Insight From Our Clinical Director: Part 1
As Bonnie Brae continues to grow, both in size and success, we decided to interview Jamie Rau, our talented Clinical Director. Jamie brought many years of clinical, administrative, and teaching experience with him to Bonnie Brae and has been with us for over 20 years. He handles everything from treatment planning to discharge planning, while managing clinical services for the residential and community based group homes.
In this interview, Jamie offers readers an insight into the comprehensive services Bonnie Brae provides to each boy and his family, sharing stories of actual cases and how Bonnie Brae handles them. He also shares the need and vision for Bonnie Brae’s new Family Center, which will help Bonnie Brae better serve youth, their families and the larger community.
We hope this interview allows for a better understanding of what we do here and look forward to the future of this wonderful organization!
Interviewer: Okay Jamie, so if you could just talk a little bit about what we do with families?
Jamie: Sure, so by way of background, right… this particular project is one that I’ve been passionate about for almost my entire 20 years as the clinical director here. What we do with families is so integral and you cannot separate that from what we do for the young men. Since I started 20 years ago, we have tripled the number of young men that we work with and by that metrics, we have also tripled the amount of families that we want to be engaged with us.
Interviewer: So, I think one of the things I’m curious about though, maybe you can start more basic, most people see Bonnie Brae as a place that helps boys…
Interviewer: What they don’t see… is the work we do with families behind the scenes.
Interviewer: Can you paint me a picture… what do we typically do on a weekly basis that engages the families? Do the families come here?
Interviewer: Do they talk with family members? Do we counsel them? How does it go, can you think of any stories that might speak to it?
Jamie: Sure, so that’s a great point. The misperception about this work is that we work with the young men in isolation and that’s not the case… that every young man has some version of family. The truth is there are a small portion of the boys that don’t have any significant family, but they may have adult siblings that are also in the system. We do everything from formal family therapy to supervised visitation, to sibling visitation for those young men that are not yet eligible to have visits in the community, or the family may not have a living unit that’s suitable to visit… they will come and have those visits here at campus.
What we’re talking about is connection, right, the work that we do is based on relationships and connections. We connect and reconnect families. We work on past traumatic family relationships, and we work on establishing and maintaining new family relationships as well. The ultimate end game to all this is the outcome. So, if we treat young men in isolation, it’s an impossibility because they’re going back to that system, and although we’re a long-term facility, the truth is that it’s a relatively short period of time in these young men’s lives.
Without engaging the family in some meaningful way, we’re not going to be as successful. So, we do everything that you can think of, we will do conjoint family therapy meetings, we will be the lead agency. You know some young men have siblings that are in the system and so we’ll bring them here on any given weekend. And currently, we are beyond our capacity and so we’ll probably have a dozen family members visiting us on any given weekend… probably close to half of our young men are here on campus. They’ve not yet gotten to the point where they’re having visitation with the family in the community… there may be some prohibition from that through the courts or through the state welfare agencies. And so what we’re doing is, in a kind of measured way, exposing them, sometimes supervised by therapists, sometimes unsupervised where they might come listen to music and they’ll share a meal.
And so, what’s exciting to me about this project is that like the “Old Woman in the Shoe” we have far outgrown our capacity. We’re kind of a victim of our own success. So, each weekend day, there could be about a dozen to two dozen families here that we’re trying to accommodate in a finite space that hasn’t grown in the 20 years since I’ve been here.To be continued…