Dr. Gwen Scott-Jones: Expanding Mental Health Resources in Delaware
Network Connect intern, Nevaeh Bass, sits down with Dr. Gwen Scott-Jones to learn about her wealth of experience in the mental health profession.
N.B: “Just to start it off, could you share a little bit about your relationship with Network Connect and its founders. How did you learn about the organization?”
G.S: “Okay, I met Miss Hutt & Miss Hall-Hipkins as a result of us partnering with the division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. Ms. Hutt is a graduate of Delaware State University, which was pleasing to know. We became partners with the DSAMH community well-being ambassador program and that is where I was able to get to learn about the wonderful work that the co-founders are doing out in the community. I think [Network Connect] is a great way to provide what I call 21st century case management, and they are proving to be very monumental in the state of Delaware with work referral networking. What's most attractive about Network Connect is that they're utilizing the people who individuals may have much more assimilation with. Now what do I mean by that? They're taking individuals who have had some life problems or life circumstances themselves and allowing these individuals to provide community service. And I think it resonates with the people that they're actually serving, because you see people. When you're looking at someone and you can identify that there's some assimilation or similarities between that person and myself. So, my goals, my personal goals, are very attainable because they can also tell me their testimony as well.”
N.B: “I appreciate the way that you elaborated on that. Moving on to the next question, from your experience what has Network Connect’s impact been on the community?”
G.S: “I think pretty much it’s the Kent County area that I can speak to. I don't know much about Newcastle County because I'm located here in Kent County at Delaware State University. It's been very positive. They're located in four locations here in Kent County and from what I hear from the constituents, or the consumers of the services, these individuals like the fact that the services are coming to them. They're actually working with the individual, the person in the environment. Sometimes it's intimidating to individuals who need services to actually go to centers or facilities to get the services that they need. It requires a level of humility. You need to have the right state of mind especially, if you have fallen down on your luck. When you can identify with the person who's coming to you with the services, it gives it a little bit more confidentiality and individuation where these individuals can get the help that they need and not have to worry about being embarrassed because they fell on their luck.”
N.B: “Moving on we're going to talk a little bit about you and your position that I read and researched. For the first question about you, could you tell me a little bit about your educational background. How has it prepared you for your current role?”
G.S: “I graduated from Delaware State University with a bachelor's degree in Psychology. I graduated again from Delaware State University with a Master’s in Social Work. Subsequent to getting the Master’s in Social Work, I went to Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. I acquired a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology.
I've always had a passion to help individuals, but I was more so fascinated with the human mind. I wanted to know why people behave the way that they behaved. More specifically, I have a sub-specialty area in Forensics Psychopathology. I had a history, okay this is personal, of being an ex-convicted felon. So I was fascinated by looking at people who might have committed crimes. I was fascinated by understanding the human mind. And when I was able to also work in forensics, looking at the system and also looking at the disparities that are in the prison system. Looking at how sometimes you have individuals who get stiffer sentences than other people. They're treated differently as far as their mental health conditions. If you're African-American you might be more prone to having certain diagnosis such as schizophrenia or bipolar. And because of not understanding culture, not approaching these individuals from a cultural perspective, and not taking the time to get to know the individual. So that's the helping part of me where I became fascinated with that as well. I worked in the prison part-time. I worked in the prison for approximately 11 years and I also did some work at the forensic hospital. I did like going to court doing the psychological evaluations and actually conducting an assessment of the whole person to get to know that person. I was interested in this field when I was an 11th grader in high school. You know, I wanted to know why people behaved the way that they would behave. I wanted to know why people would lie. I just wanted to know why we were wired up differently. Why you had some people who appeared to be very nice and then really they had a mean streak. I wanted to know if genetics played a part in a person's mental health or had contributed to those particular attributes that I noticed. I will say this is a profession, being a Clinical Psychologist, being trained as a Clinical Psychologist is one of the professions that I really have a passion for.
I became an educator because I was asked to come back to Delaware State University to serve as an adjunct. It was not something I wanted to go into early on, but what I did notice was that the individuals who were running the psychology department at the time did not necessarily have the same symbolic carriers that I had. They didn't look like me nor did they look like our students that we were serving. I noticed that they were referring to the students as they and them, “they can't write, they're not doing well in this area.” I also noticed that we were not looking at our curriculum and looking at ways that we could provide Student Success to those students. It broke my heart. And in order to be a change agent, I was offered an opportunity to come back to Delaware State University in a full-time capacity and it took me away from working as a forensic psychologist which was, I thought, my intended path. But I had a divine intervention, if I may, by being here at Delaware State University. At the time I took the job it probably would have been about 30 to 40 thousand dollars less than what I was going to be getting as a forensic psychologist, but something spoke to me and said don't worry about the money, God will provide. I knew that I needed to be here because the curriculum that the students at the time at Delaware State University were utilizing was the same curriculum that I graduated with. That's antiquated! That means nobody's paying attention to evidence-based curriculum, or how we can get the best practices or the best approaches for our students so that they can compete in grad school and or get a job. So, with that being said, the Lord never failed me! So that 30 or that 40 thousand dollars that I thought I would miss he gave that to me fivefold! Okay, and I’m here now as the academic Dean for the college so although I thought that I would miss being what I intended to be, a Clinical Psychologist, Forensic Psychologist, providing services to the community and to lawyers, I had my plan. It didn't work that way, okay. God intervened and brought me back here to make a change!”
N.B: “I love that! When you put it into God’s hands, he will show you the way that’s one of my favorite things to say! And I am glad God showed you your path, for the next question you kind of already answered it. How did you become interested in Forensic Psychology and how do you apply that specialty to your work?”
G.S:” I'll just say this, how being a clinical psychologist and social worker helped me here in my current position is that I have good people skills. I work with people. I don't talk at people, I talk with them, and I take a collaborative approach with my management style. I'm a true believer that I spent a lot of time with the people I work with, so I don't want to come off as a dictatorial person or come in to the point where I have to be angry all the time. But if their people are doing something wrong, I want to sit down and work with them and identify how we can get this done better. I believe in galvanizing people to their full potential, working with people. I think we can work with people. I think a leader also needs to be able to manage, okay it's one thing to lead but you also have to be able to appropriately manage and be efficient in your management skills or with your management skills.”
N.B: “Definitely, thank you so much for adding that in. Okay, moving on to the next question, can you describe your experience working with individuals with substance abuse disorders and your approach to treatment?”
G.S: “As a cognitive behavioral therapist that was my orientation. I do have a CADC. I work with individuals who have substance abuse problems. One of the things you have to do is also provide like motivational interviewing. One of the things I also want to do when I'm working with these individuals is I explain to them that 80 percent of the work is up to them, 20 is me. They have to have the desire to want to make a change and in assessing them on the change continuum. We have to identify where they're at as far as their willingness to want to make a change. Are they pre-contemplating change? Are they contemplating change? Where are they at on that continuum of change readiness, to actually make that particular change to do something for them. I also let them know that it's a possibility that you will relapse and it's okay to relapse but, you can pull yourself up and recognize why you relapse that's important. But my job with the motivational interviewing is also to instill hope. Instill hope in the individuals that they can do this on their own, but they can be motivated to make these particular changes. You also have to take in account, and a lot of people may not look at this the way I look at it as a Clinical Psychologist, but the neurobiological makeup of an individual, are they prone to addiction. If you're prone to addiction and you have some underlying issues such as mental health issues. You have to find out why the individual is using. They could like the drugs or are they self-medicating. So these are some assessment mechanisms that you use as well in looking at the biopsychosocial approaches.”
N.B: “Okay so we have about three left, how do you stay current with the development in the field of psychology and what resources do you use for continuing education?”
G.S: “Well you stay current I stay current here in this particular field because we constantly are working with grants. Grants require level of research, different topics that you're bringing, programs. What's cutting edge? What's evidence based? You have to stay sharp in that particular area of your discipline because I need to know how we may need to Pivot here at the institution so that we can make sure that we're providing a state-of-the-art or exemplary instruction for the students so that they can go out and get gainful employment opportunities. So that keeps my research skills honed up. But more specifically I have a personal and a professional obligation to make sure that I seek continuing educational trainings for ethics purpose but also for my own personal and professional growth. Occasionally, I have one at two o'clock. Professional educational trainings, I'm always involved in, especially if it will aid or assist me in my current job. I was just recently accepted into Harvard's management leadership educational training. That is a professional development opportunity for individuals who aspire to be provost, presidents and have that plate in higher education to learn about the management in higher education. So learning is ongoing. Professional development is ongoing.”
N.B: “I love that for you, I appreciate the fact that you're really doing this out of the kindness of your heart. Even though, it's your job like you obviously really have a passion for this and I can see that you love what you do and I love that for you.”
G.S: “Never forget your passion will increase your financial portfolio because you will never get tired of doing what you love to do.”
N.B: “Yeah I agree, moving on how do you approach ethical considerations in your work as a behavioral health care practitioner?”
G.S: “Periodically, on an annual basis, I give trainings to communities. That's another way I keep my research and my knowledge up within the field, especially around ethics training. However, you constantly have to look at your code of ethics. Once you have a moral compass within yourself, you have to stay engaged with that. But also, just knowing in any venue you work in, looking at the code of ethics and making sure that you know if there's any conflicts that you may have or encounter that you're highly aware of those. But, if I have any questions about anything that I'm doing, I'll seek supervision and/or we have an ethics agent here where we could contact that person. Especially, working in this particular venue, you can always reach out to your discipline’s code of ethic individual to pose a question about what may be in violation of that code of ethics. Just ask questions whenever you're in doubt.”
N.B: “Okay thank you so much for that, and for our last question what has been some of the biggest challenges you have faced and what keeps you moving forward?”
G.S: “In my situation now as the Dean, you can have a lot of goals and aspirations for your departments in your college. However, you can't go past the fiscal constraints that you may have at the University or what's allotted to you. Once again, if we all had all of the resources, you wouldn't have a worry in the world. But oftentimes, working within any agency or establishment, that establishment as a whole has allocated funds or resources, or you might have limited resources. Being able to pivot and still try to provide a service with what you have, has always been a challenge. Look at people who are working in my field. I have the health professionals here in this college and I have nurse practitioners for an example, I’m always taking a look and trying to find a way to leverage their salary up so that their salary is comparable to everybody else's salary who's a nurse educator in the state of Delaware is a challenge. It's a challenge because for one I have to not just prove it to me—They've proven it to me, I know what it is. I’m proving it to the rest of the administration and the Board of Trustees. It can be a challenge. Packaging that up to try to convince everyone that I need to leverage these individuals up in their pay.. I have many more administrative challenges now in my capacity of work and making sure that the individuals are getting what they need and the students are actually receiving the best education that they have and also making sure, I'm the chair of the safe space Coalition, and making sure that the University is safe for students, faculty and staff that's a big charge. And it's also a challenge because you have to work with other people in other areas and they become your interdependencies. So if I was in the clinical arena that gave you the side of higher education but if I was in the clinical arena, what was challenging for me back then goes back to resources. I don't think we had enough mental health providers in the prison setting when I was working there. I also worked in the hospital, the ERS, and I still don't think they had enough providers in the ER for emergency work as well. The challenge would be how to balance yourself so that you wouldn't have compassionate fatigue and that's burnout. The other thing is making sure that people have access to care and I mean all have access to care regardless of your social economical status, where you live at, your ZIP code, or the color of your skin. So, there are some challenges there when you work in that particular area so I gave it to you both ways from the higher education my role as an administrator and what I faced when I was working as a practitioner.”
N.B: “I just want to thank you so much for your time. I am a student at Delaware State University, so as I was talking to you, I learned a lot. It was honestly a pleasure talking to you and like I said, I love the fact that you're doing this out of the kindness of your heart and as a passion. It's always something that you wanted to do. You always wanted to help people. And it was a privilege talking to you today.”
G.S: “Thank you Ms. Bass. I hope you enjoy your day and best wishes. Looks like I’ll see you around!”