Expert Profile - Nadine Wilches
Nadine Wilches’ Bio:
Nadine is the Founder and CEO of Mind the Class and owner of the clinical practice Neuropsycle. She started Mind the Class to decrease mental health risk factors for youth by moving mental health practice toward a preventive model of intervention through assessment, risk-detection, resourcing and systemic and integrative intervention. Nadine has worked with some of the most vulnerable populations experiencing trauma, neurodevelopmental conditions, complex medical conditions, socioeconomic disadvantages, and complex comorbidities. She is a Certified Integrative Mental Health Provider and includes systemic interventions to treat the conditions of the environment to improve functioning. Nadine has worked in clinical and program management for large and small organizations particularly in working with adult, child and family trauma as well as co-occurring neurodevelopmental, medical or neurological conditions and mental health symptoms. She has trained professionals at Universities, Hospital Psychiatric Departments, Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations and School Programs. Nadine graduated with top honors from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Services and has worked abroad supporting community and children’s educational programs in 3 different countries. In the United States, she has helped shape non-profit programs in foster care, the criminal court (victim-services), public and non-public schools, and community and home-based programs. Nadine is energized by challenges and has a fearless determination for success and trust in her patients and the organizations she supports. Nadine enjoys meeting people of different cultural backgrounds and traveling.
What life events or challenges that you’ve experienced (could be minor, could be major) – whether you’ve experienced them directly or via someone close to you, have had any type of impact on your desire to pursue a career in psychiatry?
Looking back, my childhood would have seemed very stable, grounded in a good family, a strong community and plenty of opportunity. On the outside, I had friends and loved supporting children from a young age. I have a brother who is 8 years younger than me, who I spent a lot of time with. I also had a lot of exposure to neurodiverse children in my neighborhood and school and I showed a high interest in the brain and behavior. In high school, I babysat for a deaf child, took on an independent study in the special education classroom, and worked in childcare and camps with diverse groups of children. Giving back and helping others may have been a strong contributor to my wellbeing at that time, as I also experienced two serious traumatic relationships, the severity of which I uncovered later in adulthood. I journaled and listened to music and spent a lot of time around friends and running on the track team. Despite these unintended, but supportive, wellness efforts, I suffered from depression and anxiety in college and into early adulthood with resulting medical issues. My pursuit of a career in a helping profession was inevitable, but gravitating toward psychotherapy may have also, subconsciously, been a part of my own healing process.
How did those events impact you emotionally/morally? How, if at all did those events impact the way you view how our current system teaches us to treat patients with mental health challenges?
Those events served to further influence my drive to make changes to how we support people, despite some internal and external resistance. Along the journey I adopted any and all strategies that I learned to my own life and recovery journey. Within the system of child welfare, I was part of an initiative to prevent foster care by supporting families therapeutically and ecologically. Within the system of domestic violence, I was part of an initiative to unite and cross-collaborate with government, legal, law enforcement, social services, counseling and immigration. Within the system of education, I spearheaded a shift in a non-public school from restraint of children with serious aggression and destructive behavior to one of prevention through wellness strategies, safe spaces, and supporting the exploration of coping strategies like music, movement, relaxation and more.
I progressively felt that many current clinical practices were often more damaging than helpful and that practitioners were more siloed than ever. This has been observed to limit patient access to a wide range of helpful practices and resources and also limit providers’ access to advancing their practices through integrative modalities. I also observed the failing governmental and social service infrastructures that both contribute and exacerbate mental health issues and in and of themselves became distressing to some extent. From lack of access to inequity and other serious barriers, I felt extremely compelled to support systemic change in how people’s needs are met and particularly to address problems through risk identification and preventive models.
When and why did you decide to actually focus on practicing Integrative Psychiatry, specifically, and how was your decision shaped by the experiences above?
In 2016, I left social services in the search of integrative modalities that I could bring back to the larger landscape of mental health services in the community. Once I started this journey, it was amazing to look back on the strategies that had been previously effective with some of the most severe mental illnesses and complex neurological profiles and link them to these new practices. I started an outpatient initiative to link integrative practitioners with psychiatrists and psychotherapists practicing a wide variety of disciplines to enhance our learning and growth and inform better treatment. Following momentum in this area, I sought out to learn more and earn a certification as a Mental Health Integrative Practitioner. This opened a much wider lens into the toolbox of strategies that are available yet widely unknown and therefore not widely practiced. This set the stage for a long desired project around preventive mental health that I then felt more equipped for.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
Throughout the past few years, I have expanded my practice in addition to many different psychotherapy techniques (primarily CBT, play therapy, strengths-based, psychodynamic, ACT, schema, compassion-focused) to include sensory regulation and yoga, somatic experiencing, culinary and nutrition, herbs and supplements, neurofeedback, and photobiomodulation.
Secondarily, I designed a systemic preventive model for mental wellness using integrative practices and research to decrease mental health risks and close the identified gaps within 5-Elements. With this model, we can start to reverse the number of people impacted by severe and chronic mental illness.
How did people react when you share this Integrative/Holistic approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
My patients have been extremely positive about having multiple approaches to treatment and show curiosity and interest in integrative approaches. Not only are they receptive but I feel my patients have improved more quickly and have more hope and confidence in the therapeutic process as a result. While I have seen many colleagues and professionals who are interested in expanding their practices and their understanding of integrative mental health, I still experience many siloed providers who practice narrowly in a scope of psychopharmacology and limited psychotherapy. I also believe that the reach of integrative medicine practices in mental health and health in general is limited, in part, by insurance models of care, which in terms could affect the receptivity of different practices.