tim-catlow1Trillium Family Services is Oregon’s largest provider of mental and behavioral healthcare for children and families. From residential psychiatric treatment to mental health advocacy in the streets, Trillium is committed to transforming our state into a safer, more supportive place for ALL people to live, work, play and learn.

This ongoing employee spotlight blog series features some of the many caring, talented people it takes to Keep Oregon Well at Trillium Family Services!

Trillium Family Spotlight on: Dr. Tim Catlow

What is your role and title at Trillium?

Psychologist.  I manage the psychology department for Trillium Family Services.

How long have you been with the organization?

18 years

tim-catlow2Why does mental health matter to you?

I have always been interested in understanding how people make sense out of their lives and experiences, even as a child.

What made you want to work at Trillium initially?

I completed my doctoral internship at the University of Oregon.  When I was done, I needed a job.  I didn’t think I would end up working with children but after undergrad I had worked as a child care worker in a children’s residential treatment center in Chicago, so had the experience to work in a setting like the Children’s Farm Home.  Turns out, I love the work so I have never left.  I am grateful I took the position eighteen years ago!


What are some of the reasons you continue to believe in this work?

I find children to be endlessly interesting and compelling.  I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Tell me about a time when you felt that Trillium had truly made a difference in someone’s life?

My colleague, Ashley Scott, wrote the department’s first therapeutic fable for a girl who had been in SAIP for over a year.  The fable was wonderful and had a profoundly positive impact on the girl.  It was amazing to be a part of that and see how much it transformed the girl’s ability to mobilize her resources and work towards the future.  I have also seen Cindy Smith do amazing things with medicine, diagnosis and DBT.  She is probably the person most responsible for bringing the Children’s Farm Home into the world of evidenced based practices, which in itself has impacted our clients’ lives in positive ways.  I also have been proud of Trillium Family Services for embracing Trauma Informed Care and the Sanctuary Model.  Even though we have a long way to go, I don’t think everyone is aware of how far the agency has come over the last fifteen years.  Having been an employee here during that span, I have had the opportunity to see it firsthand.  In my opinion, we can be proud of ourselves and the agency we work for.     tim-catlow3

How would you describe trauma-informed care to someone who had never heard of it?

Trauma Informed Care is the idea that a lot of what we see in children who need psychiatric residential treatment is connected to trauma and what has happened to them.  Even if a child has not experienced trauma, the concepts of TIC are still important because they encourage us to take the experience of the client into account when making decisions and to avoid the use of force and coercion when interacting with clients.

Has Sanctuary changed your experience of working at Trillium?  If so, how?

Yes, it provides a framework for making decisions.  It’s the yardstick we hold everything up to when deciding if it’s the right thing to do.  If something doesn’t measure up to Sanctuary, then it’s probably not the right decision.

If you could only tell the world one thing about the work we do here at Trillium, what would it be?

We help clients and their families write better stories for themselves than the ones they came in with.

tim-catlow4This is kind-of an awkward question, I know…but I want you to take just a moment to brag on yourself and the work you do. What are you most proud of having accomplished during your time with the organization?

This is not hard or awkward for me; I have no problems bragging.  I am proud of the therapeutic fables the psychology department has been producing over the last year and a half.  I have always looked at writing psychological evaluations as an opportunity to create better narratives for clients.  The therapeutic fable process just takes this idea and pushes it to the extreme.

Do you have any advice for people looking to become mental health advocates or explore a career in behavioral health?

My advice would be to start off working as a Skills Trainer in a psychiatric residential treatment cottage.  Even if working in residential is not for you, you end up learning a lot about the field and what you will like and not like.  It’s helpful to know about the extremes of mental health, and that’s what you will see if you work with kids in psychiatric residential units.

During all of our community meetings at Trillium we close with an inspirational or thought-provoking quote.  To close our chat today, do you have a favorite quote you would be willing to share?

This is a good one: “Through the indescribable and indefinite things, the spirit becomes awakened to new discoveries.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

If you are interested in joining the Trillium Family Services team, click HERE.

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