In today’s rapid-paced world, people tend to overlook several aspects of life, and mental wellbeing is one of them. With a sole mission of making communities a better place to live in by simply providing a helping hand to ailing individuals and families, Dr. Vera Kurdian is transforming lives. She owes her transformative philosophy to the founders of Advanced Behavioral Health, where she overlooks the organization as the CEO.
Vera believes in embracing diversity and equity internally and externally within the people of the organization so that this attitude resonates with their work. The same passion spreads through the staff of ABH, who constantly push their potential to break the barriers of growth.
Vera had her share of struggles as an immigrant and a single parent, which made her inculcate various life lessons that she uses for the organization’s benefit. ABH is built on the pillars of the needs of children, brothers, sisters, and friends, which support the collective passion of achieving the heights of positive mental growth. Started by the motivation of two clinicians who wanted to make a difference, the organization has established its presence in several major counties within Maryland. It continues the journey of abolishing barriers related to mental health, building a strong community to address the vast need of the ever-increasing physiological problems.
The Hurdles Along the Way
Dr. Vera Kurdian grew up in Lebanon, at time where the county was engaged in religious civil war. She watched her mother juggle multiple roles while her father worked overseas to make their ends meet. Her mother raised five children with great difficulty when water and electricity were scarce, school attendance was sporadic, and staying alive was considered a luxury. Her father was an overseas worker, meaning she didn’t get to spend much time with him. His stories about the depression he faced and his survival tale in the Armenian geocide acted as a catalyst in her inspiring journey. She believes that the energy, positivity, and enthusiasm she learned and inherited from both of her parents and have shaped her leadership. Her father’s daily reminders of how positivity promotes wellness and health have allowed him to live his best life. She asserts that at the age of 94 her father continues to demonstrate the same energy and zest in life.
At the tender age of 16, Vera moved to the United States with her parents in search of better opportunities. After high school she worked in diverse industries since formal education felt outside of her reach, she took her education to technical school and became a florist. Later in life she went back to school and completed her bachelor and master’s in social work. Her journey in the mental health field ultimately led her to Advanced Behavioral Health, where her hard work, commitment, and dedication were supported, and her further goal of achieving a doctoral degree was encouraged. She is grateful to her staff, family, friends, committee chair, and ABH owners, who supported her passion and allowed her to focus on reaching her dream.
Vera is a newly minted Doctor of Leadership and is super excited to walk across the podium in the traditional doctor regalia. She is humbled by the amazing staff who put their best day in and day out to take care of the mental health needs of their clients struggling with mental health issues. She shares, “The pandemic was hard on everyone, particularly front line workers who showed up every day, boots on the ground, to support clients, patients, and consumers. My fantastic staff put their struggles aside, helped their clients, and reminded them that there was hope and that they weren’t alone. My support staff ensured that our clinicians had the tools needed to perform their duties effortlessly. The increased sadness, loss of lives, jobs, and grief led to a significant increase in the mental health field and perpetuated burnout and fatigue of many clinicians. Despite all of this, my staff carried on, and they continue to show up every day. They each have their leadership stories. I am so privileged as I get to work with amazing leaders every single day.”
Empathy at the Core
Advanced Behavioral Health sees pride in hiring professionals who share the same vision of helping individuals. The staff is passionate, compassionate, and hand-selected to best suit the needs of communities. Each brings their expertise, life challenges, and opportunities that inspire the clients to have a productive life. The organization’s culture offers inclusivity and diversity and promotes growth, success, and potential. This culture drives the way business is done with clients and staff. The amazing staff serves clients’ needs by bringing their diverse lens of providing mental health services to everyone. They promote overall health by providing evidence-based practice to address daily stressors and life challenges the clients face. That same perspective impacts the recruitment, hiring, and promotional processes.
Vera believes in generating new talent and creating a diverse staff to help ABH grow by thinking outside of the box. She expects the staff to be authentic, humble, transparent, build trust, use humor to create a culture of openness and equity. Modeling out the behavior that the staff must engage in creates a feeling of employee wellness to promote happiness. A happy staff eventually yields happy and satisfied clients that increase credibility, growth, and sustainability. Vera shares, “I am a prime example of this culture. My career began with ABH as a part-time supervisor, and through the years, I was afforded different opportunities that ended in my promotion to my current CEO position. My story serves as an inspiration to anyone who is not born here, who has not had an easy life and was a single parent. My story also epitomizes the story of immigrants who come here to pursue opportunities through hard work, commitment, and persistence. This company has allowed me to grow in ways that may not have been possible in other places. My passion for growth, education, and hunger for learning was supported and allowed me to pursue my doctorate while managing this amazing organization.”
Effect of Unprecedented Times
The pandemic has taught people the importance of mental wellbeing and how it impacts the overall health of individuals. Before the pandemic, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMSHA) estimated that 1 out of 5 individuals were diagnosed with mental illness. Those numbers have increased significantly; although there is no official statement of what those numbers are yet, based on the number of referrals providers are receiving, Vera is confident that those numbers have increased significantly. ABH’s staff have been in the trenches helping clients manage their fears and anxiety; they have aided families to manage children’s disruptive behaviors, and supported parents’ ability to cope with various challenges to raise their children. Vera adds, “Although we offer similar services as many other clinics, our passion, commitment, and strive to reach excellence set us apart. Our expertise is mental health, psychiatry, and community integration through our youth mentoring.”
Providing effective mental health services was the main challenge during the pandemic, as all in-person visits were suspended. ABH rose to the occasion and faced the challenge head on. Vera proudly states, “Here at ABH, we acted fast. Overnight, we were able to secure HIPPA compliant platforms to our clinicians to ensure a continuum of our services. We were operational and open for virtual telepsychiatry and therapy and seamlessly offered support to our staff and clients.” The organizations’ electronic health record Ensoftek/Dr. Cloud continues to work to deliver a clinician-friendly platform to ensure the focus remains on the clinical work instead of learning the technology. The EMR company partners with ABH to help get them get analytics and data based on the clinical input. This allows them to highlight result-driven and effective services.
Continuing the Cause
The future goal for ABH is to continue growing and serving more individuals. Promoting healthy communities by bringing cutting-edge, evidence-based treatment, working with universities and community partners to advocate for clients, fight for social justice, and becoming the industry leader in providing mental health services. Creating a balance between in-person and virtual sessions when providing effective clinical services is essential for the organization. The isolation, fear, chaos, and unpredictability that Covid created added stressors to couples’ relationships, families, and children. There is a forecast for an increase in school-aged children needing mental health services. Schools are expected to welcome these services and potentially hire mental health vendors to address the ever-increasing school-aged children and provide more support to families.
Speaking about her aspirations for the industry, Vera concludes, “I would like to see more support for clinicians, more financial aid for individuals to pursue mental health fields such as social work and counseling. More resources and better access to mental health for all individuals. The health care industry is in a constant state of evolution and includes health care coverage. We have come a long way from the days when receiving mental health services was a luxury and insurance companies created barriers to mental health treatment. Certainly, enacting many laws and legislation has allowed Americans to have more access to treatment, but we can always do more.”