Meet the Clinical Assessment Team

Admitting you need help can be hard. And while taking the next step to make the call for help can be even harder, it’s where recovery often begins. The clinicians who answer calls from patients and families seeking support at Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center understand that. The Clinical Assessment Team (CAT) is staffed with compassionate, master’s-level clinicians who are responsible for supporting prospective patients, their families and outpatient teams. This work takes place from the point of the initial call throughout the patient’s full intake and assessment process, until their arrival.

Four Clinical Assessment Managers oversee these teams in their assigned regions: Dorothy Kharrat, MS, LPC-S, manages the South region; Jackie LeBlanc, AM, LCSW, the Midwest and East Coast; Joanna McComb, MSW, LCSW-CO, CEDS, the Mountain Region; and Krista Erickson, MA, LPC (CO), AAC (WA), the West region.

“My part as a manager is to ensure my team has all they need to do their job of assessing patient and families in order to get them to access appropriate care quickly,” McComb explains. “I make myself available for questions, trouble shoot barriers and jump in to help cover when needed."

The teams strive to offer safe and ethical treatment in the least restrictive treatment environment possible to meet someone’s needs. Erickson explains, “Because we offer all levels of care (i.e., 24/7 to Virtual Intensive Outpatient Programming) for both mood primary and eating disorder primary services, we have the flexibility to consider all options for someone seeking care, and we do just that.”

Why master’s level clinicians are important

Unique to ERC and Pathlight, all Clinical Assessment Team members are master's level clinicians trained in working with and diagnosing individuals with mental health disorders. “Often, patients and families are in a fragile state when reaching out to our team and having the education and skills to help move them through this process in a respectful, yet clinical way is vital,” Kharrat said.

Furthermore, LeBlanc says, “The Clinical Assessment Specialist is someone versed in different treatment modalities who can provide a safe and non-judgmental environment, establish rapport and create a personal connection, appreciate the patient's willingness to be vulnerable and adhere to confidentiality. We do this while effectively gathering very personal clinical information that supports the recommended treatment the patient needs and deserves.”

How we work with families, friends and support systems

Because it is helpful when all those involved in a patient’s care—including referring providers, therapists and family members—are agreeable and supportive of the recommendations, the Clinical Assessment Team collaborates with the entire support system to ensure the patient can access the most appropriate care for their needs. “We strive to provide professionals and families answers to their questions to ensure this is the best option for their loved one or client,” says McComb.

During assessments with prospective patients, clinicians use case conceptualization, staffing, individual and group supervision and training to foster the best clinical and ethical treatment recommendations. “Our assessments are person-centered, biopsychosocial, semi-structured, open-ended and self-reported,” says LeBlanc. “This enables us to foster an environment that allows opportunity for our patients to share their stories.”

Genuine care is not just a concept -- it’s an action

Once a treatment plan is finalized, the next step is admission, and the clinicians strive to make that happen within a two-week timeframe. “It’s important for those who have made the brave choice to access care to be able to receive it as quickly as would be possible,” says Erickson.

Upon admission, a CAT member welcomes the patient and walks them through the check-in process. This helps patients feel more confident in their decision to seek treatment with Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center.

The managers all agree that their clinicians go above and beyond to assist patients and their families. “This role can be fast-moving, dynamic and stressful at times,” says Kharrat. “But their genuine care for those they are working with never waivers.”