Don Vardell, M.S., is Mountain Valley’s Executive Director. A seasoned healthcare administrator and operational leader with experience at the helms of private residential treatment centers, therapeutic boarding schools and non-profit service organizations, Don appreciates and embraces the responsibility of the Executive Director role. In his monthly blog, he writes about what makes MVTC stand out from other residential treatment programs.

Last evening, I spent time with the residents during “super chore” night.  Every Wednesday evening, each resident’s room and common areas of the Gallup House and the Carriage House get a deep clean and get checked off by the supervisor.  I enjoy those type of activities at that time of day with the kids.  They ask the darndest things….

Yesterday was the day of “What is it you do around here, Don?” question day.  I was asked four times by four different residents.  My standard answer is “just about anything I want,” which usually gets a smile or two.  I always follow-up with explaining how I have the best job ever, and my primary role is to hire the best people who are smarter than me and give them what they need and want to do their jobs.

Sometimes kids will ask for examples or more information and, depending on time, I will talk about making sure we have resources to keep the facility maintained and safe, and to be able to hire staff that are trained to help them.  I also love to talk about the part of my job where I travel across the country to talk about Mountain Valley to therapists, psychiatrists and, occasionally, get to meet a prospective resident and family.  One of the things I love about my job is when I spend time with a former resident and family.

A few weeks ago, Jeanette Nogales, Mountain Valley’s Associate Clinical Director, and I were in the Los Angeles area doing a couple of presentations and visiting schools.  While there, we were invited to the home of a former resident to have dinner.  It was a great experience.  The former resident showed us her room, her pets, and the notebook she maintained while she was with us of all the activities in which she participated.

While eating dinner, we heard many stories of feeding the animals, snowshoeing in minus 10-degree weather (must have been really tough for an LA kid), and the awesome meals crafted by Chef Jay Three House or Chef Pete.  Not so much about the ERP or other therapy work.  The mother of the former resident looked across the table and whispered, “You saved my kid.”

These experiences provide great stories and remind me of how special not only my job is, but how unique Mountain Valley Treatment Center is within the world of clinical programs.  What other treatment center director keeps in touch with past families in this way?  Not to mention being invited to dinner on a school night!  In fact, what other short-term, residential treatment program has an annual reunion where kids and families travel from across the country for a four hour event?  No one does.

Yes, we are unique in the specialized work we do – our non-sterile, non-institutional setting, our caring, dedicated and professional staff – but also in the overall life-changing experience we facilitate.  For those keeping track, here is a short list of what makes Mountain Valley unique:

Therapy chickens, two sheep and a steer (Zeke)
IOCDF BTTI Trained Clinicians
Annual Reunions
Connecting with kids and families post-graduation
“Sit with It” socks
Mountain Valley ‘Tennis Camp’ t-shirts
Friday Homemade Pizza Night
Off-campus “Exposure Olympics”
25 acres on the banks of the Connecticut River
Mountain Valley Alumni Group

If you work with adolescents between the ages of 13 and 20 who are debilitated by their anxiety, OCD and related disorders – kids experiencing a poor quality of life, who cannot get to or follow-up with therapy, have school refusal/avoidance and whom you think will benefit from a therapeutic milieu grounded in Exposure & Response Prevention, please consider Mountain Valley. And please come visit our beautiful campus in Plainfield, NH – near Hanover and Dartmouth College!