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Hannah Morris: A Behavior Technician’s Perspective on Healthcare

On this episode of the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast, Hannah Morris shares a behavior technician’s perspective on healthcare. She is an art therapy student in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. She has lived in Georgia, Washington, and West Virginia. Hannah Morris is a member of Generation Z. Currently, she works in pediatric setting as a behavior technician.

These three things stuck with me from Hannah Morris’ interview on the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast:

· Quality healthcare is about treating the patient as a whole person not as a diagnosis
· How the need for a diagnosis may actually be an obstacle quality healthcare
· Person centered care is still in the administrative stage and needs to move forward

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Here is the transcript of Hannah Morris: A Behavior Technician’s Perspective on Healthcare

Rob Oliver: Thank you. And I appreciate you being with me. Today’s perspective comes from Hannah Morris. She is a behavioral technician. She is studying to become an art therapist. She is a member of Generation Z. She is from here in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, by way of Savannah, Georgia, by way of Seattle, Washington, by way of West Virginia. But she joins us today. Hannah, thanks for being here.

Hannah Morris: Yeah. Thank you for having me.

Rob Oliver: Absolutely. So let’s get started right away. Tell me about yourself and your role in health care.

Hannah Morris: So right now, my primary role is student. I just graduated in December with my bachelor’s degree in psychology, and I’m just getting started on my master’s degree in art therapy. So eventually I’m going to be an art therapist and a licensed professional counselor. But right now, professionally, I have worked as a mental health aide in a psychiatric hospital, and I am just starting a new job as a behavioral technician. So I’m excited to see where that goes.

Rob Oliver: Excellent. It’s wonderful. Tell me a little bit about art therapy and kind of what drew you to that.

Hannah Morris: Well, for me, art therapy is very personal. I kind of stumbled across it accidentally. I had just graduated from high school and from a community College, and I was sort of figuring out what I wanted to do, and I was leaning towards a mental health career. At the time, I was actually thinking I was going to be a psychologist. I wanted to go get my doctorate, but I kind of randomly found this book in my local library. I was just sort of browsing around and I picked up this book called The Art Therapy Source Book, and it seemed interesting. So I started reading it. And as I was reading, a lot of the things I was reading about were really familiar to me. There were things I already knew because I had experienced them in my own art making process. And it was a really cool discovery for me to find that this was something people actually do, and I could learn to do this and share what I had experienced through art with other people.

Rob Oliver: Thank you. Tell me, what does quality health care mean to you?

Hannah Morris: I think quality healthcare is treating the individual as a whole person rather than approaching them as a diagnosis. I think there’s kind of a trend through all of health care, but I think in mental health specifically to approach a person on the basis of what they’ve been diagnosed with and really see them more in terms of their diagnosis than anything else as an actual human being. And I think in order to give quality health care. You really have to consider that this is an actual human being that you’re interacting with, and they’re more than just a label that somebody’s put on them. You have to consider all the facets of their life and how they interact with each other. You can go through health care, and you might fix the problem that you’re trying to fix without really giving them a quality experience and giving them the dignity that they deserve as a human being.

Rob Oliver: It’s interesting. I’d be curious to get your take on this so many times with health insurance being what it is, you need to have a diagnostic code to go with to unlock the funding for whatever it is you need this piece of equipment, or you need this form of therapy because of this diagnostic code or this diagnosis. What are your thoughts on kind of how the interplay goes between having to have a diagnosis in order to get funding, but not allowing the diagnosis to be what drives the therapy or what drives whatever it is that’s being done?

Hannah Morris: I think that’s a really unfortunate aspect of our health care, the need to have that diagnosis in order to even be able to access proper health care. And it does make it difficult because our minds are set up to categorize things. It makes it easier to process information and store it and get it back effectively. But what can end up happening is we group things together in terms of similarities that may be real or not, but then we end up missing the distinguishing factors between the different instances. So when we categorize somebody based on a diagnosis, that diagnosis may be necessary. It is necessary in our health care system, like you said, in order to get insurance in most cases. But I think we can approach it. The best thing to do in that situation is to approach it more as a baseline as okay, these certain problems or these certain struggles that this person is having. Other people who have had these kinds of struggles tend to benefit from this kind of treatment or this kind of approach. I think it’s a lot more beneficial to approach it in that way rather than, oh, you have this. So we’re going to put you in on this track and you’re going to have this specific experience. Everybody is a unique individual, and everybody’s experience is going to be different. I think it’s really important to remember that.

Rob Oliver: Yeah. You and I talked about this in a previous conversation, but it’s part of the reason why medicine is called a practice is because there is not a single treatment that works for everyone with the same diagnosis. Can you give me an example of quality health care?

Hannah Morris: Yeah. So I was thinking about this and I decided the easiest thing to do would be to give a non example of what quality health care does not look like. So if you imagine somebody comes to their therapist and they tell them I’ve been feeling really hopeless. I feel like my existence doesn’t mean anything. I can’t get any pleasure out of life. I just don’t enjoy life anymore. That can go any number of ways. If the therapist says, Well, you just need to pull yourself together if they start pointing out flaws and they start criticizing or even just, oh, yeah, that’s really common with depression. I know exactly what to do. It’s a really common symptom of depression. Nothing to worry about. We’re going to get you on a medication and you’re going to be okay. That’s not validating that person’s experience. If they’re coming in and saying that they’re feeling worthless, then you’re kind of just supporting that mindset. It’s really important rather than going straight into yes, this is your list of problems. This is what we’re going to do about it, especially in mental health care. Supporting that person’s experience. Empathy is huge. Being able to make that person feel like they’re an actual person, and their problems matter. So rather than kind of invalidating them like that, the better thing to do in that situation would to be to listen to them. Honestly, listening is such a huge thing. A lot of people just need someone to listen to them. And honestly, I believe a lot of times people kind of tend to already know what they need to do in order to fix the problem, but they don’t know that they know and they need somebody to talk to and they need to talk it out and just listen and hear what they have to say. It’s not always. I need you to tell me what to do. I need you to listen to me so that I can figure out what to do.

Rob Oliver: Interesting. I guess what I’m hearing you say, and I’d be interested to get your reaction to this is sometimes in our own thinking, we kind of are cyclical when we go over the same thing over and over and over again. But being able to express that to another person gives us a chance to kind of work through things. And sometimes I think what you said is very interesting. Sometimes we’re not looking for someone to solve the problem for us. We just need someone to listen to us. How does that sound to you?

Hannah Morris: Yeah, that sounds absolutely right.

Rob Oliver: Okay. What do you wish people understood about your role in health care? And that can be either you can take that in either direction or even both directions from a behavioral technician perspective or from an art therapy perspective.

Hannah Morris: Yeah, I’m going to go the therapy route or really. I mean, it’s really any mental health provider, but it kind of flows right off of what we were just talking about. And it’s not the therapist’s job to fix people’s problems. I think they tend to come to therapy with the same mindset that they would come to a medical doctor with it’s. Like I have this problem. I need you to fix it for me. But even a medical doctor, it makes me think of this sign I saw in my chiropractic office. I don’t remember the exact wording, but it said something to the effect of the same force that forms the body. Fixes the body. Even a physician. Physicians don’t heal people. They give the body the support and the repairs that it needs to fix itself. Nobody can make the body heal. You can’t force those things to happen. It’s designed to happen, and sometimes it’s malfunctioning, and you have to give it the support that it needs to get back. And I think that’s even more true in mental health care. The power to heal and the power to grow is within the individual themselves. And it’s a responsibility to come with that mindset, growth, mindset of I am here to get better. And the therapist’s role is to support that person. There might be some teaching involved. There might be just information or practice, give that person the opportunity that they need in order to heal themselves. It’s really the therapist’s role is to empower the individual to say, fix their own problems. Sounds. I don’t really like the way that sounds, but it’s sort of that idea of that. The individual has the power to heal themselves, and we all need help sometimes. And the therapist’s role is to support them in that not to pinpoint the problem that they’re having and somehow fix it. It’s kind of like if someone was having heart problems and they went to the doctor and the doctor did whatever they do for heart problems and told them, you need to also try to eat a healthy diet and exercise. And the person goes back to their life and eats, goes to McDonald’s every day and never exercises. And then they end up having a heart attack. They can’t come back to the doctor and say, this is your fault because you didn’t cure me. The doctor told them what they need to do, but then it was in their hands to actually do it.

Rob Oliver: Got it. So what I’m hearing you say is that the resources for healing both physically and mentally are within the individual and the therapist. The practitioner is the one who is not providing external force on that, but is facilitating the use of those resources and skills that are within the human body. Is that what you’re saying?

Hannah Morris: Yes. That’s a very nice, distinct way of saying what I just took a really long time to say.

Rob Oliver: Listen, I’m just making sure I’m listening and I’m able to repeat back what you are.

Hannah Morris: No, it’s good. It’s a good active listening skill.

Rob Oliver: What excites you about the future of health care?

Hannah Morris: Well, there’s a movement in health care in general called person centered care, which is really grounded in what I’ve just been talking about. It has its roots in humanistic psychology and the idea that everybody operates under free will. At this point, though, it’s really in the administrative stage, working in the psychiatric hospital. When I was doing the onboarding training, there was a lot of talk of empowering the individual and listening to them and making sure they were active and they were leaving their own care. But practically when I was on the floor, I did not see that happening really very much so right now, there’s kind of a disconnect in between the philosophy and the practice. But I think we’re getting there. We’re a lot better than we used to be. And, yes, there are a lot of practices and beliefs and mindsets that are kind of relics of a darker past that are still clinging to us. But we’re getting better. And every year it’s a little better. People are learning better things in school and going out and we’re healing the system. I think it’s just taking a really long time.

Rob Oliver: Got it. What is one thing medical professionals can start doing today to improve the quality of health care?

Hannah Morris: Well, kind of what I already talked about before learning to get away from diagnostic thinking a little bit. That really categorical way of approaching things and learning to approach the individual as an individual. We as mental health providers need to take responsibility for our own mental processes. If we tell our clients that you are responsible for your own change and then we’re not changing ourselves, it’s not giving a good example, and it’s not inspiring confidence in the people that we’re working with if we can’t even do this ourselves. But we say it’s possible, so really taking charge of our own mental health and our own mental processes before we try to give those things over to other people. I think it’s crucial and it’s completely necessary.

Rob Oliver: Wonderful. Hannah Morris, thank you so much for being here today. I really appreciate your perspective on healthcare.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed by guests on the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast are solely the opinion of the guest. They are not to be misconstrued as medical diagnoses or medical advice. Please consult with a licensed medical professional before attempting any of the treatments suggested.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. martin theresa

    Love this Hannah. Hope you come to visit us again at Jepson . Congratulations on your journey.

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