Dr. Nancy Morgan specializes both in working with adults with severe mental health challenges whose traumatic histories influence and inform their thoughts and behaviors, and in providing Trauma-Focused training and supervision to future therapists.
Her primary work has been in Partial Hospitalization Program settings, Secure Residential Treatment Facilities, and Intensive Outpatient Programs, where she’s served as a clinician, manager, or most often as program clinical supervisor.
Currently, Dr. Morgan works as the Director of Behavioral Health at LifeMoves, Northern California’s largest agency dedicated to breaking the cycle of homelessness where she has developed a Trauma-Focused Mindfulness-Based training curriculum whereby she provides didactics, supervises, and mentors graduate psychology students.
What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?
What Led to the Specialization of Trauma?
Nancy shares her journey from law school and learning how to win, to graduate school and her path of learning how to heal.
I have specialized in the field of trauma therapy because I have learned that it is not about a client’s behavior or diagnosis, but rather, what happened to them that matters. What happened is what needs to be healed. The behaviors that brought a client to the attention of the law or mental health providers are the symptoms of a deeper wound, and those symptoms that others see as problems are actually the client’s solutions. Cutting, binging, reckless sex, drugs and alcohol abuse are examples of solutions that are perceived as maladaptive due to their deleterious effects. But for the client, they offer respite from overwhelming emotions that flood their systems.
Psychology students’ desire to learn and grow, and the aspiration to reduce clients’ suffering – and facilitate the healing process, are reasons that I work in this field.
A Crucial Early Mistake
My GREATEST mistake was not to obtain consultation when my own PTS was triggered. I worked as the clinical supervisor at a locked residential facility for adults with significant trauma history and severe mental health challenges. The manager of the facility was very rigid, had an extremely volatile temper, and routinely shamed and publicly humiliated staff and clients. I could see that working under that sort of management was traumatizing, yet I was confronted by two significant issues:
• The economy had just collapsed and job prospects were non-existent in that county, and
• If I left there would be no one to speak on behalf of staff and residents
The manager’s behavior escalated as the county focused its attention on its issues, and not on the residential facility. The manager had maintained some measure of respect for me, until I stated my opposition to an action he was taking that clearly violated ethical standards in mental health. He came into my office, and in the presence of my office mate – a case manager – pointed his finger at me, and with his face red and his body shaking, growled “You DO NOT disagree with me.” I replied that I had to. His action was unethical. He knew I was right, and reconsidered his action. However…
The next two years at the site were unbearable for me, and at every turn this manager ridiculed me, made sarcastic comments, and mocked me. This created a split in the facility, and everyone aligned with me except for one nurse who was approaching retirement, and two lower level staff people the manager utilized to literally spy on the rest of the staff, me included.
Ultimately, this manager’s behavior was revealed when the facility came under new ownership. At that point I requested a lateral transfer when a clinical supervisor position became available at another residential facility owned by the new agency.
- Get into your own supervision, and get into your own therapy.
- Find a training program that supports you and your needs.
- I recommend podcasts and books on audible.
- I recommend Tara Brach.
Nancy’s Go-To Books
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk M.D.
- The Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk, Palden Gyatso, Tsering Shakya (Translator).