olivia loewy, Phd.
Olivia Loewy, Ph.D. was employed as the director of a substance abuse treatment program at the Glendale Guidance Clinic in 1983 when she earned her Doctorate in Educational Psychology at the University of Southern California. She shifted her professional focus in 1984 when she was hired by Urban Management Consultants and the U. S. Office of Personnel Management to develop, instruct and evaluate training courses presented to all levels of government employees throughout the western region. In 1986, Olivia returned to the Glendale Guidance Clinic, which had become Verdugo Mental Health Center (VMCH), a thriving and continually expanding community agency. She successfully wrote a grant proposal for a new Community Recovery Center, including a position of Clinical Supervisor for herself, which she held for the next seven years.
In 1993, Olivia was promoted to the position of Verdugo Mental Health Center Clinical Director, managing 7 facilities, 14 treatment programs and a staff of approximately 135 health care professionals. In this capacity, Olivia oversaw the training, supervision and professional development of medical, clinical and support staff at all levels. It was here at VMHC that Olivia became aware of her growing passion for and commitment to community mental health. Before long, she was actively involved at the state level, serving on the Board of Directors for the California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies (CCCMHA) for 11 years.
In 2003, Olivia moved on to become the Executive Director of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, California Division. During her 15 years in this position, Olivia was responsible for the management and development of a non-profit trade association. She broadened her skills and expanded her professional community through: active communication with association members; ongoing advocacy in state legislative, regulatory and public policy meetings; consultation to graduate school programs; and representation for Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) at the community, state and federal levels.
Gradually it all came together: Olivia’s skills as a clinician, educator, trainer and advocate merged with her growing commitment and dedication to both the MFT profession and the public behavioral health system.
Lured by the Disconnect
As a CCCMHA Board member, Olivia was part of the group that organized the campaign to put Proposition 63 on the ballot. The initiative passed and became a law known as the Mental Health Services Act, which began to transform California public systems of care when it was implemented in 2005. These evolving systems called for a new kind of practitioner with updated competencies and skills. It was clear to Olivia that the MFT systemic and relational expertise would be invaluable in these transforming, expanding systems of public healthcare. However, public system employers regarded MFTs as licensed providers who were trained for private practice. This was a disturbing disconnect.
Olivia subsequently led the association into new territory, recognizing that the next frontier for MFT employment was in Public Behavioral Health (PBH).
In a collaborative effort with CCCMHA, Olivia conducted a survey among community agency employers and submitted a resulting report that included recommendations for graduate school curriculum changes. The report served as the basis for Senate Bill 33, legislation passed in 2009 that required MFT graduate school programs to revise their curriculum to incorporate the concepts and approach to treatment contained in the Mental Health Services Act. This first initiative in response to the disconnect has effectively allowed the MFT profession to expand in scope by preparing graduate students to be able to utilize a systemic, relational orientation within a community public behavioral health treatment setting.
Ongoing rapid and vast changes in systems of care require continual updated education and training. Olivia organized educators forums to assist with implementation of the new curriculum as well as regional programs designed to bring clinicians and public agency reps together to facilitate connection, communication and collaboration. In the years since SB 33, MFTs in California have become a provider of choice in public behavioral health settings. But that was not enough and is not enough.
Currently, integrated systems of care in California are constrained by a critical workforce shortage. Still lured by the disconnect, Olivia has increased her own reach beyond MFTs to public behavioral health providers and OLA training courses are applicable for all clinical levels and disciplines. Olivia believes that as systems and structures of care expand, clinicians must hold on to their own discipline’s expertise, but identify, first and foremost, as Behavioral Health Providers.
MHSA implementation required that a challenging paradigm shift be embraced by public system managers, clinicians and educators. Integrated structures of care renew this challenge. The disconnect still beckons.
Building Facilitative, Connected, Professional Community
As the VMHC Clinical Director, Olivia learned about the vital role played by encompassing the concept of parallel process in growing and nurturing a facilitative and strong organizational structure. She utilized her clinical and training skills to build community within and among the staff of all service programs, never losing sight of the end goal: the provision of effective treatment to all who request our services. Olivia’s management decisions were grounded in the belief that – starting from the top – when staff are treated with respect, compassion and encouragement regarding their abilities to be successful, a bonding substance is created which seeps down into the client/clinician relationship. It is a spirit that generates an environment of growth, healing and trust. Candid feedback can be truly heard and accepted in the relationships thus established. All VMHC services were provided based on these concepts and practices.
In the state level arena, Olivia replicated this environment. Community and membership, educational and training programs, committee work and association governance efforts were all conducted within a culture of respect and inclusiveness.
The OLA products, programs and services also originate from this culture, encompassing the concepts and practices that encourage active participation within a respectful, inclusive, collaborative environment. The ability to effectively engage others in a facilitative working process is a critical skill sought in the selection of Associates : talking “with” and not “at” participants; listening and connecting to our understanding of what we hear and joining with participants to collaboratively create the learning experience; acknowledging that our clients and participants are the experts and we merely “offer” what we know in a process of supporting achievement of their goals.
The work of Olivia Loewy and Associates embodies a lifetime of learning, presenting materials and services that are solidly grounded in years of professionalism and designed to promote connected, collaborative working relationships.