• Shrina Patel

Staff Highlight: Cortney Ritsema

Cortney is our Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR) Bilingual Clinician and part of Association House's Behavioral Health team. She shares with us that as a teacher, she was drawn to assisting the kids in her classroom who were struggling behaviorally, which inspired her to be a therapist. In honor of National Mental Health Awareness Month, she shares the importance of taking care of our mental health and provides advice to those struggling with their mental health.

What is your favorite part of your experience with Association House? My favorite thing about Association House is how committed everyone is to help the people we serve. In my short time here so far, I have noted that so many of our employees are willing to go above and beyond to make sure our participants are taken care of. The willingness of various teams and departments to work together and collaborate to ensure that we are providing to best services we can is refreshing, and I feel lucky to be a part of such an amazing team!

What influenced your desire to want to be a therapist? I was always fascinated in school with any topic that was related to psychology, so that was initially what inspired me to major in psychology in undergrad. When I first graduated, I initially got certified in Montessori teaching and believed that it was my calling. However, I soon found that as a teacher, I was drawn to assisting the kids in my classroom who were struggling behaviorally – the ones who just did not fit into the Montessori way of learning and had trouble interacting with other kids and were not being served by the structure of the class. I wanted to be able to dedicate my time to helping those kids and quickly realized that I was going to need further training to do that. For that reason, I chose to pursue a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. Once I had my degree and training under my belt, it seemed like a natural progression to step into the role of being a therapist. In honor of National Mental Health Awareness Month, what advice would give to someone struggling with their mental health? My biggest advice to anyone struggling with their mental health is that you are not alone. There are so many of us who struggle with mental health issues, including myself. Don’t be afraid to seek help. I know that there is stigma and shame in our society for receiving treatment or assistance for mental illness, but please don’t let this keep you from asking for help when you need it. There are people and places all over this city who are trained and ready to help you through whatever you are going through.

Why do you believe it’s important to take care of our mental health? For me, taking care of my mental health is just as important as taking care of my physical health. The mind-body connection is incredible and well-established, which makes mental health awareness so crucial. Our mental health affects how we think, feel, and act and therefore how we handle everyday stressors, how we relate to others, and what choices we make. Thus, just like our physical health, we must work at it every day. Small things like exercising, eating healthy, taking a break when you need to, opening up to people in your life, remembering something that made you smile, and getting enough sleep are small steps we can all take to work on our mental health daily.