Therapy Delivers Help, Healing and Hope

Sandy DeOliveira and Gayle Van Horn in Mecklenburg Behavioral Outpatient group therapy room

Sandy DeOliveira, left, and Behavioral Health Therapist Gayle Van Horn, meet in the Mecklenburg Behavioral Outpatient’s group therapy room.

Sandy DeOliveira remembers vividly that feeling of being alone. “While you are sick, you feel as though you are alone on an island,” she described.

In 2018, depression took her to a dark place where she didn’t want to be. Her hope was if she could find someone who could listen and understand what she was experiencing, she could get the appropriate help. She threw out a lifeline by calling a suicide helpline three times in as many weeks.

After receiving initial services at Charlotte area agencies, she was referred to Monarch’s Mecklenburg Behavioral Health Outpatient office. DeOliveira believes that Monarch has served as the guiding force that brought her back to life in a variety of ways.

Today, she is looking forward to the future and reaching goals such as securing her own housing and finding full-time employment – and being confident that she is not alone on her journey to heal.

She receives medication that helps keep her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety at bay and continues to heal from negative relationships in her life. She benefits from one-on-one therapy with her Behavioral Health Therapist Gayle Van Horn, CPSS, LISW, LCSW, as well as the supportive and reassuring shoulders she leans on through group therapy with women who share similar mental health diagnoses and life experiences.

Moving to the Charlotte area from New York in 2014, DeOliveira found it difficult to find employment and worked a series of small jobs, not finding the right fit. Prior to arriving in North Carolina, she worked in the financial sector.

With no family support and trying to end an abusive relationship, DeOliveira said her mental health deteriorated. “My mind was not cooperating,” she described of looking back at that time in her life.

After being referred to Monarch for services, DeOliveira began meeting with Desiree Matthews, PMHNP-BC, at the time a behavioral health therapist but now an advanced practice provider – clinical liaison (APP-CL). She then was referred to Van Horn, whom she continues to see for individual and group therapy.

DeOliveira’s message to others reluctant to seek help for their mental health that there is hope and reaching out for help is the first step in healing. “Monarch has saved my life in a way that nobody has been able to — no family or anyone else. I was feeling despondent because I was trying to save myself, by myself. When you are sick you need help,” DeOliveira shared.

Van Horn, who finds reward in helping people supported in times of crisis, served as a calming presence as DeOliveira took her first steps after receiving mental health diagnoses. “She has been a stabilizing voice when my anxiety was overwhelming and my mind was scattered all over the place. She brought me back to the moment, kept me calm and brought me back to Earth,” explained DeOliveira. “She is wonderful in every way — a real professional.”

Van Horn sees many positives of group therapy for the people Monarch supports. “People that are going through struggles are helping other people supported. There has been a lot of crisis with depression, anxiety and trauma. And just to know that you are not alone and be able to express your feelings in an open manner helps other people,” she said, describing a key goal of group therapy.

DeOliveira enjoys being part of the “Overcoming” group therapy and finds solace in knowing there are others who share the same experiences. “While you are sick, you feel as though you are alone on an island. You find your tribe and you find people to help sustain you in your moments of weakness. You find your tribe and I would say that is worth everything,” she said passionately.

Pushing aside obstacles and concentrating on her future goals helps DeOliveira focus. Future plans include going back to school to further her education: “Mental illness itself can paralyze you. Ultimately, you have to find the strength within yourself and rely on mental health staff and share with them the intimacies of your life.”

Find out more about Monarch’s group therapy and telehealth therapy services by watching these Youtube videos:

Watch the video below to find out how group therapy has helped DeOliveira connect with others experiencing similar mental health diagnoses.


Posted on: Thursday April 15, 2021