Burlington.  He worked with children who experienced significant sexual abuse. 
     “Mike was an incredibly influential mentor for me,” Kristy said.
     Kristy completed her degree and wrote a grant to support treatment for children with challenging sexual behaviors.  The grant was funded and she worked for Washington County Mental Health Services.  Her clients included those convicted of sexual offenses and those at risk of committing a sexual crime.  At the same time, she provided clinical consultation at a specialized camp, facilitating groups and providing therapy.  She then worked in private practice and as a contractor for the Vermont Department for Children and Families.  She became the Clinical Director of Comprehensive Care at The Howard Center’s Jarrett House, guiding program development.
     Kristy’s association with Laraway began three years ago; she provided consultative services in her specialty area.  Today, she is on Laraway’s staff as the Clinical Supervisor at Laraway School.  Kristy supervises and supports the clinicians working directly with students.  She supervises all treatment plans, making sure treatment is integrated with educational goals and insuring Medicaid compliance.  She also provides individual and group therapy for students, including initiating a Girls’ Group to foster open dialogue and positive peer relationships. 
     “I love working at Laraway, I really do,” Kristy said.  “The atmosphere is really positive and the students respond to that.  I love the property and how the outdoors are seamlessly embedded in the curriculum.  My roots are in wilderness therapy and Laraway is a great fit for me.  People here are very committed and constantly asking the question, ‘What is good for the student?’”
     Asked about her approach to clinical supervision, Kristy thought for a moment and said, “For better or worse, I’m a pretty direct person.  It’s the Philly girl in me.  (Kristy grew up near Philadelphia.)  I try to be direct.  I also try to empower.  I want to know what my supervisees’ passions are.  I want them to feel empowered to go in there and do what they think is right for a kid.  I provide a scaffold.  Within those parameters, a clinician is afforded all this room to make the work their own.  Providing consistent clinical supervision is also very important.  People need to have it every week to make sure they’re doing good work and that there’s a place to share it.”
     Kristy commented on all the good work happening at Laraway School.  “Kids are getting clinical offerings every day.  There’s all this sensory stuff going on and outdoor adventure education is amazing.  Kids will behave in a positive way when their sensory input is aligned. Some kids need a little; some need a lot.  We’re here to provide what they need, as individuals.”

     A question Kristy ponders in her work, and ancillary research, is:  How does Laraway become increasingly evidence-based and outcomes-based?  This is a tall order, but one that can’t be ignored as we strive to prepare students for happy, healthy independent lives.