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Coworker Corner: Dana Firmin-Murray
Growing up, Dana Firmin-Murray wanted to be just like her grandmother.
“My grandmother was this amazing math teacher,” she explained. “Really, all my story has to do with her, the way I saw her love on people and just accept people for who they are. It was just so amazing. And I just wanted to be amazing like her.”
Originally, Dana wanted to become a teacher to follow in the footsteps of her grandmother. But she quickly realized that it wasn’t exactly the right fit for what she hoped to accomplish in her career.
“Something was saying, ‘you’re not going to be able to really pour into their lives like you want to,’” she remembered. “So my advisor [at school] actually told me about social work.”
Sensing a better fit, Dana ended up majoring in sociology and social welfare in undergrad, and then went to graduate school for social work. She soon discovered she had a particular passion for residential care.
“I feel like you have more of an impact [in residential care],” she said. “You have more time with them [and] I’m able to see how they really react as a person and all your good sides and then some of those things that you have trouble with. I feel like you get to know the person as a whole as far as having therapy one-on-one for an hour, [plus] I get to be in their living space. I get to know them as a whole [and] I get to really know what this kid is going through.”
It was when Dana was working at another residential treatment home that she first heard about Mercy Home. Her son went to school in the area, and every time she passed the Walsh Campus, she felt like it was “calling her.” However, she ended up taking a job in Louisiana, where she is from, to do in-home counseling. But our Home never left her mind.
When she was ready for a change in her career, Dana decided to apply at Mercy Home. She was thrilled when she was hired as the therapist for Seton Home, which serves our youngest girls. “When I came here, I just felt like, I know it seems weird, but I felt this is where I needed to be,” she said.
When I came here, I just felt like, I know it seems weird, but I felt this is where I needed to be.
With nearly two years at Mercy Home under her belt, Dana is still as enthusiastic about working with our kids as the day she arrived. As a therapist, she dedicates her time to the treatment of girls who are healing from trauma and difficulties with family, she explained. She uses psychotherapy and other interventions that support healthy regulation and helps our girls transition into the structured setting at Mercy Home that allows healthy growth and development.
Because the girls she works with are typically ages 11-13, the development stage they are at can provide some unique challenges.
“They do, a lot of times, want that connection-seeking piece,” she said. “They desire [that connection] a lot more than older girls would just because they’re so young [and] they’re away from their families. I have a kid of my own who is 13, and I just couldn’t imagine that … [for her] to be in a residential treatment [situation].”
Dana is able to use her own experience as a parent to help other parents and families who come to Mercy Home struggling. She said that she appreciates their willingness to come to Mercy Home and ask for help, even when it’s difficult.
“These families come in here, and they’re like, ‘I need help,’” she said. “And that is such a big thing to do. So for me as a therapist, that’s the thing I love about Mercy Home. …That’s a really hard thing to do as a family, [to say], ‘I’m struggling as a parent and I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know where else to turn, so I need you.’ That right there makes me [say], ‘Oh, we got this, I got you. I’m going to hold your hand. We got this together,’ because that’s a big step for a parent.”
Being able to relate to the parents’ experiences and struggles when they bring their children to Mercy Home helps normalize some common struggles, she said.
So for me as a therapist, that’s the thing I love about Mercy Home. …That’s a really hard thing to do as a family, [to say], ‘I’m struggling as a parent and I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know where else to turn, so I need you.’ That right there makes me say, ‘Oh, we got this, I got you.
“I think that’s what helps me and these parents really have a great bond, because I bond really well with my families,” she said. “And I think it’s because I am a parent myself and my child is the same group as their kids. … I get it, and I think that’s what really helps me with these families, is that I completely understand.”
In addition to enjoying her work with our kids and families, Dana is also grateful for the support she receives from the Seton Home program manager, Linda Hendrickson, and her other coworkers.
“I can say that my boss and I, and everyone in this department, I feel has really grown and that the support we give each other has been amazing,” she said. “That makes me want to stay at Mercy Home longer. The support that Linda gives me has been the greatest support that I can ever have, you know? I feel like having her in my corner is one of the biggest reasons why I continue to stay here too.”
Dana has also connected well with the Vice President of Youth Programs, Tom Gilardi.
“I love his vibe,” she said. “He just reminds me of our vibe in Louisiana … like, we’re all a part of this together, that’s what I get from Tom. So that too makes me [want to] jump into this together. We got this together.
“I just feel like the vibe keeps me here, like people are supportive and [say], “let’s do this together, Dana, you know, whatever you need, I got you.’”
Dana is also best friends with Shelly Quiles, a therapist in Walgreen Home. They previously worked together at another residential treatment home and offer each other support as therapists.
“It’s really cool that we’re working together again, because I’m able to have those moments where I feel like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know what I’m doing,’ and I can have this other therapist there who is my best friend, talk to her, and be like okay, [let’s] look into this and help me through this” she said. “It’s a great asset to have her here.”