Denver – The State of Colorado

So, now I’m in Denver – the State of Colorado. It feels funny being in a new place again. I had got so used to Milwaukee, had started knowing my way around and loved spending time with the people at Saint A.

The Mile High City

It’s exciting learning about a new place though. Denver is very different.  it’s called the “mile high city” because it’s a mile above sea level.  At first, being so high up made me feel dizzy and tired but I’ve been drinking lots of water and that has helped.  I spent my weekends here exploring and starting to find my way around.  The place I’m staying is on the outskirts of town and I soon discovered that it’s not really that safe to walk to the bus stop (it’s a very industrial area and I was told that a lot of the warehouses here are where they grow marijuana which has been legalized in Colorado).

Waiting for the bus

The bus hardly ever comes here so I’m using a cheap taxi service which is cheaper than hiring a car.  It’s been interesting talking to taxi drivers and hearing about their lives and their thoughts about living in the USA and living in Denver in particular.  I’ve been quite surprised that quite a few people hadn’t heard of Scotland or didn’t know where it was.  One guy asked me if it was in Asia :).  So I’ve been telling them about where I live and work too.

Here’s a picture from the middle of Denver – the Rocky mountains on one side and Denver city centre on the other side:

I’ve noticed some more things that are different in America:

  • They don’t have the NHS here – people have to buy health insurance to pay every time they do to the doctor, hospital or dentist.  If they can’t afford to buy private health insurance they can get government health insurance but they have to apply.  On TV there are loads of adverts for medicines and different treatments,
  • They call football soccer, toilets are called restrooms and what we call uptown they call downtown,
  • Streets here are usually very straight and very long.  They quite often name corners where two streets cross to help you find a place.  Sometimes the streets are called by a number, so for example, in Denver, there is 16th Street and 17th Street.  They might say “the coffee shop is on 16th and 17th”.

Mostly though I notice how much the same we are – we’re all people, we are all unique but we all need to sleep and eat and we all need love and care.


So, (COMPETITION ALERT!!!!!) in Denver I have been visiting an agency called Mount Saint Vincent (MSV).  Here’s a picture:

Here’s a picture of the amazing prize that you could win if you enter our competition – name the three agencies I visit (shown in my blogs) and the 3 famous sites that my mascot Yoshi visits (shown on our Facebook page) – it’s a cool brand new American Abercrombie and Fitch hoodie:

Looking at how brain development is affected by trauma

In MSV they use the same approach as Saint A – looking at how brain development is affected by trauma and/or neglect.  They offer a slightly different range of services:

  • Assessments for children and young people (up to the age of 14) who are experiencing mental health difficulties,
  • Day treatment services and school services,
  • Residential treatment,
  • Short-term stabilization (for those who are really struggling with their mental health or for those who have just come out of hospital),
  • Respite care (to give children, parents or carers a break),
  • Foster care,
  • In-home services,
  • Consultation and training.

Pet Therapy

As well as these services MSV also offers animal-assisted therapy, art therapy, dance/movement therapy, music therapy, recreation therapy (play and leisure activities) and therapeutic massage.  It’s quite cool, several of the staff have been trained and had their dogs trained to become therapy dogs, so there are dogs wandering around the office.  It made me think of Demi our lovely HOT dog – she would be an amazing therapy dog!

Here are some pictures of some of the lovely people I’ve been working with at MSV (I couldn’t take pictures of staff in the school and units because I didn’t want to take pictures of the children and young people – to protect their privacy):

All of the staff where so lovely and friendly and helpful – I’ve invited all the people from Saint A and MSV to come to Scotland and visit HOT :).

Both Saint A and MSV understand that the first and most important part of working with children and young people who have experienced trauma is to help them be calm.  If someone is very stressed they won’t be able to think straight. Both agencies use an approach that helps them work out which part of the brain has been affected by the trauma.

“Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics”

Then they have a range of activities that help that part of the brain recover. The approach is very clever and well thought out – it’s got a long name – Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics – try saying that very fast 3 times in a row, it makes your brain feel funny :).  It was developed by someone called Dr Bruce Perry and is called NMT for short.

So all the services at MSV follow this approach.  To work best, the approach needs everyone in the agency to follow it.  I was impressed to see how the whole team at MSV all seemed to work to this approach.  They believe that there are 6 important parts to helping children and young people have a positive experience as they develop:

  • Relevant – things should be matched to the age and stage of the child or young person,
  • Repetitive – things should be short, repeated activities that happen often,
  • Rewarding – the activity helps the child or young person feel an emotional benefit,
  • Relational – the child or young person feels safe and secure and gets a chance to build relationships,
  • Rhythmic – steady pattern that helps brain development,
  • Respectful – positive regard of the child, young person, family and culture.

MSV has developed a clever and detailed way to measure how effective their services are at helping children and young people to recover after experiencing trauma.  They can show how things have improved in the residential units and in the classrooms.

Golfing and Fundraising

This week I have attended a fundraising event (a golf tournament) to raise money for MSV.  I also visited the Juvenile Court where decisions are made about children and young people’s lives and their treatment and support if they are ill or need help.  I also visited a nursery and spoke to the Manager to see how they use the same approach with younger children and families. Soon I will move on to the next and final place and visit the last agency on my trip.  Watch out for my next blog to find out more about what I’ve been doing and all the things I’ve been learning.

Niki P