“You know you got a sunshine smile, Miss Shawnna? When you smile at me, my heart feels good.”
As the tears on the face of the little boy sitting on the couch across from her began to dry, Shawnna Bowles was reminded, once again, why she’d chosen to pursue a career in mental health those many years ago.
She’d always loved working with children, and after taking her first psychology class in college, her mind was made up. Helping others overcome challenges and get to know their own hearts and minds better is what she was called to do.
Although she started in nonprofit administration, she eventually shifted to private practice, and then, eager to be part of a team again, joined the FamilyCare family in October 2019.
She currently works on FamilyCare’s school-based mobile unit in Putnam County, close to where she grew up and raised her family. Her two adult sons and their children—who refer to her as “nana”—now live just down the road from her.
Shawnna says that her long-standing personal ties to the community have allowed her to serve her patients even more effectively.
A lot of the children she sees are being raised by grandparents or extended family, and her proximity – plus the fact that she herself is a grandmother – help her relate to the struggles they may be facing.
Because she’s so often able to understand where they’re coming from, she really appreciates the value of FamilyCare’s school-based health services.
“Providing services on site makes it so much easier for families,” she said. “Parents don’t have to take off work to get their kids to an appointment, and we’re right here whenever they’re having a tough day.”
In addition to Shawnna, the mobile unit team includes a registered nurse and physician assistant, and they regularly collaborate with school staff, too.
“The team approach is one of my favorite aspects of the job,” reflected Shawnna. “We make it a point to care for each other, and that, in turn, lets us have greater impact for our patients.”
It’s common for school counselors, teachers, and administrators to end up on Shawnna’s couch during the short periods it’s not occupied by a student. Everyone, it seems, is drawn to Shawnna’s “sunshine smile.”
The first question Shawnna asks her patient, regardless of their age, is “What’s been good since I last saw you?” Her hope is that by assisting them in reframing their situations, she can inspire them to get into the habit of searching for silver linings—and to realize how much power exists in the slivers of light they find.
“I want every child, every person, to feel, no matter their circumstances, that they are loved and supported, and that they are enough.”