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Dr. Jason Gallant– Behavioral Health Clinic 25th Anniversary Inside Look

November 15th, 2019     By Boys Town Contributor

Behavior, Boys Town History, Bully, Healing Families, Mental Health, Quality Care, Saving Children, Understanding Behavior

The Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health is celebrating 25 years of service to children and families in the Omaha area.

For a quarter century, the Center has provided life-changing therapy, treatment and specialty services to the emotionally fragile and behaviorally troubled. The Center also has a renowned internship and post-doctoral program, offering unrivaled training, research and clinical opportunities to educate and prepare future psychologists.

To mark this milestone anniversary, the Center is spotlighting some of its former interns and post-doctoral scholars whose careers have been shaped by their Boys Town experience.

We recently sat down with Dr. Jason Gallant, a 2010-2012 intern, to catch up on his career, reminisce about his post-doctoral fellowship at the Center and discover why Nebraska winters are hard to forget.      

Dr. Gallant is the director of the Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic at Boys Town Central Florida.

What sparked your interest in psychology?

I grew up in South Florida with a mom who was a teacher and wonderful role model. I spent a lot of time at her school helping out in the classroom or tutoring students. Through that experience, I began to see the value of helping others and contributing to the well-being of a child's life. Seeing the relationship she had with her students sparked something in me and ultimately led to my pursuit of a degree working with pediatric populations.   

When did you know psychology was a career path you wanted to pursue?

Throughout my whole schooling experience, I tossed around ideas about maybe going into family law. My stepfather and uncle were lawyers, and I really looked up to them. So, I went to Florida State University – Go Seminoles! – and started out as a political science major before transitioning to criminology. But I really felt like something was missing. On a whim, I took a child psychology course. I wanted to see what it was all about, and like I said, I had such a passion for helping those who needed the most help. I had this wonderful, engaging and passionate instructor, who I met with regularly. After talking about some of the options out there, I switched majors and focused on the world of psychology and really entrenched myself in the material.

You went to the University of Florida to pursue a doctorate in school psychology. Why that particular field of study?

I chose school psychology because the school dynamic is such an integral piece of children's lives. To understand children, you have to understand what their experiences are like at the place where they spend almost 40 hours a week. Many social, emotional, behavioral and familial concerns stem from a youth's school experience.   

What about Boys Town appealed to you and made you want to do your doctoral internship here?

What was important to me was to find a fellowship or internship that would allow a school psychologist to work in a clinical type of environment. School psychologists usually do their internships in schools, but I wanted to branch out from that. I wanted to get clinical training and work in a community mental health setting doing individual therapy and family therapy. Dr. Pat Friman (long-time Center director) gave me that opportunity, and it was a very powerful point in my professional trajectory. I was able to take the knowledge I had from the school psychology domain and incorporate it in a clinical setting. This training afforded me an opportunity to round out my clinical training while focusing on a primary care model of psychology.  

You also did your post-doctoral training here. How did it differ from your internship year?

During my first internship year, I worked with youth in the Family Home Program and built a wonderful relationship with the Family-Teachers®. My second year, I got to work with families from all over the greater Omaha area and did individual and family therapy. The second year of my training, I was able to hone in on becoming a primary care practitioner. I was able to focus on helping families from a preventative and primary care perspective. Ultimately, I could help treat problems before they evolved into more significant pathology.

Do you have a favorite memory or moment from that time?

Geez, there were so many. I think my favorite experience was how much it felt like a real family. Everybody was so welcoming and knowledgeable. It was an open-door policy with every single clinician. If I ever had a question, the door was open to go in and ask. They treated all the interns like we were part of them and, if you think about, we're all doing an internship within a clinic where people have been working together for years, sometimes decades, and they instantly made us feel like family. I'd never lived outside of Florida and didn't know anybody in Nebraska, so I came into this environment absolutely terrified. Those fears quickly attenuated when I experienced the love and care that clinicians and staff brought to the experience.

One really powerful and poignant moment in my training was when I was going through a rough patch. I fondly remember that Dr. Friman took time out of his busy schedule to sit down and have lunch with me. Just me and him. Here he is, vice president of behavioral health, and here I am, a lowly intern. That was such a powerful moment for me as a person, not just as a professional. There were so many of those moments where people just expressed a genuine appreciation for my well-being. And not just me, all the interns. They cared about who we were as people, and you just don't get experiences like that too often.  

You mentioned you had never lived outside of Florida. How well did you adjust to Nebraska weather?

I had never seen snow before and never experienced temperatures below 30 degrees. I was struggling when it hit 60. Every month I had to purchase a new parka. The weather was fierce, and I was ill-prepared to deal with 5 degrees and wind chills below zero. I was the brunt of a couple jokes! Everyone would come check on me and see how I was holding up when it dipped into the 50s. Ultimately, being around such a caring team made the winters a tad bit more bearable.

After your post-doctoral fellowship, you were asked to start up a new outpatient behavioral clinic at Boys Town Central Florida. Did you think you were ready to do that?

I told Dr. Friman no. I said, Pat, absolutely not! How am I going to go down there and build a clinic. I don't know what I'm doing. There's no way. I need much more training. I need another year. And Pat – I'll never forget this moment – sat me down in his office and said he wasn't going to give me another year. His belief was, what is another year going to do? You're not gonna get more comfortable. You're still going to have reservations because you've never been a director. The only way to get more comfortable being a director is to go be a director. That was his mentality. He believed in me that much, and it was a very powerful moment.

How challenging was it to get the clinic up and running?

Today, if Boys Town was to start a new clinic, there is so much infrastructure. There are people who will talk with insurance companies and coordinate credentialing and all that other business-related stuff. But there wasn't any of that back then. I showed up the first day and there wasn't even an office available to me. I had to sit in a conference room. I walked in, and they said we have this conference room and here's your computer. Nobody really knew what to do. No one knew how to drum up business. Nobody knew where we'd get our families from, etc. Just figuring out where to even begin was an enormous challenge.

Honestly, I was so fortunate to have Greg Zbylut, Boys Town Central Florida Executive Director, in my corner. Greg was, and continues to be, the most supportive, passionate and caring mentor for me. He had so much trust in me and gave me incredible autonomy to make critical decisions on behalf of the clinic. I could not have asked for a better executive director. Greg deserves so much credit for how this clinic continues to flourish.     

What kind of success did you have?

The clinic opened in August 2012, and I saw my first family on October 24, 2012. The following year, when the clinic was fully operational, it served 90 families. Today, there are five clinicians on staff who serve a combined 800 unique families. I am so fortunate to have a team of clinicians who are so invested in the well-being of our families. The team is always thinking about ways to make this clinic a beacon of the highest quality, empirically supported treatments in Central Florida. I owe so much appreciation to Dr. Joseph Clemens, Dr. Anhthony Nguyen, Dr. Amanda Anderson and Dr. Katrina Stone. I also owe so much acknowledgement to our all-star Client Service Representative, Sandy Cuello. Sandy has been a key component of our success. I am truly fortunate to have such an incredible team who are so passionate about helping others.       

How well did your internship and training experience at the Center prepare you for this leadership role?

When they say they are a training institution, they live and breathe that. To be a training institution, you must be very patient, very flexible and very available. The Center did all those things perfectly. Everyone, no matter who was supervising you, was available for me to pick their brain. That openness, availability and commitment to training really helped me evolve into the professional I am today.

Thank you, Dr. Gallant! 

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