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My Soulful Journey: Jondra Pennington

Monte Nido Rain Rock Primary Therapist Jondra Pennington, LPC, MFT tells of her soulful journey to joining the Rain Rock team. In her writing, Jondra gives us an inside look into her days at Rain Rock and how she works passionately with her teammates to support clients on the path to full recovery.

What is your name and what are your credentials?

My name is Jondra Pennington. I have a Master’s degree from San Jose State University, and am licensed as a Licensed Professional Counselor in Oregon and a Marriage & Family Therapist in California.

Please give us a brief description of your background and what led you to Monte Nido.

I got my MFT license in 2000 and immediately went into private practice where I worked with a variety of clients, and as the years progressed I found that I was seeing more clients with eating disorders. Being recovered from an eating disorder myself, I found working with ED clients a natural fit for me. It was easy for me to understand and empathize with the underlying issues…primarily, that it’s not about the food. However, I needed more training in addition to the consultation and supervision I was receiving. A Carolyn Costin workshop at a professional conference was where I started. Her philosophy and approach to the treatment of eating disorders resonated with me. It matched the way I worked with my clients, and so, I began learning more about Monte Nido and its treatment model and its philosophy. It took a while for me to get here. I continued in private practice for a few more years, worked at a ED treatment center in Arizona, and then returned to private practice until this past year. As part of a major life change, I decided to close my practice in California and make the move to the Pacific Northwest. I applied at many places, but Rain Rock was always where I wanted to be. I moved to Eugene in April of last year and feel like I am home.

What does a typical day look like for you at Monte Nido?

When I come into work, I hit the ground running and that continues until I leave at the end of my shift. Typically, I begin with finding out what’s been happening with the clients by reading the Communications Log and talking with other members of the team. The day is filled with spending time with clients in the milieu, eating snacks and meals with them, connecting with family members and outpatient providers, doing therapy sessions, running a few groups, and, of course, that ever-present paperwork. The tasks are the same as I had to perform in private practice, but the difference is the pace. Things move much faster in residential treatment and it is absolutely necessary to be flexible. It’s not uncommon to move everything around and change direction at the last minute to accommodate a crisis or to cover a team member who can’t make it in that day.

In your own words, please describe the philosophy of Monte Nido.

There are two elements in Monte Nido’s philosophy that speak strongly to me. The first is the belief that one can be recovered from an eating disorder. The hope that this instills in clients and therapists make the work we do have incredible and significant life changing ability. The second is to meet the client wherever they are in their process. By doing so, we are treating the client with respect as an individual human being. We demonstrate that they have intrinsic value and are not an “anorexic”, for example, but a valuable individual who is struggling with an eating disorder. They are not simply a diagnosis without a face.

How does your team work together? How do your roles overlap and differ?

One of the great things about working as a team is that each of us can step in wherever we are needed. Each of us will do observations, sit for snacks and meals, check in with clients, etc. Our roles differ when it comes to specialization. This would include nurses, primary therapists, dieticians and doctors. That said, part of how we operate is to consistently get input, feedback, and updates from each of these particular team members. Without that communication, there is no working team.

Share a special moment/experience you had at Monte Nido.

My favorite moments at Rain Rock are the graduations and the sacredness that event holds. To see a client who came to us critically ill now stepping down as a healthy individual is so gratifying. Hearing the client individually tell peers and staff how they impacted them simply reinforces how important the relational piece of our program is. I don’t think there is a graduation I have attended where I did not experience a “this is why I do this work” moment.

What is unique about Monte Nido?

There is something very special about Monte Nido, and Rain Rock, in particular. Perhaps it is the beautiful, restorative setting or the feeling of true family that exists among the team. It could be the value placed on relationships with and between the clients or the valuing of client’s spiritual life and soul self. Whatever it is, it creates a space where clients can heal, and, as a therapist, I feel valued.

Share three facts about yourself.

  1. I am originally from the East Coast. Born in Philadelphia and raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
  2. Went to college for the first time at the age of 30. Emerged 10 years later with a Master’s in Clinical Psychology.
  3. My favorite type of vacation is cruising. And so far, my favorite cruise that I’ve done was a two week cruise to Hawaii from Los Angeles. I had no idea that being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean could be so humbling.

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