A Conversation With Rosalie Di Rado, MS, ACMHC
Clinical Support Therapist Rosalie Di Rado works with Trevor Allen and I had the chance to sit with her to discuss her role and experience at outBACK. Immediately I got a warm, inviting smile before we started our conversation. Rosalie started out as an Associate Field Therapist (AFT) at outBACK. An AFT is a master’s level clinician who is immersed into the student groups as part of the Field Guide team. Her progression from an Associate Field Therapist to that of her current role was one that was seamless and it provided her with the opportunity to continue to work with Trevor, one of our Primary Therapists. She was just featured in our staff spotlight series this week.
As Rosalie has begun working alongside a Primary Therapist in the treatment process, Rosalie has had some unexpected learnings that have helped shape the way she approaches her clinical work with students. “[I] have the opportunity to see both sides of wilderness therapy– being out there with students day to day there are so many crucial moments that you don’t get to see as a primary therapist. To be there in a moment you’re part of first hand and use those interventions–it gives me a different perspective working with students. With Trevor, I’m able to collaborate, learn and process [which is] rare and unique. Working with Trevor is great. He’s so gentle and kind. It’s like a ‘Comfort Calmness’ being with him which allows people to open up.”
The gift of “comfort calmness” as Rosalie describes is just one of the motivators and inspirations that have shaped some of the experiences with her students. She recalled an experience during the beginning of her time as an AFT in Trevor’s group regarding the difficulty of connecting with a particular student and taking time to trust the process. “It was hard as staff and for the student and all I wanted to do was help and I couldn’t force it. At the end of the week, one of the other students prompted a ceremony about “letting go”: Creating a beautiful space to open up and let things go that happened that week. It turned into this beautiful and powerful moment. That one student owned everything that happened. Its moments like that [when one week is] so hard and you question ‘why I am doing this?‘–these moments remind you of why you’re here. Letting go and forgiving and moving forward. Knowing that is a thing that can happen, it changes the way students see things and it can be changing for staff—inspiring and powerful.”
Being able to role model self-care while working in an outdoor setting is something else that Rosalie believes is vital as a Clinical Support Therapist. Finding small pockets of time to create space to process on her own is one of the many ways in which Rosalie demonstrates self-care. This time is something she values and encourages for others to practice. “Stepping away shows students that we are taking care of ourselves too. [I try to set] those standards going into a new week. Otherwise, if we don’t take that time to step away and process how can we be here with those students struggling?”
In talking about what she would want her students to fully receive about themselves, Rosalie focuses on validating the student’s feelings when they are upset. She acknowledges their hard work and choice for being at outBACK while still giving space to allow them to process the frustration. She also knows that while she is not a parent herself, she sees how parents grapple with the decision to enroll their children into wilderness therapy and trusting the process. “How difficult [it must be] and brave it is to send your child away to a program.” She understands the myriad of emotions parents experience and she works to reinforce the strength and love it takes to make such hard decisions for their families.
Rosalie talked a lot about validation and how that plays a huge part in her therapeutic process with her students and healing relationships. “One of the most validating things we can do for ourselves is to feel all the emotions because it makes us stronger as humans–we can build stronger relationships in the moment, process, and connect with our family and those who care about us. It’s easy to be dismissive to family and this is something that can be so powerful.” Her dedication to the students and their families is not something she takes credit for on her own. Even as our conversation ended, the only thing she wanted to leave me with was how highly she thought of outBACK and her colleagues.
“The people and staff in each department in this program have so much care and love to give to the students that come to our program–we all have this goal and dream to support them however we can. The collaborations from each student we take to heart. So much heart and love is being put into the work we do.” Rosalie was recently featured in our staff spotlight series on Instagram where you can also read about past features.