As the saying goes, find a job you like and you will never work a day in your life. Psychologists, more than most people, are aware of the need to find meaning in the day to day. For some, however, finding their passion generally takes a long time. For others, it comes more quickly.
For Ashley Warhol, Psy.D, finding her niche as director of clinical services and internship training at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health flowed naturally, and quickly, from a predoctoral internship with the organization in 2012.
Following the internship, she was offered a position as a staff clinician, moved up to become assistant director of clinical services and then was promoted to director, all in the past six years.
Along with her day job, Warhol is also an adjunct professor at Becker College, teaching three undergraduate and one graduate class in psychology. She manages the long days with a hefty dose of passion, she explained in a conversation with New England Psychologist’s Catherine Robertson Souter. She spoke about the work she does with Devereux, a Rutland, Mass.-based behavioral health provider of residential and community-based treatment programs and how it fulfills a desire to champion the people who need it most.
What is your day or week like?
In general, my position is really meant to oversee clinical services on a broader scale and to ensure that we are using evidence-based treatment interventions with the youth and adults that we serve.
In a given day I might be working with interns in a training capacity or with staff clinicians on teaching them new evidence-based treatment interventions or helping them maintain fidelity to the models that we use.
We have seven interns currently and anywhere from 20-25 other clinical staff. We take two doctoral interns per year and this year, also have five practicum students.
What part of the work speaks to you most?
I’d like to highlight the work we do in teaching all our employees on best practices on working with transgender youth. We have really ramped up our efforts over the last several years here to utilize best practices and ensure our staff are knowledgeable, educated, and well-versed in creating a safe and affirming environment for our trans students.
We do place youth based on gender identity rather than assigned sex at birth if that is what the student wants and if it is in the student’s best interest for safety. A lot of what I do in a given day is to educate and advocate on behalf of trans individuals here.
Are you seeing more transgender students?
One of the things that we have historically done well here is working with LGBTQ youth but because transgender youth have such unique needs for support and an environment that is inclusive and is respectful, we have ramped up our efforts to ensure we are utilizing best practices for that group.
That is certainly not the only group we work with. Here at Devereaux we have two main populations. We have our mental and behavioral health population which is both adolescent males and females ages 13-up into 22.
Our other branch is working with autism spectrum disorders.
We also integrate trauma-informed care and interventions with all of the students we work with. Regardless of diagnosis, the rates of trauma experiences are relatively high. About 90 percent of the population we serve here has experienced some sort of trauma in their lifetime.
On a personal note, what led you to this career?
I always knew I wanted to work with children and adolescents. Child welfare and working with more vulnerable populations is what I was really drawn to. I am a person who likes to work for the underdog to see if I can make a lasting difference with people who may not have an advocate.
After I finished my rotation and Devereux offered me a full-time staff clinician position, I decided to stay on. Since then, I have had the opportunity to really hone my clinical and administrative skills and slowly move into position I am in now.
I have been fortunate to work for an agency that fosters growth and development. This has been my only job right out of grad school and I haven’t left because of the opportunity and because of the services we provide.
I strongly believe in our mission and believe that we are doing good clinical work here. I wouldn’t do this work if I didn’t feel passionate about it.
What are your goals for the future?
I am very passionate about training and education. I do a lot of presenting across Massachusetts working with suicidal youth or with LGBTQ populations. I would really like to be someone who assists other agencies in creating safe and affirming environments for diverse youth, and help them create a culture of acceptance and respect and support.
We are also trying to increase our research efforts here particularly around using evidence-based treatment interventions with different populations.
Right now, we are examining the effectiveness of a DBT clinical program model for our adolescent boys program. DBT has been historically studied with females and at least up until a couple of years ago, there hadn’t been much research on the use of it in residential treatment for boys.
How do you have time to teach four courses and do a full-time job?
A lot of caffeine and not much sleep! Actually, because the courses are in the evening, it really works out. And because it is something I am passionate about, it doesn’t really feel like work. I am able to teach the practitioners of tomorrow about the great work in the field of psychology.
What makes Devereux stand out?
If I had to sum it up in one word it would be excellence. From the top down, we are all committed to providing excellent care, intervention, and family support and are always evaluating how to continue that excellence.
Doing the work we are doing and getting stagnant is not an option. We are always looking for ways to say, `Okay, we are doing well. How do we make it better?
Catherine Robertson Souter is a freelance writer and social media agent based in New Hampshire. A contributor to New England Psychologist since its inception, she previously wrote for Massachusetts Psychologist among other media outlets.
By Catherine Robertson Souter