Carol Bradford has worn many hats in her 30-plus years in behavioral health. Her current role as the senior clinical therapist at Rosecrance Central Illinois means she’s directly helping clients while maintaining her love of mentorship.
In her therapist role, Bradford—or “Miss Carol” as she’s often known to clients—does outpatient substance use counseling, as well as individual, family, and group counseling for adults. As a licensed clinical social work (LCSW), she also does clinical supervision for staff at RCI and mentors clinicians who are new to the field.
She helped develop and implement a partial hospitalization program at Moreland and does clinical groups on topics such as co-occurring disorders and relationships for residential clients. She previously was a clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois Graduate School of Social Work.
Read more about Carol and her role at Rosecrance, and why she values training and leadership.
How does your expertise add value to the treatment experience?
I worked in child welfare for 22 years. That’s emotional work: You’re working with children who’ve been abused and lots of families involved with multiple systems. I wanted to switch gears to work with adults and parents more so that maybe less children end up in the system.
I’ve been supervising students and interns my entire career, going back to 1997. I love helping them and have a lot of experience mentoring and helping people make the transition from the academic world to the “real world” of interacting with professionals and clients. Mentoring is important to me. It fulfills the need I have to give back and pay it forward. I love investing in knowledge and skills and seeing how those accumulate over the years, and then sharing that with others. That improves the quality of services that those individuals then provide to clients. I focus on providing best-quality services and best practices, and I make sure my peers can do the same.
How did you find your passion for counseling?
I remember my mentor telling me that no matter if I was a social worker in a hospital, school, or the criminal justice system, every single client, individual, or family was going to have multiple needs—and I had to be prepared to address those.
It’s important to recognize that people’s struggles could be related to many different things, including poverty, abuse, or neglect, and mental health and substance use. Because of my work in child welfare, I ended up interacting and partnering with all those systems, and that really helped me become well-rounded. That experience made sure I’m treating the whole person and not just the symptoms that are more often connected to multiple complex issues.
What is your counseling style like?
I let people know from Day One that we are partners—that I have experience and expertise in certain areas, but they are the expert on themselves. We will spend time getting to know each other and building a professional relationship while at the same time figuring out where they and I can contribute and work together to make progress in areas of their life that they’ve identified.
I make sure to let them know they will be treated with dignity and respect, that this is a judgement-free zone. I’m not here to make them feel bad or punish them or get them in trouble. It takes some work to convince them of that. You must earn their trust.
My counseling incorporates different modalities. Overall, my approach is to find out as much as I can about the person, to study the assessment and talk about what has and hasn’t worked in the past. It’s very person-centered, very holistic, and strength based.
I have them visualize the three corners of a triangle. One corner is mental health or substance use treatment. Another corner is medication-assisted treatment or a holistic activity. The final corner is lifestyle changes. To really heal and accomplish goals, they need to pay attention to all three corners. I also utilize CBT and DBT, and I really love rationally emotive behavior therapy and motivational interviewing.
Miss Carol gives them homework, and it’s exciting when clients do the homework. I always follow up asking how it went, why they were successful or struggled, and what they can practice between sessions.
Why should people choose Rosecrance?
One of the things I love about working at Rosecrance Central Illinois is that everyone cares. I’ve had the opportunity to consult, coordinate, and communicate with a lot of people who work in the different areas of our mental health and substance use programs. They work hard to make sure clients get into treatment, that they get what they need while they’re here, and that we set them up for success when they leave.
I’m excited that we’ve grown the continuum of care at Moreland where we can outpatient and residential treatment, crisis services, and recovery home beds in one building. Our clinicians are providing clinical services, but they’re also here to help as much as they can with any case management needs.
Personally and professionally, I’ve had loved ones who struggled with both mental health and substance use. What I also love about Rosecrance is that from our assessment to intake to throughout treatment to when we’re doing the relapse prevention plan, we’re constantly asking how family can be involved in treatment. And when we speak of family, that’s not just blood relatives. We’re more culturally inclusive. Family could be a next-door neighbor, a parent, an aunt, or a support person like a football coach or supervisor at work. Family is widely defined here and really a focus.