MCHC Health Centers welcomes its newest behavioral health provider, Amber Bengston, who will see patients at Hillside Health Center in Ukiah. Bengston is no stranger to healthcare, having worked as a dental assistant and a medical assistant before completing her master’s degree in social work to become a therapist. She is also deeply familiar with Mendocino County, where her roots go back several generations.
Bengston works with children and adults, and she recommends therapy for anyone facing a mental health challenge that interferes with their ability to live the life they want.
She says she understands why some people are reluctant to seek support. Although the stigma of seeing a therapist is far less than it used to be—and much less common among younger generations—it can be hard to overcome the fear of others’ judgement (or to overcome one’s own self-judgement). And in small communities, it’s essential to understand and respect the therapeutic relationship and boundaries.
Bengston’s particular areas of interest are substance use disorder (addiction) and developmental trauma. She understands the ups and downs that come with the healing journey, and she helps patients understand the nature of recovery so they do not get discouraged, even if they temporarily revert to old behaviors.
“People are the experts of their own lives. I’m here to support them,” she said. She said that when people are suffering and they want to try something different, it can be really helpful to work with someone trained to listen and provide guidance and encouragement.
“Maybe you have social anxiety and you can’t get yourself to go to a party or maybe you feel shame about past experiences or current behaviors, or maybe you need help processing a traumatic event—whatever it is, you don’t have to do it alone,” she said.
Bengston received her master’s degree at Humboldt State University where the program supported what she calls “cultural humility,” an awareness that cultural norms differ, and each should be respected.
She said, “I don’t like the term ‘cultural competence’ because you really can’t be competent in someone else’s culture. You can approach your work with humility and be open to others’ ways of interpreting the world, though.”
Bengston says she is excited to join the team at MCHC Health Centers because her philosophy aligns with MCHC’s team-based, whole-person care model. She noted that people’s physical and emotional health are interrelated and having a team of healthcare providers who can support all aspects of a patient’s health is “the best kind of care.” She also said she appreciates the teamwork of providers and support staff because this allows her to focus on her area of expertise.
“Having a conversation with another provider, someone you know and trust, is very different than trying to interpret a note from an unknown provider in a patient’s medical record. Patients get better care when providers who care about them collaborate on their behalf” she explained.
Behavioral Health Director Ben Anderson said, “Amber is a great addition to our team. Her collaborative approach with patients to set attainable goals makes her a great fit. It’s also really helpful that she has experience running smoking cessation groups and serving as a case manager within a Medication Assisted Treatment (Suboxone) program.”
Bengston says she hopes people will reach out to get the support they need and reiterated that “nothing changes if nothing changes.”