ALAMOSA Courier— San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group psychiatrists are healing the whole person. “I decided there is no health unless there is emotional and mental health, too” said  Laura Hays, PhD and board certified family practice mental health nurse who has been with group’s psychiatric team for the two years. “I switched gears to include the mind, body and spirit in my practice. That is what I really believe. I can use my nursing and medical expertise, but I also address the whole person, seeing what needs they have and how I can help them.”

Psychiatrics is the medical specialty concerned with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, and the latter is the focus of the group’s team comprised of Dr. Tom Firnberg, MD psychiatrist; Marisa Rodriguez, supervisor of psychiatric services; Monique Villagomez, LPN; Michelle Schuckman, a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and Jennifer Silva, LCSW, the team’s clinical director.

“I see a lot of people who come in with psychiatric complaints and the tendency is to deal with one problem to simplify matters,” said Dr. Firnberg, the team’s latest addition. “The problem if you do that is there are many other problems that are complicating the mood problems. If you can’t deal with those other problems, you can’t get the mood under control.” He said addressing physical problems like chronic pain or sleep apnea is part of the recipe to stable mental health.

“Rather then deal with over simplistic notions, I think it is very important if you want keep people from destabilizing, you don’t want to simplify,” Dr. Firnberg said. “I think you want to take care of all of these other side issues.” Mood control is the foundation of his work, and he said using remedies other than Valium drugs are the methods he prefers. “They (Valium drugs) can be addicting and they can drive people into depression,” Dr. Firnberg said. “They give a kind of frontal lobotomy so people can’t think clearly about consequences. We think they are very dangerous and a setup for suicide.”  Medication is one tool, but there are a whole host of tools available through the center, Hays added.  “We are considering each person as a whole entity and there is so much more to them than just that symptom,” she said about laying the path to recovery for those suffering from psychiatric maladies. “Hopefully each interaction is meaningful. It is not pushing medications.”

The group’s psychiatric services are available to all people.  “I want to help and support people the best I can,” Rodriguez said. “If I can get an appointment scheduled or get a message to a provider, I have had a great day.” Individuals, families and couples are invited to walk in or set up an intake with a therapist, and referrals from other professionals and service providers are common. “We are being supportive,” Villagomez said. “It is OK to come in, and people don’t have to be afraid to come to a mental health center.”

Schuckman added, “Each day, I hope to connect with my clients and partner with them to address whatever need they are coming in for. Partnering with clients and working together towards their goals is of utmost importance.”