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LSS Offers Unique Training Opportunities for Employees

Caring for adolescents wasn’t always Janna Swanson’s career plan, but after working at an adolescent treatment center in grad school, she felt a deep sense of purpose with the age group.

“Adolescents are a unique population to work with,” she said. “They can be a tough crowd, but there’s something about being that positive person in their life. It’s sometimes hard for parents to take on that role because teenagers and parents often have a difficult relationship. To be an outside person that they can turn to is a real privilege.”

Swanson works at LSS Canyon Hills Center, a psychiatric residential treatment program in Spearfish. In her role as a licensed professional counselor, she facilitates group, family and individual therapy for youths age 10 to 17.

The youth in Swanson’s care face additional distinct challenges, which means their treatment requires a more specialized approach.

“The kids come into our program when they’ve had serious struggles and are not successful in their home environment anymore. They often come to us after multiple hospitalizations and suicide attempts. The majority of our kids have a lot of trauma in their background, and we focus on helping them work through that in therapy. ”

Putting interests into action

LSS invests in its employees by continually equipping them with new and valuable skills — instilling personal confidence and strengthening the relationship with those they serve.

While Swanson and other clinicians take continuing education classes, she said it’s normal for staff to attend trainings far beyond what’s required to maintain their licenses. In her experience, LSS values and invests in specialized training opportunities that enable its employees to offer care tailored to their interests and to the needs of those served.

“Shortly after starting with LSS, I was able to get trained in EMDR, which is an evidence-based, very successful intervention for trauma that I had wanted to learn for years,” Swanson explained.

She recalls one story of a young client who came to LSS after a very serious suicide attempt. No longer feeling safe at home, the client needed help working through several layers of complex trauma. Swanson walked him through a few sessions of EMDR and saw him experience a great deal of relief.

Ensuring all people are healthy, safe and accepted means remaining on the cutting edge of care. This year, Swanson and some of the other clinicians got trained in brainspotting, which is a newer brain-based intervention that often can process trauma on an even deeper level.

She asked her young client if he could try brainspotting. “It was amazing to see the client’s response and how much happened emotionally during the sessions. He was able to work through several more issues, and he and his family have been rebuilding safety and trust at home,” Swanson said.

“If you watch a brainspotting session, it really mostly looks like a therapist and client sitting in silence for a long time with the client staring at a pointer, but there’s actually a lot of neurobiology involved.”

She explained that the underlying process is an interplay of body awareness, dual attunement between the therapist and client, and holding an eye position to access networks in the brain related to the trauma.

“It’s amazing how much can happen when you sit in silence, attunement and awareness with a client holding an eye position to let the brain process tough stuff,” she said. “When I got trained in EMDR, I felt like they were teaching me how to do magic. Now with brainspotting, they’ve even given me a wand for it!”

‘Healthy, safe, accepted — that’s what we do’

Seeing clients grow and thrive is every counselor’s goal, but the path to success is filled with challenging moments. It’s crucial to have a team that meets each other with encouragement and support.

“At LSS, there’s a lot of consideration for the individual as an employee,” Swanson said.

“I have a lot of  support from our team, a ton of understanding, which is something that you don’t often find in other branches of employment. Our leadership and my supervisors got involved with human services because they care. Being at a place where people work because they care is a wonderful experience and automatically makes a great employer.”

The level of personal investment and the professional experiences being offered are what make LSS a rare and special place to work, she said.

All of this, Swanson added, is rooted in LSS’ long-standing commitment to its mission and vision.

“Healthy, safe, accepted — that’s what we do; it’s literally our goal for every client. We’re helping people regain a sense of safety for themselves and with their family and in their community, focusing on good mental health and removing barriers to treatment. And feeling accepted is a big piece towards feeling safe,” she said.

Among the many programs and services that LSS offers, Swanson  is passionate about the residential setting and her clients.

“There’s an intensity to the relationships in residential treatment that you don’t get anywhere else,” she said. “These kids come from really tough backgrounds, and they’ve had really difficult life experiences. I think the greatest moment is when a kid who has gone through so much and has had so much hurt and disappointment in their life can say, ‘I trust you.’ That’s the coolest moment in our work.”

Click here to learn more about careers at LSS and making a positive impact in people’s lives.

Core services offered by LSS include adoption, pregnancy counseling, foster care, kinship services, child care and education, disaster response, behavioral health services, re-entry services, Center for Financial Resources, residential services for children and youth, alternatives to detention, independent living services for young adults, mentoring, Better Together, Center for New Americans, Multi-Cultural Center, Resource Family Services and CARES Wraparound Services.

LSS serves people of all ages, races, faiths and economic levels with professional, confidential and affordable services.

LSS services are licensed by the state of South Dakota and accredited by the Council on Accreditation.