Chris Verschuyl is beginning a new position as an intensive
community treatment services (ICTS) therapist through Options
Counseling Services, providing in-home therapy for adolescents with
mental health issues. Chris started with Options in his second year
placement and stayed with the organization after graduation, working
initially in Options' Family Builders program for families involved
with child welfare. Options aims to help keep families together by
preserving children's placement at home rather than in foster care,
residential treatment, or other out-of-home settings.
Chris came to social work gradually, without realizing at first what it was called. During his undergraduate studies at Pomona College, he spent summers working with inner-city families through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and after graduation was hired as a grantwriter for Puente Learning Center in Los Angeles, California. He and several friends chose to live in an inner-city neighborhood in East Los Angeles during that time, with the goal of helping to support the families who lived there.
"We were fresh out of school with lots of idealism and just a little Spanish," Chris says. They started a tutoring program in their apartment for kids who lived in the neighborhood. While they experienced some success, he found it was impossible to be everything to every child, so over time he dedicated his energy to helping one family in the neighborhood that he had met through tutoring. Through this experience, he found he had the patience to listen, the ability to help people process issues and manage crises, and the skills to be a helper.
After moving to Oregon in 2002, Chris became a grantwriter for the children's literacy program SMART (Start Making A Reader Today), where he worked for four years. Chris had a few friends who went to school for social work, so finally he was able to put a name on what he wanted to do. He appreciated his time at the School of Social Work as it give him the therapeutic skills to work with people effectively and a deeper understanding of the social context and power structures that impact the lives of our clients.
Before joining Options, Chris was placed at CODA's Alpha House in his first year, doing alcohol and drug treatment for men involved with the criminal justice system. In his role as a family builder therapist, families were often mandated to meet with him by the public child welfare system. While this was a challenging dynamic, he has helped families find success in things like improving their parenting skills, developing structure and routines, and empowering parents who feel like they have failed their children. In his new position, Chris is looking forward to learning more about effective interventions for mental health issues while continuing to help struggling families find their strength in the midst of crisis.