Stepping Down… or is it Stepping up?

Since its inception 28 years ago, Spruce has placed a high value on employment activity for the young adults we serve. We believe that community based employment offers the most normative and valuable experiences. Such work provides opportunities for program participants to increase self esteem, acquire new skills, develop a support network, increase autonomy, and make a contribution to the community. Supported employment ranks high among successful evidenced based treatment components and Spruce Mountain Inn’s professionally directed Vocational Program excels!

In the first weeks here, we assess each client’s vocational interests, potential, and ‘dream job.’ We contact former employers to attempt to assess a client’s capabilities. We explore short term and long term goals and go about developing a “individually tailored” volunteer Community Work Placement.

Generally, volunteer positions afford a chance to try something one would not be hired to do and work flexible hours to accommodate treatment commitments. We have used over 100 separate and diverse community placements. The placements offer age appropriate, relevant and exciting opportunities to enhance a resume. For many of our clients, the vocational aspect of our program is pivotal in helping them regain hope for a healthy, productive and rewarding future.

Vocational/Educational Coordinator, Teri Lawrence, M.Ed has been helping our clients to define and achieve vocational goals at Spruce for the past twenty three years:

“It has been extremely gratifying to see so many young adults have a significant turnaround in their vocational life. Just last month I had the pleasure of delivering the message to a client that he had just been accepted to a small liberal arts college and another client, who was previously disabled by issues with substance abuse and a bi-polar disorder, handed me outstanding recommendation from his employer. Our clients get the opportunity to achieve in the real world.”


Sarah, a very bright young woman from California with a lovely voice and severe depression began a volunteer community placement with the local office of a national political party, which was directly related to her interest in political science. Sarah did such an excellent job that she was eventually hired full time as their bookkeeper.

Myles came to Spruce after spending three years isolated in his room with major depression and anxiety. This young man was not able to finish high school the conventional way and finally obtained a G.E.D. Exceptionally bright, Myles, had the desire to go to college but due to his anxiety, could not even think about taking a community college class. With his strong interest in music we were able to get him a volunteer placement at a local college radio station. There he slowly took on meaningful tasks and became a valued staff member there, eventually hosting a radio show.

“Community placement at the local radio station was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I was exposed to some amazing like-minded people, and had the opportunity to pursue and develop one of my greatest interests, music.”

With the confidence built through his work and the emotional management skills he learned through our program he first completed a course at the community college. He then decided to apply to a small liberal arts college in southern Vermont, pulled all the pieces for the application together, “survived” an interview and was accepted. Myles will be enrolled for the fall of 2010.

Charley came to Spruce suffering from severe depression and frequent thoughts of suicide which immobilized him. He had a dream of becoming a teacher and while at SMI he volunteered working with children and went on to work as a para-professional for a public school. which eventually led to his current position. After leaving Spruce he made a life for himself building on the successes of his time with us. He is currently married with a small child and holds a responsible and stressful position as a teacher/social worker with an alternative high school.

Thoughts from a program participant:

“Before coming to SMI, I had very limited work experience. My self-confidence was so low that I doubted that I would ever be able to hold down a job without my depression getting in the way. It’s no exaggeration, then, to say that my Community Placement at the local public television station has changed my life. In the months that I have worked there, I have gained invaluable job experience and vocational training that has already begun to open up many doors for me. My self-confidence is at an all-time high, as I finally realize that I can do anything I set my mind to.”

Stepping Down… or is it Stepping up?

Over the next several weeks four of our 12 residential program participants currently living at the Inn will be moving out and into either an Annex on-site apartment or our Greatwood Lodge. In order to make that move one has to successfully hold a job for 30 days as well as meet other individually defined criteria.

Take a look at the jobs these folks have held:

Mark works at the Onion River Arts Council assisting with filming and currently is using and learning “Final Cut,” an editing program used in the film industry .

Brad, has been working at the Vermont Food Bank processing and distributing food to Vermont’s needy. He says, “The Voc Program at SMI helped me organize my thoughts about work and have an active part in the community in a work environment”
Mary has just completed a term as aide in a local kindergarten. She wants a career with children. This summer she will be gaining more experience and combining it with her love for horses by assisting with the Therapeutic Riding Program at Water Tower Farm in Marshfield, VT.

Nate just completed a vocational placement coaching at the local high school. His very positive work experience is a great is an excellent foundation for his next step. Of his recent work experience he says “the Lacrosse coaching assistant job made it worth being here; I wouldn’t have made it without it.”

With these folks “stepping down”, we anticipate room at the Inn. We look forward to helping more young adults make a “new start”!