Outpatient Clinical Management – Limelight Interview


There is a consistent “vibe” in the Sanford Outpatient Center. It seems to come from the obvious camaraderie between management, therapists, administrative staff and Sanford clients. The air is light, bright and somehow expectant. It’s friendly. People smile – there is always an exchange over the coffee pot. Are you going to the meeting at the North Club tonight? How was your weekend?


Outpatient Clinical Management

All this affability does not negate the serious work of addiction treatment taking place. In fact, with morning, afternoon and evening Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) and a host of outpatient classes, there’s a lot of work going on. But, the work is being done in an atmosphere of keen interest, hopefulness and good cheer.


That might be an excellent way to describe the subject of our interview: keenly interested, hopeful and cheerful. Dawn Walcott began her career as a therapist working with kids. She says it helps her make the work she does with adults more understandable. Dawn is the Outpatient Clinical Manager at Sanford Outpatient Center and we sat down with her to talk treatment.


Mental health without jargon, across the board … it’s making treatment understandable to children and adults … Dawn Walcott, LMSW




The Limelight Interview: Dawn Walcott, LMSW

1. What is your primary focus?

I’m relational. What are the connections? I want our clients to feel they can tell me anything. And that they will not be judged. I started my career in the Mental Health field, working with children. I believe that experience makes me more easily understandable to adults. No jargon.


2. What is your treatment philosophy?

Everybody has the ability to get better. But you have to be in the right place. There must be a willingness – no badge of honor – to take responsibility. Everyone’s motivation for recovery is different. There might be one event that flicks the switch. And then they are ready.


3. Why did you become a therapist?

I always knew I wanted to work with kids as a teacher or a therapist. I was working at the mall, and I felt like I needed purpose. And I wanted to help. Teaching didn’t feel close enough. I wanted to find out what makes people tick. Now that’s interesting.


outpatient therapy room

Individual therapy room – Sanford Outpatient Center


4. What is the key to success in recovery?

It depends on the person. But connection to other people in recovery is important. So is forming healthy relationships with family and friends. At the Outpatient Center, we build community – it happens naturally.


5. What are the biggest pitfalls/triggers to relapse?

Isolation. Emotions that feel unmanageable or unbearable. And no distress tolerance, a lack of control. The feeling that, I have to get out of this feeling now … We can teach distress tolerance in outpatient therapy. It’s like imagining waves. Whether or not I effect change, the wave comes back and forth. Nothing is permanent. Try to wait it out.


6. There’s a very nice “feel” to the Outpatient Center – do you have fun in your job?

Yes! I love the client contact. In both individual sessions and groups.


Outpatient management group room

The large group room at Sanford Outpatient Center


7. What is the most challenging part of your job as Outpatient Clinical Manager?

Working with someone who refuses to believe they have potential right there within them. Relapse comes up all the time and we must provide the tools to avoid relapse. A client might fear failure. Or connect with societal shame. I try to make sure they understand it was a “bad choice”, not a “bad person”.


8. Reading any good books?

(Smiles), well, I am reading all books related to addiction and addiction treatment. Books by Brene’ Brown on shame and vulnerability. There is a great book called The Body Keeps the Score about how trauma manifests in the body. And I am reading something on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and how they impact later life.


9. Do you have a phrase you “over-use”?

It is what it is.


10. A motto?

Just be kind to people – you don’t know what they are going through. Or, find the humor in things. Find a connection even when things are “bad”. We’ve all been there.


11. What is your favorite journey?

(Dawn asks, “Like a trip?” And I say, “Any way you want to interpret.”) Oh. Okay … My path through adulthood backwards. And where I ended up. A baby before marriage, 14 years to get my master’s degree (I did the whole thing part time). I feel like I did most everything in the wrong order. But here I am now.


12. What makes Sanford unique in your opinion?

So many things! The energy and enthusiasm. The willingness of Rae and David Green to let us act on our ideas – their openness to new concepts. And the amazing professional team.

Thanks Dawn. SH






Sanford Behavioral Health is a residential and outpatient facility located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sanford offers excellence in evidence-based practice models in a home-like, restorative setting. Our clinicians, supported by our medical team, focus on resolving the underlying issues that often cause substance use, such as trauma, unhealthy relationships, co-occurring disorders and isolation. Programs include both in-person and telehealth: residential, day programs, intensive outpatient, outpatient, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), education and relapse prevention classes, one-on-one and family therapy, and alumni and family support groups. At Sanford, we want to inspire you to find your inner grit, rekindle your interests and engage your passion.