Carey Carlock | Photo provided

Carey Carlock has resigned as CEO of Riveredge Psychiatric Hospital in Forest Park after 13 years in that capacity. Her resignation letter to coworkers and staff was more like a love letter than a resignation letter, she said, and she plans to stay connected and involved. She’s still on the board of UHS, the parent organization overseeing Riveredge.

“My position at Riveredge has been the privilege and responsibility of my career, but it’s time,” Carlock said. “The team is in a good place, and I will stay connected.”

Her plans now include starting a private therapy practice, featuring what she calls “care navigation,” a sorely needed service for families dealing with mental illness.

Construction will begin in July on her new office space in the Oak Park Arts District, and Carlock expects Mosaic Counseling and Wellness to open early in 2022.

“A mosaic is created when lots of broken pieces come together to create something beautiful,” Carlock said about the name. The focus of her practice will be “wellness, not illness,” she explained, “care that’s infused with hope because treatment works.”

Many people who try to access mental health care discover it’s not as easy as it should be. There’s no roadmap to mental and emotional well-being, and even the starting point isn’t always clear. Where do you find a therapist? How do you know if they’re any good? Will they take your insurance?

Many therapists don’t have openings for weeks, sometimes months, especially if you’re looking for a child specialist. Med management is generally done through a psychiatrist, who is seen separately, and patients have to sign releases so that doctor can talk to the therapist and vice versa for dose adjustments. But communication isn’t always effective or efficient. And, of course, there’s the stigma of mental health in general.

“People are struggling,” Carlock said. “Compassionate care is out there, but there’s not enough timely, safe, culturally appropriate access to care. That’s why I’m doing this.”

Carlock’s idea of care navigation means Mosaic will be a one-stop-shop for mental health care. The practice will have a psychiatrist and therapists on staff, so med management can be done in one place by professionals working together.

“I want to make accessing the mental health system more welcoming,” Carlock said. Part of that is providing resources. If someone comes to Mosaic needing help that Carlock can’t provide, like intensive outpatient services or care for an eating disorder, the treatment team at Mosaic will provide recommendations on where the individual will best be served.

Mosaic will serve people of all ages and include family and group counseling. Family therapy will be available not just for family units having trouble in their relationships, but also because the mental health of one family member can affect an entire household, and parents, for example, might need advice on helping their child.

“It’s about how to partner with a loved one even if there is no family conflict,” Carlock said.

Group therapy will be available at Mosaic, too, and the setting of the arts district in Oak Park lends itself to that well as with plans to integrate art therapy such as music, drama and dance into her practice.

“Some people aren’t as open to talk-therapy,” said Carlock, who admits to having “an unbridled bias toward creative arts.”

At Riveredge, there’s a robust program of art therapy, and that’s something she plans to implement at Mosaic as well. She recalled a boys’ group that began each session with a drum circle. The participants listened to each other and focused on staying on beat with one another, and that helped them gel as a team, which facilitates talking and communication later.

She herself recently participated in an improv-for-therapists class, and she said it’s something she’s considering using in a social anxiety group at her new practice.

During her time at Riveredge, Carlock talked often about ending the stigma attached to mental illness, and that’s still her bigger mission as she embarks on her new path.

“What other illness would you have where you’d suffer silently?” she asked. “It’s courageous to ask for help. We need to change the narrative. We need to suffer less.”

Over the past 13 years at Riveredge, she said, the hospital itself has gone through changes.

“Riveredge has participated in its own recovery, in a way,” Carlock said. When she arrived, she realized the importance of creating bonds within the community so that Riveredge wasn’t just a hospital sitting alone on Roosevelt Road. She worked hard to establish relationships with village officials, the Chamber of Commerce, and other businesses.

“It’s been rewarding to see Riveredge emerge as a place of integrity and a place willing to listen to what the community needs,” she said. And that goes back to her overarching goal in mental health in general: Expand the narrative about access to timely, safe, culturally appropriate care.

Riveredge is currently searching for a new CEO, with Kurt Gunther serving as the interim.

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