Love that phrase!
Especially loved using it appropriately during the 15 years I worked at the Brown Schools Ranch Treatment Center (now Texas Neurorehab Center). I started as a Mental Health Worker on Lariat, a locked living unit for individuals with destructive, violent and dangerous behaviors — our specialty being the treatment of individuals with severe behavior problems. By the time I left, our patient population, treatment methods and staff composition had changed radically — and so had I.
Working at the Ranch proved to be pivotal in my learning journey and discovering my career “path.” I learned many important lessons during my time on Lariat, but the biggest ones concerned teamwork, diversity, and human behavior.
Teamwork: The only way to work safely with our residents was as a tight-knit team. We talked out all treatment and staffing issues at our weekly mandatory Team Meetings. Everyone was expected to actively participate during team discussions. You not only had a right but a responsibility to voice your opinion — especially if you disagreed with what others were saying. And you should voice that opinion as strongly as you believed it, and support it with facts and observations. But once the team made a decision, all discussion was over and everyone on the team had to implement the plan consistently. You could ask to revisit the question later if the problem persisted.
Diversity: This applied to everyone on Lariat, both residents and staff. Our residents came in all shapes & sizes, ranging from semi-verbal autistic young teens to funny but sometimes dangerous adult schizophrenics to manipulative sex abusers (mostly victims themselves as well). Our staff was highly diverse as well, with people from all kinds of backgrounds and education levels from GED to PhD. I worked as a “1:1” with a particular resident who needed constant direction supervision, shifting off with 2 other 1:1s — Ray, an African-American and Robert, a biker-ex-junkie-Nam-vet. Add my long hair & beard into the mix, and we made an odd trio. Working with the wide range of people on our team, I learned to not only appreciate, but value diversity as a source of team strength.
Behavior: We used behavior management treatment techniques with our residents, using reinforcers and a “token economy” based on point system. Residents earned privileges by demonstrating good behaviors and refraining from target inappropriate behaviors. We used individualized management plans to target specific behaviors for each person, with all staff helping our psychiatric staff design and implement treatment plans. This meant learning the basics of behavior management from the A-B-C (Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence) to reinforcement schedules to a 3-stage cycle of Observing-Hypothesizing-Intervening. With behavior change the goal of training and education, all of these techniques echo in my work today.
My Lariat days involved hard work — and hard play. I quit after a year and a half, burnt out and frazzled, but found myself back at the Ranch again a year later, working the night shift. Soon, I became a classroom trainer, moving from direct care to staff development. As our mission shifted to the rehabilitation of traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivors, I pioneered our use of video for training and therapeutic purposes. As our reputation in the brain injury rehab field grew, I prepared media support materials for conference presentations by our professional staff, eventually becoming an invited conference speaker myself.
Before I finished working at the Ranch, I completed a Master’s degree in instructional design and left to learn more elsewhere. Even now, those early lessons from Lariat about teamwork, diversity and human behavior provide a foundation for virtually everything I do in helping people learn and understand what they want to know.