Lakewood mental health agency equipped to handle military clients

Experienced staff includes TBI survivor

By Megan D’Angelo on October 6, 2012

The stereotypical man in a suit, writing on a pad of paper, nodding and mumbling "uh huh" and "go on" is no longer the way of therapy or therapists.

When walking into the office of Greater Lakes Mental Healthcare in Lakewood, one is immediately calmed by greenery and rich, earthy tones. No notebooks, no long couches - just calm. And in a military community, calm often seems like a long lost dream.

In the rocky road of military life, it's important to find a counselor who "gets it." Therapists at Greater Lakes are knowledgeable about and are specially trained in military culture.

Sharlene Birkland is one of the many therapists at Greater Lakes who holds a high esteem and love for the military community. With 23 years of experience, Birkland routinely helps clients "find their voice and find a safe place to talk about what is going on (in their lives)," she said.

Birkland prides herself on her openness and ability to help people feel comfortable quickly. That may have something to do with her positive attitude toward recovery.

"People are so resilient," she said.

While also focused on her client's ability to bounce back, Birkland characterizes her style of therapy as "individualized, with a ‘no bull' mentality."

Her straightforward approach is refreshing in a world where "hurry up and wait" and getting the run around are typical.

Birkland's personal experiences increase her credibility within the military community.

She was a first responder at the World Trade Center buildings in New York City on 9/11 and worked with families and other first responders as a critical incident stress debriefer helping them cope with the trauma.

In her years of experience, Birkland has worked with dependents; retired and active-duty from all branches; Special Forces; couples; and adolescents through a variety of issues including multiple deployments, grief, parenting, divorce and trauma.

Birkland is also a traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor who has completed the same cognitive rehabilitation that many of today's Soldiers go through.

In sessions, Birkland stays solution-focused and encourages all people to view therapy as an "opportunity to bounce back, learn and grow."

Through her experiences, she continues to advocate for adequate mental health care for military members and dependents alike.

Greater Lakes has the ability to see dependents, including children, for appointments as late as 7 p.m. without a referral from a primary care physician.

Clients are typically able to get an intake appointment within a week, and they may be seen sooner if the situation is urgent.

If you or someone in your family needs some help getting through the difficulties of life, Birkland and the therapists of Greater Lakes Mental Healthcare, located at 9330 59th Avenue S.W. in Lakewood, are here to support you.

For more information or to schedule an appointment call (253) 581-7020.