A decade ago, licensed marriage and family therapist Summer Buck was an intern working with young children in foster care. That life-changing experience propelled her to make mental health her career focus, and she became a leader overseeing many different mental health programs. From crisis response to behavioral health and recovery services, Summer has earned the reputation of being a caring and compassionate therapist that her clients can trust.

How did your experience with child welfare influence your decision to specialize in marriage and family counseling?

In the beginning, working with youth and their families who have experienced trauma was a lot for me to carry. You listen to children in foster care tell you about horrible situations they’ve had to endure–atrocities that no child should ever have to go through. I experienced almost what felt like secondary trauma from listening to those situations. But I pushed through my grief because I knew I couldn’t erase what had happened to those children, but I could give them the tools and care to make them stronger and heal themselves.

Your background includes working with the homeless. Can therapy assist homeless individuals?

There’s still this long-held stereotype in place that people want to be homeless. Society’s overall mentality is that all homeless people choose to have an addiction that makes them homeless, or they choose to neglect their families. These myths were debunked long ago, but they still persist.

“I believe on a national level that mental health therapists can help break down the stigma associated with homelessness.”

It may not look like much to us, but people who are homeless really are doing the best they can. I think as a result of COVID-19, we’ve all watched people lose their jobs, homes, and livelihood. It has really shined a light on the fact that many of us can be in that same situation.

When did you join SteadyMD and how did you hear about us?

At the beginning of this year, I started receiving notifications from LinkedIn, Indeed and Simply Hired. Most of them I ignored, but one day I got an email from SteadyMD that piqued my interest. My first thought was, why is this coming to me? I’m not a doctor. I looked at the job listing, which was a Director for Behavioral Health and then I looked up SteadyMD. I then found (SteadyMD CEO and co-founder) Guy Friedman’s YouTube video where he talked about how SteadyMD makes doctor and patient matches from around the world. I was really excited that the company wanted to start this same matching process for behavioral health therapists and clients. That for me was the hook to join SteadyMD!

SteadyMD emphasizes “Clinicians Leading Clinicians.” Can you talk about what that means and what role you have in it?

I love the motto Clinicians Leading Clinicians (CLC)! There is so much wisdom here within the SteadyMD community.

“At my fingertips, I have access to probably 200 people I could clinically consult with at any time.”

This enables me to give my clients better care if I’m ever at a loss on how to help them because of the SteadyMD community that we’re building here. It’s a community of transparency, diversity, and individual expertise. We share a united vision of giving the best care that we can to our clients. Being in the SteadyMD community means being able to grow every day.

What does a typical SteadyMD day look like for you?

My days are always a little bit different, because I have two roles. I’m a Behavioral Health Lead, and some days I have really heavy therapy session days. I have 15 clients currently that I see scattered throughout the week. Some days I’m doing a lot of individual therapy and other days I’m assisting with clinician recruiting and professional development.

For example, I am working on a pilot program through a third-party platform to increase cultural awareness. We’re identifying which clinicians have certain areas of training and identify areas where we can grow through this platform.

“I’m also a member of our DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging) community where we’re training to become more culturally informed to make SteadyMD the safest and most empowering workplace we can. I truly believe every workplace should have it.”

Tell us about a client situation or case where you felt proud of your work at SteadyMD.

I have so many, but one that stands out is a client that shared with me a trauma she had kept contained for 15 years. I was only the second person she had ever entrusted with this secret. She felt I would understand without judging her and she was so grateful to find someone to confide in. She said she wished she had access to this type of virtual therapy years ago. The telehealth platform gives her a feeling of being in control and empowers her to share if and when she wants to because she’s in her own home environment, not my office. She revealed she’s finally feeling hopeful about her future again.

“Had our SteadyMD partner not offered this option of virtual therapy for her, I don’t know if she ever would have pursued getting help in person.”

Does any part of your daily routine tie in with what you teach your clients?

Yes. Respective to their cultural or belief system, I ask them to make a value-based action at the beginning of each day by journaling or meditating. Then I hold them accountable by checking in with them and asking how many times a week they are meeting that value-based action.

I also practice gratitude. I have clients that tell me they had a better day because they went into it with a clearer focus of the good things in their life and what was going well for them. Whereas, the opposite frame of mind (thinking of all the things they don’t have, all the things they want, or all the things they failed at) didn’t result in a day they could show gratitude for. This helps them be mindful of their daily goals and realize they can take their power back. By starting each day with gratitude and reflecting on the tools that we do have in our possession to get to where we want to go, it can be an eye-opening experience that leads to a lot of growth.

How has SteadyMD equipped you to effectively care for your patients?

Most of my past experience has been in the county mental health department. Their systems are severely outdated and trying to work within them slowed me down and took my time away from patients.

“When you slow down a therapist, you slow down the clients’ progress.”

SteadyMD’s platform is modern and easy to use. Not only for me, but for my clients. I have the capacity to change my schedule as needed, so I don’t have to go through a third-party scheduler. Our messaging system is HIPAA-compliant and our client portal is really easy for me to communicate with my clients–and vice versa–to share resources. Our electronic health record is so simple to use.

“I don’t have to worry about billing, running reports or any other paperwork. I can focus exclusively on my clients.”

You obviously love your work and devote a lot of your time to it. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I love to spend time with my family. Pre-pandemic, my husband and I loved to travel, go wine tasting, and go to the movies. I love yoga and going to see live music. I also volunteer with my local church and this gives me the opportunity to reconnect with my community. I’m a voracious reader and I take the time to practice what I preach. So I read for work and for pleasure, and I encourage my clients to do the same. I focus a lot on gratitude. Any time I’m feeling depleted I try to think of what I can do to help someone else and give back. That rejuvenates me more than anything else.