Interview by Alexander Waitt:
It’s hard to imagine not only landing, but thriving at your first job out of graduate school, but that’s exactly what happened with Melanie Richards. After a decade with Vital Decisions, Melanie reflects on the past 10 years, who helped her gain her footing, what she’s learned from her various roles, and her key to longevity in the field.
What’s been your proudest moment during your 10 years here?
The process around developing the supervisory coaching program with Allan Zuckoff, Clinical Program Development and then presenting that program at the annual Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers conference in New Orleans. It was such an honor to be able to showcase the work we had developed with esteemed colleagues. The positive feedback was a true testament to the coaching and training systems we have in place here at Vital Decisions.
What’s something you learned in a previous role at Vital that’s stuck with you or useful for your current role?
In different roles at Vital Decisions I’ve developed the tools needed to coach and train others. When I returned to my role as Specialist I found myself a more effective specialist because I could put into practice the tools I had helped so many others utilize as well.
It’s an amazing feat to be with any one company for 10 years, but in our field it can be especially difficult work, what’s your driving force for your sustainability?
I always go back to the reason why I became a counselor in the first place. To my core, I believe my purpose is to help others. The way in which I have done so has certainly shifted and changed over the years at Vital Decisions. But with each role, I have learned how to develop a meaningful connection and relationship to the work and to those I was serving. So, no matter what I was doing, I always felt like I was doing what I had been called to do. And there is nothing more sustainable than that.
Is there anyone or anything that you feel was vital to your success?
Allan Zuckoff as well as other leaders have been instrumental to my development as a person and as a professional. They taught me what it means to effectively manage a team, develop as a leader, gave me numerous opportunities to showcase and hone my abilities as a clinician & leader while also expanding my skills to coaching and teaching as well. Overall, without the direct influence of these individuals I would not be the employee, clinician, or person I am today.
Over the past 10 years Melanie has contributed to Vital Decisions in boundless ways. Holding several positions throughout her tenure has allowed many of those within our walls to grow and flourish from her expertise and clinical depth. She gives all of herself to her work and has had a tremendous impact on so many of us. Whether it be helping our clinicians hone their skills, empowering her clients to find their voice, or using her competitive spirit to assist colleagues overcome their hurdles, Melanie strives to have a positive impact on others and lead by example when needed. Vital Decisions is beyond grateful for her decade of service and looks forward to seeing her continue to shine in the years to come.
Melanie is such an incredible person both personally and professionally. She is upbeat, funny and is always optimistic. She helped me grow so much as a specialist and then as a supervisor through her incredible coaching skills. She is truly one of a kind and I’m not sure what I’d do without her!!
When I think of my experience working alongside Melanie in the various roles she has held in her time at VD, I think about of a few words that best describe Mel. Kind, compassionate, resilient and strong. Mel has a way of meeting each member she speaks with where they are and spends time understanding their unique experience. I am fortunate to interact and experience her work up close as she has a way of taking what we do, (which can be hard to discuss) and transforms a conversation into an empowering experience with the members she works with.
Steve Gramiak, Supervisor
Sheena Desai, Marketing Manager
Melanie has a fun and warm personality that makes it so easy to work with her. Any time I’ve worked with her on projects she’s been quick to understand what we are looking for and execute to get the job done. Through Vital Decisions, I’m so proud to call Melanie a friend who is smart, caring, and ambitious!
Mel is a bright light and her energy and enthusiasm are contagious. She is intelligent, strong, and resilient. I am so thankful for all she has taught me, both personally and professionally, and am most thankful for the many, many laughs we’ve shared. A day without laughter is a day wasted and Mel and I have never wasted one moment of our time together. I love and thank you, Mel.
Irene Dougherty, Specialist
Natalie Sloane, Marketing Coordinator
Melanie was integral to my success as a Specialist. Her enthusiasm and clinical skills are unmatched. As a coach, she was the perfect combination of gentle and encouraging, but knew when to give you a push – usually just to believe in yourself more! It’s incredible that she’s carried her warmth and energy for a whole decade!
Over the years I’ve had the privilege to work closely with Melanie in multiple settings. Among the first at Vital Decisions to achieve MINT certification, Melanie is a natural leader who inspires others with her passion for our mission and clinical skillfulness. Melanie has an enthusiasm for life and a presence that puts others at ease. Melanie is always the first to offer her assistance and has played a pivotal part in countless roles, initiatives, and junctures. Melanie’s influence resonates in all corners of the organization, making us stronger because of her impact. It’s been a privilege to learn from and work alongside Melanie.
Ariana Noto, Vice President of Clinical Operations
Elizabeth Pfeifer, Supervisor
I have had the pleasure of working with Melanie in various capacities during my time at Vital Decisions and truly valued each of those opportunities. Her clinical skills are top notch and I have learned so much from her. As a direct result of working with her, I have been able to expand and refine my understanding of Motivational Interviewing and how it applies to our programs, and been able to grow in my abilities to coach. She thinks critically, asks important questions, offers invaluable observations, and makes others around her better. Not only is she amazingly skilled in MI, but she is also a joy to be around. I have always left each interaction with Melanie with a smile on my face. I am so grateful to have been working with Mel over these years!