First-of-its-kind mobile therapy unit will help Encompass take therapy services on the road; Sneak peek of van offered at April 25 Rise and Thrive breakfast

Encompass has a brand-new vehicle, a Mobile Therapy Unit that will be hitting the streets in early May.

The first of its kind in the state of Washington, this therapy-center-on-wheels will enable Encompass to bring its specialized services into the communities that need them, eliminating distance-based hardship as a barrier to quality care.

The primary purpose of the Mobile Therapy Unit will be for parent-child interaction therapy, or PCIT.

PCIT is recommended for families with children ages 2 to 8 who present challenging and disruptive behaviors due to a variety of issues. By working with a mental health coach, parents learn play therapy and behavioral management skills and then work on adopting these techniques in daily life.

“I came to Encompass after finally confessing our family’s problem dealing with my 6-year-old son’s angry behavior to our pediatrician,” says a parent who went through PCIT at Encompass.

“I had read every book I could find; nothing seemed to fit. Going to Encompass was a relief. Other people had the same issues, and there was a way to deal with this with compassion and emphasis on the parent/child relationship.”

PCIT requires special equipment to work effectively, as coaches guide parents’ interactions with their children from an adjoining room using two-way mirrors, closed circuit cameras, and audio equipment. Encompass currently has one PCIT lab at its Early Learning Center in North Bend; the Mobile Therapy Unit will double the organization’s capacity to provide PCIT to families.

Using $100,000 in grant funding from the Washington Women’s Foundation, Encompass purchased and began outfitting a 24-foot Sprinter Van to be the PCIT therapy lab, complete with observation room and therapist workstation.

Buoyed by another $7,500 from the Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority, the Encompass Mobile Therapy Unit will be fully completed by late April.

The van will be on the road five days a week, heading to central locations in Issaquah and Sammamish and rural areas like Carnation and Duvall.

The Northwest Children’s Fund has pledged $90,000 over the next three years to support van operations.

The need for portable therapy services is dire for underserved regions throughout King County; Encompass currently has 27 families on its waitlist for PCIT, 60 percent of whom live outside the core Encompass service area.

Of the families Encompass currently serves, some travel great distances to access PCIT.

“We had gotten a gas card from Encompass from Liann, our instructor, and it really helped a lot, because the 40-minute trip that it takes can kind of be a burden,” says Anna, who went through PCIT at Encompass with her son, Brayden. “But I can’t stress enough how important it was for us to get here every week… We wouldn’t have missed it.”

“We had a one-hour commute each way for our therapy sessions,” says another Encompass PCIT parent. “It was difficult and stressful to get the time off work each week to be gone three hours for each appointment, but the benefits of a more peaceful relationship with my child was worth it.”

PCIT services in Spanish are even harder to find, creating an additional obstacle to care. Until recent years, Encompass was the only Spanish-speaking PCIT provider on the Eastside.

“We are proud to have a bilingual certified PCIT coach, Rocio Collado, on our staff,” explains Encompass Mental Health Supervisor Kathleen Kaiser. “Being able to send Rocio out into the community means that more Spanish-speaking families will have access to this therapy.”

According to a parent who went through the program, “the services they offer can change the life of a child. Every family could benefit from the resources offered at Encompass. Every city should have such a wonderful place for children and families.”

Now, with the Encompass Mobile Therapy Unit, more cities in the area will.

Encompass will be giving a sneak peek of the Mobile Therapy Unit at its April 25 Rise & Thrive Breakfast, beginning at 7:30 am at the Club at Snoqualmie Ridge. Encompass Director of Pediatric Therapy Kim Kanzler and Mental Health Supervisor Kathleen Kaiser will be onsite for a special press preview of the van from 7 to 7:30 am.