Geoff Henderson recently joined Sovereign Health Group as Director of Special Projects, based in San Clemente. He has more than 20 years of experience in the fields of mental health, substance abuse and special needs services, and has held a variety of leadership positions with different organizations.
What is your background, including your education and work experience?
I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, and a Master of Science degree in Special Education, and I am currently pursuing my doctorate in Management and Organizational Leadership. My dissertation is focused on the impacts of the Affordable Care Act on behavioral health.
In addition to teaching special education at the high school level, I have taught at Riverside Community College and California State University, Fullerton. Through my involvement in the field of special education, I worked with many children and their families struggling with behavioral and cognitive issues in the classroom, as well as in foster care and group homes.
After completing my bachelor’s degree, I worked as a Primary Counselor and Lead House Manager in a teen residential program. I continued in the Masters program and taught in special education schools with children with severe behavioral challenges, where I developed expertise in functional behavior analysis.
After teaching at the college level, I returned to the substance abuse treatment field as a Program Director, Senior Director and Vice-President with a large treatment agency, developing many new treatment services throughout California. Over the past 10 years, I have developed expertise in forensic mental health and addiction behaviors in the criminal justice field, serving on several county steering committees for reentry services and advocating for rehabilitation.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the field of behavioral heath?
I was in long-term residential treatment as a client in my teens, in a therapeutic community program. Following treatment, I was hired as a ‘Junior Counselor’ in New York City, where I moved into a variety of treatment roles: Intake, Outreach and Early Engagement; Drug Education and Prevention; and Long Term Adolescent Residential.
I realized that I needed a college education in order to become a qualified, competent clinician, so I moved back to California to and entered a new Drug and Alcohol Counselor Certificate program at a community college. I worked in a variety of settings including homes for the developmentally disabled, a geriatric facility and a short-term residential alcohol program. My work experience encouraged me to pursue further education, and that has continuously opened doors for new and increasingly challenging work experiences.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
What I find constantly rewarding is the potential that treatment holds for changing lives. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate enough to learn from generous, kind and inspiring people while witnessing the power of compassionate relationships in healing. I certainly enjoy witnessing clients grow and mature over time, and knowing that I have helped cultivate the process in some way.
What is the biggest challenge that you see in the field?
Overall, the behavioral health sector is at a crossroads, where different segments are trying to establish mutually-agreed upon practices that are effective, based on scientific evidence. As this moves forward, it will result in more targeted approaches to treatment and therapy, so that the right service is delivered to the right person at the right time in his or her life. This involves analysis of massive amounts of research and data, in addition to the unique variables of the behavioral health industry, including human bias, stigma and moral factors.
What brought you to Sovereign Health?
I wanted the opportunity to play a meaningful role in the development of innovative programs that connect the variety of evidenced-based practices in the public and private treatment systems of care. The work that Sovereign Health has begun, understanding and incorporating both physiological and neurological factors to cognition and behavior, in combination with mindfulness techniques, intrigued me, and I look forward to contributing to the company’s development and growth.
What are you most excited about in your new position here at Sovereign Health?
I am excited by the opportunity to continue my work developing collaborative service model, incorporating and sharing evidence and best practices.