Saybrook University Mind-Body Medicine Doctoral Student, Patricia McKeen, Operates Albuquerque New Awakenings Counseling Clinic
Prior to starting her studies at Saybrook, School of Mind Body Medicine, Patricia had been searching for a program that would expand her knowledge of mind-body medicine and help her to continue to integrate what she was already championing at the New Awakenings Counseling Clinic. Patricia owns and operates New Awakenings located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The clinic serves approximately 700 people per month and of that figure 98% are mandated by the court system to be in treatment. Patricia finds that while initially the clients do not want to be in treatment, or at New Awakenings, something shifts after about 90 days and then clients want to stay. In fact, according to client satisfaction surveys 80-90% of respondents express that they want to continue to engage in services offered at New Awakenings, and of the 80-90% that want to stay, about 60% remain past their mandated treatment date, a testament to the influence of a client-centered practice that works with many different dimension of person.
Albuquerque has a diverse cultural population, which includes native Spanish speakers and Native Americans. Because of the ethnic diversity New Awakenings offers multicultural programming. In addition to the diversity in language, there is also a difference in spiritual practices, and therefore different treatment modalities are offered. For example, Native American drumming may be offered one day and yoga another. Many people at the center initially view some of the Eastern practices, such as yoga, as religious and initially are resistant. However, when they are given a choice, some experiment and through their experimentation they enjoy the addition of other therapeutic practices.
Many of the clients at New Awakenings are considered violent offenders, yet the center does not have fancy alarms and intricate safety systems surrounding the facility. Instead counselors ‘walk the talk’ and rely on good communication, good self-care, and trust between staff and clients. This model of respect has proven to be beneficial to both counselors and clients. Both learn and practice self-care skills to regulate emotional outbursts and physical safety has rarely been a concern.
Patricia has been part of New Awakenings since 2007. In 2008, the owner decided to retire and offered to sell the center to Patricia. After carefully considering the pros and cons of owning a business Patricia seized the unique opportunity and bought the clinic.
In addition to running New Awakenings, Patricia has two daughters, ages 2 and 15, and she and her partner Tito Singh of 10 years also care for her 83-year old mother-in-law who needs assistance. Patricia reflected on how meditation and mindfulness have helped to change her perspective about some of the challenges she faces being a partner, mother, and caregiver. She reflects that the practice of mindfulness “saved my life” and restored joy in the ordinary moments of daily living. One of the gifts of her mindfulness practices is learning to be present with her children and family during both the challenging and playful times. She practices being in the moment whether playing with her 2 year old or engaging in the challenges of the teenage years with her older daughter. Mindfulness has taught her about the simplistic beauty of presence. Patricia tries to remember that whether the moment is filled with laughter or challenge, she’ll never get that moment back.