Employee Awards and Accolades

Employee Spotlight: Mary Custer

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mary Custer knows first-hand just how unexpected life’s journeys can be.

“I believe that self-discovery is the truest form of education and I have been privileged to be able to spend the last 20 years of my career helping others in this journey, as well as my own,” Custer said.

Custer’s professional journey brought her to a most unlikely destination considering where she began.

Her career started in education and even included a short stint as a stock broker at one point. For three years, she also lived in Frankfurt, Germany.

Earlier this summer, Custer officially retired as a therapist from Stairways' Erie Outpatient Clinic. Eager to spend more time with her two daughters and two grandchildren, she reflected on her time at Stairways. 

How did your job evolve during the years you occupied it?

When I was first hired in 2000 we had fewer clients and only one psychiatrist to receive and share information concerning our clients.  Dr. Thomas was very good to me and taught me so very much. He was the first one who introduced me to the Energy techniques to add to standard “talk therapy.”  Sixteen years later, the team approach is alive and well.  With the help of BCM, PRS, Peer specialists, the ACT team, BLOOM, Mobile Med Monitoring, etc., we are all a vital part of a team with one goal in mind:  helping clients to achieve and perform at their highest level.  Not that we did not do a good job in the past with our clients but we have come a long way.

How has treatment of mental health changed in your time in the industry?

I have been in the mental health field for over 20 years.  Today, there is more acceptance of mental health than when I first started.  Certainly, we have a long way to go but the descriptive negative adjectives directed to people struggling with mental health problems are not heard today. There is more awareness of mental health issues and how it not only affects the victims but also friends and families. 

What would you still like to happen in the mental health industry?

I would like to know that our politicians — local, state and federal had a better grasp on how to help people with mental illness.  Our clients lose basic needs when they try to help themselves by working.  They can lose  their insurance, child care, housing and financial assistance  while they are just getting their feet wet in the world of work..  I feel strongly that they need time to prove themselves when they are starting on a new path to independence.  I know personally that starting a new part of your life can be a tad scary.

What was the most fulfilling part of your job? 

During the last 15 plus years, I have received wonderful, heartfelt notes and expression of appreciation for the changes my clients were able to make in their personal lives.  They share that they can now live a much fuller life while managing symptoms that once controlled them.

What are you going to miss most about it?

I will miss my clients and being able to make a difference in their lives.

What are you looking forward to most about retirement?

I will have the flexibility to spend more time with my two grandchildren and my humorous, wonderful, supportive family both here and in Canada.  There is nothing better than family.

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