Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center’s College-Focused Programming: Meet the Experts
Can you each tell us more about your background and how that shaped your career in mental health?
Dr. Foulds Mathes: I’ve always been interested in human behavior and what drives people to do what they do. I was a Psychology major and then went on to become a PhD psychologist -- but not clinically trained. I was a research scientist for a number of years, and worked as faculty at a number of different colleges and universities. After doing research for a long time and studying eating disorders, I was at a conference and giving a presentation on the neurobiology of EDs. A psychiatrist approached me there and said, ‘Everyone knows eating disorders are spoiled little rich kids rebelling against their overbearing mothers.’ I thought, clearly research isn’t resonating. I retrained in clinical mental health and worked in the college campus counseling center as I was training and then moved on from there.
I had a lot of interactions with students, and was moved by the challenges they faced. The thing that struck me the most was when someone goes to college, it is the first opportunity to determine their individual identity, outside of their family of origin, outside the influences of their community. They start to figure out who they are and what they want. It's such a critical period of human development and also such a period of conflict for some. I really identified and wanted to help them.
Dr. Tallent: I got into mental health by way of entering a combined BA/MD program right out of high school. Being from a small town, I had no idea that psychologists existed until college. My first medical school rotation was psychiatry, I worked in the counseling and testing center on campus, and I took every psychology elective I could take, so I had a crash course into the field of psychology. I remember an Abnormal Psychology class in which they talked about clinical psychologists and everyone looked at me whispering, ‘This is you! This is what you need to be doing!’ Once I had my BA in psychology, I took a leave of absence from medical school, earned my master’s in counseling, and then went on to get my PhD in counseling psychology.
Throughout my doctoral program, I worked in many aspects of college mental health. It was such an appealing place for me because I really loved the developmental aspects where individuals are becoming themselves, getting to know who they are, and developing their identities all amidst an incredibly challenging and demanding time in their life. That is also where you can see the impact of your work quickly; you see it very visibly with students changing their habits and day-to-day functioning, and developing the tools and strength to move on with their lives and goals. It is a passion of mine to equip college mental health providers with all of the tools they need to identify, assess, and treat anxiety, depression, and eating disorders and to reduce barriers for students in need of higher levels of care. I’m fortunate to be able to engage in these passions daily at ERC and Pathlight.
What makes our treatment approach unique?
Dr. Foulds Mathes: We have so many levels of care, and can therefore really accommodate the needs of everybody. And we have such a strong family program; regardless of your age, your family impacts your mental health. We’re very proud of the fact that we have evidence-based treatments; many of our thought leaders are founders in the field and we’ve established ourselves as a very trusted, medically-based treatment program that can address the needs of most individuals.
Dr. Tallent: I want to focus on three aspects that make our treatment approach unique: our levels of care, evidence-based treatment, and our ability to bring treatment to individuals. Our levels of care enable us to provide care to individuals in a spectrum in-between outpatient and the ER. We're able to get patients exactly what they need because we have that continuum of care. Our treatment is evidence-based; we’re using the modalities that we know to be effective to treat mood and anxiety and eating disorders. And we’re bringing treatment to individuals: we’re innovative and developing programs like Virtual IOP where we can significantly decrease barriers to care...and bring our evidence-based, proven treatment to individuals in their home without having to interrupt their lives.
What are some important considerations providers should know about when treating college students?
Dr. Foulds Mathes: It’s important to take into consideration the barriers to getting patients the care they need and help navigate those barriers. The first thing that comes to mind: “I don’t want to leave school; I don’t want to be able to not graduate on time; I don’t want people to find out; I don’t want to leave my community.” So many different concerns come up – but there are ways you can help somebody.
The VIOP program helps someone get a higher level of care and not have to 'leave’ their life. But I think it’s very important to be sensitive to those barriers and help them navigate the healthcare system, and if it means leaving school, then we help them understand how getting that care will ultimately help them reach their goals. They may have to step out of their life today, but they’ll have a much better life tomorrow.
Dr. Tallent: It is so important to realize that you can make a meaningful difference for individuals by recognizing who you can treat on campus and working with those students effectively when they are mildly impacted by anxiety, depression, or eating disorders. Simultaneously, we need to recognize which students need more and help them get to the appropriate level of care. For those students, you can make the biggest impact by reducing those barriers and getting them the support that they need.
We need to be knowledgeable about available resources and – again – help them eliminate those barriers to get to that treatment. That is the most important way that we can intervene in those individuals’ lives. I know for providers sometimes, it can be hard to say: ‘I can’t be the one to really help you with this,’ but that is the most efficient, compassionate way of helping students who need a higher level of care.