Essential Leaders Are Emerging During the Pandemic

May 11, 2020

One of the words we hear every day during this pandemic is “essential.” As an essential business under Wisconsin’s Safer at Home Order, Foundations Health & Wholeness continues to serve people through mental health counseling and foster care. The client engagement team at our counseling clinic have always been on the front lines of mental health care. They are the first step for clients on their journey to heal mind and spirit. Clients naturally have feelings of uncertainty and fear when they reach out to the client engagement team. The client engagement team always is essential and works with the mantra that “therapy starts with a warm hello.” During this time, they are moving forward with their personal values of leadership, innovation, and balance.


Excellence is one of our core values at Foundations:

We believe people can lead from every chair, and everyone has a sphere of influence. We value innovation and bringing about positive change for people, families, and communities.

The members of our client engagement team certainly are responding to that call to action. They are at the counseling clinic every weekday, making sure that they are available for current and new clients who are struggling with the challenges of life, need support scheduling appointments, and need help with forms and our online client portal.

According to Briana Strzelecki, Sr. Client Engagement Specialist, one of the most important roles of the client engagement team is “reassuring people that services still are continuing during this time. We receive calls from current clients and new clients. We are experiencing an increase in calls from people who are struggling and may have been struggling for some time. Now they may have the time to make themselves a priority. We also are noticing an increase in clients who are feeling new symptoms of anxiety and depression because of the upheaval that COVID is creating in their lives.”

Briana feels especially supported by the therapists and the leadership team as they tailor their roles: “It’s been a unique opportunity to step up and use our leadership skills. The different skill sets by client engagement team members is appreciated. We are working well together. I’m really proud of the work we are doing.”

With this opportunity to grow together as a team, they see each other as leaders. They are supportive of each other in the office, grateful to have a place to go to every day, and watch out for each other’s safety with daily cleaning and other measures.


The call to lead gives the client engagement team the opportunity for innovation. Innovation isn’t all about coming up with big ideas. It’s about implementing those ideas to add value to the community. The client engagement team’s days are filled with working collaboratively with therapy team and developing new methods and processes to give people access to mental health care when we can’t be physically together. The team has been especially creative in determining how the new workflow can support clients’ needs and the administrative requirements for therapists. Briana and the entire client engagement team are excited that the new processes are working well for everyone.

One unintended – and remarkable – byproduct of innovation is compassion. “It’s an awesome feeling in our hearts to tell clients that we are able to schedule and continue services through tele-mental health and hear that sense of relief,” shared Briana.

This pandemic has highlighted the importance of making mental health services available for everyone in our community.


Clients are settling into the idea of video therapy. At the start of the Safer at Home Order, clients were reluctant to connect over video; now, they are embracing it. Clients have been understanding and patient. Clients have been supportive of the client engagement team. It’s been a relationship of mutual support. As therapists do the work to make sure video therapy is effective, the client engagement team is ensuring that all of the supportive services are effective, too.

Instead of the hustle and bustle of regular days, the pandemic has created more close working relationships between the client engagement team and therapists. The needs of the work change each week. Priorities change. With all of this change, Foundations is making sure the client engagement team members get time to breathe and spend time at home with family and pets.

The biggest lesson has been that it’s the little things that matter most. The little moments occupy the biggest parts of our minds. The little wins become the biggest victories.

Pictured: Our waiting room is empty, but our hearts are filled with a spirit of caring and connecting.

~Written by Kelly Nutty, Director of Development, Foundations Health & Wholeness