Employee of the Month: Allison Falkenberg
What originally made you want to work with EA?
I originally found EA through a job posting while I was still completing my undergrad at Chico State. I was about to graduate with my BA in psychology and planned to take a few years off school before applying to get my Masters to become an MFT. The job posting was looking for staff members to join a team of individuals working for a group home (now Butte Valley STRTP). It was so exciting because it's exactly what I wanted to do: gain experience in the field while also working closely to help, support, and guide foster youth who have experienced serious trauma. Knowing the effects that trauma can have on individuals in the long term, it fueled my passion to support these youth by working with them to develop coping skills and manage behaviors of concern.
Describe what your best day on the job looks like:
From 2014 to June 2020 I was a Facility Manager at Butte Valley STRTP. My best days then were days in which we had an outing with our youth. I distinctly remember when I attended two of our youth's 8th grade end of the year trips to Monterey, CA. One of them had never seen the ocean before and to see his expression when he saw the vastness of the Pacific for the first time was incredible, as well as his joy when he ran away from the crashing waves as he played on the shore.
In June 2020, I had the opportunity to become the STRTP Clinician & Social Worker. As the Clinician, my best days are the days after a client processes trauma in a therapy session with me, and is able to effectively identify those triggers and implement their developed coping skills in situations where they may have otherwise had an outburst/blowout. These are the best days because when my clients are successful, they get one step closer to being able to graduate the STRTP program and step down to a foster home or better (such as family reunification).
What do you wish people knew about working in your field?
When I graduated from Sacramento State with my Masters in marriage and family therapy and obtained my AMFT license, I had this idea that I was going to go out there and be successful and change the lives of our youth clients through therapy. Something I wish people knew about being a youth therapist and working in an STRTP in general is that not every day is a successful one. Some days I have major imposter syndrome and feel totally incompetent as a therapist. Some days a therapeutic intervention fails. I've had a group therapy session in which a client became triggered and attempted to physically assault other clients and I had to restrain him and rebuild the therapeutic relationship. I've been cussed out by a client who thought therapy was stupid and my interventions were "childish". Some days clients outright refuse individual or group therapy sessions because they're having an off day. And there are times when your client just isn't making progress.
What I want to let others know is that it's okay to have days like these. Not every day is going to be sunshine and roses. Still go in with the attitude of "I'm going to make a difference in this youth's life", but also understand that it comes with challenges. It's important to lean on your work family, and as a clinician it has been extremely helpful to have an amazing Clinical Supervisor to guide me through the tough moments.
How do you practice self care?
"I don't" was the first thought I had as I read this question. But really, I do. Some days I come home and the thought is "man I need a drink" (I'm sure we've all had one of those days). On those days my self care looks like coming home from work and just vegging out on the couch watching terrible reality shows and eating junk food. My best self care moments, though, are when I am able to spend quality time with my family, my pets, or my fiancé. I also have an extensive selection of potted succulents and houseplants I enjoy caring for. And art - I very much enjoy painting as well as coloring those adult/expert coloring pages you can find.
What's a hidden talent you have, or something about yourself that would surprise most people?
I played water polo in high school. I loved it! I doubt I'd be able to do it now though. I also used to play the piano and the flute. As an adult, my side passion has been trapping, taming, and adopting out feral kittens. I remember helping this area in Durham, CA where over the course of a summer I fostered and adopted out 26 kittens. Currently, I have partnered up with Fieldhaven Feline Center to trap at a local elementary school in my neighborhood in Olivehurst, CA. We have done TNR (trap, neuter, release) with the adults and I have successfully rescued and adopted out 13 kittens. I guess I just have a passion for animals and kids.
Anything else you'd like to add?
On a side note: 2021 has been a wild year! I got engaged and also purchased my first home! Ready for another wild ride next year. Bring it on, 2022!!