An Interview with Carrie McManus, Director of Innovation and Programs, Sagesse February 10, 2022 @ 11 AM PST.

An Interview with Carrie McManus, Director of Innovation and Programs, Sagesse February 10, 2022 @ 11 AM PST.

Sagesse’s core mission is to “disrupt structures of domestic abuse.”  Sagesse uses MyOutcomes’ Feedback-Informed Treatments.  Carrie shares her experience.

How does your agency stand out?  How do you distinguish yourself from other agencies?
Sagesse distinguishes itself by being a purposeful developmental organization, we are always in a process of shifting, adapting, and innovating.  What that means in practice is that as we learn things, we put those things into practice.  As we hear feedback from community, from clients, from stakeholders, we take that, and do something with it. Nothing that we do or say is static and everything is ever evolving as we learn more.

With all this change and evolving, how does your team manage all of that?
We have an amazing team who are really committed to our core mission which is to “disrupt structures of domestic abuse” We do our best to create a culture of feedback and innovation. In our quest to create a culture of feedback, which is taken from Scott Miller’s Feedback-Informed Treatment (FIT) model we strive to know what works and what doesn’t for all stakeholders we engage with.  If it doesn’t work, we need to be fluid and adjust. That fluidity has allowed us to create a culture of innovation.  We use the data points that we have to ask ourselves: so what, now what? Our staff are on-boarded to engage from a place of feedback and innovation within each of their unique positions.

Has the pandemic impacted your agency?  If so, how have you adjusted / coped?  Or, has it been hum drum, same, same?
The pandemic has massively impacted us. In the early days of the pandemic, we stepped into a role of supporting domestic abuse service providers across the province with navigating the changing world we were moving into alongside supporting our clients new and unique experiences of domestic abuse. We were able to adapt quickly, recognizing that we needed to do things differently and helping service providers to work through all the questions and issues that presented themselves.

Also, our staff were really grounded in making the shifts and adjustments needed because we operate from a fluid, innovation model. And while the pandemic is maybe a shift in adjustment that wasn’t planned and wasn’t our idea, but we still knew how to work within that. As an organization, we’ve had major growth during the pandemic, partially because of the increased need seen across the province and partially because of our ability to adapt and be innovative.

What’s the toughest part of the work that you do?
I think everyone in the agency would answer this differently based on who their client base is. But I think so much of what we do as an organization is around deconstruction of models, systems, methods, perspectives that don’t support us to get to the goals that we’re looking for around eradicating domestic abuse. And, that deconstruction process is often thankless. And it can be really tiring, and it’s hard to see the number of people who are continuing to experience abuse and the number of people who are continuing to access support and services. So, I think the hardest part of it is our ability to do that well and not get stuck in systems that are broken, but look at how we deconstruct those systems.

I understand you are using MyOutcomes’ Feedback Informed Treatment in your agency – have clients and providers embraced this way of therapy?
I would say a hundred percent, they have embraced it. As I was saying before, I think that culture of feedback and seeing the value in what that gives us is something that we engage with throughout all the programs within the organization, not just within our clinical work. Within our clinical work, especially during the pandemic, we have seen how necessary that is because people are dealing with so many things that we might come into a session and say: hey, we’re going to work on these things. But, our engagement with those tools and our engagement with MyOutcomes and that ability to get information right away from individuals allows us to say: you know what? It doesn’t matter that we thought we were going to do this. Clearly you are saying, we need to do this instead. This allows us to be fluid and shift and adapt in a kind way with our clients.

With more and more counseling sessions going online, how do you know if you’re really connecting with your clients?  Do you feel there’s a difference between an in-person session and an online session?  Do you think that establishing a therapeutic alliance is harder online or easier, or is it just a mix of everything?
It’s a little bit of a mix of everything. I think that one of the things right away that we noticed is some people prefer online to in-person. Some people find it’s an easier place to be able to build that clinical alliance because they already have boundaries around themselves and their situation because they’re in different spaces; they can turn cameras on and off, they can mute or unmute etc.  That’s allowed for some people to step further into what their clinical experience is and to the alliance that they’re building within their group, individually, or with facilitators.  For some people though, it’s been a real barrier and it’s been difficult. And I think part of what we’ve really learned from the pandemic (it’s a thing that we already knew), but it’s always nice to be reminded of it and to have it re-highlighted for us, which is there is not a one-size-fits-all model for people. People need variety, people are unique individuals, and we need to create equity in how we support individuals, as opposed to saying everybody’s going to get the same thing because it doesn’t work. Our MyOutcomes and FIT scores allow us to really see for some people, a group could be awesome, and for others, be terrible. People could be sitting side-by-side in a physical space or side-by-side in their boxes on the zoom call. Everyone is different.

If you could wave a magic wand, what would you like see changed to help more folks that are struggling with their mental health?  Or, if you had a pedestal with a microphone, to say to the world, “hey, this is what we need to do to conquer mental health.”  What would you say?
I could list a million things, but I think that when we talk about domestic abuse or mental health, our experience is that our society still carries shame and stigma around talking about it, around seeking help for it, having supportive responses from friends and family.  I think that that’s such a huge barrier. I could have the best program possible, but if people don’t feel like they want to reach out, it doesn’t matter what we do. And so, I think if I could wave a magic wand, it would be to remove the shame and the stigma that exists around mental health, domestic abuse, and different things that are happening for individuals so that they can really feel like whatever is uniquely happening to them, they can get the support they need.  That support is anything. It doesn’t have to be a formal service; it can be a friend or a colleague or somebody. But I think that the shame and stigma so often gets in the way of people being able to ask for the things that they need. If I could get rid of that, I think we would just see great opportunities for people to connect with each other and to learn and to grow.

Thank you so much, Carrie.  At MyOutcomes, we love the work you do.  We just want you to know we’re cheering you guys on.  There’s a lot of folks that need help, and you’re helping so many.  You provide an incredible service.