After seven years in education, working with K-12 students as a teaching assistant, tutor and coach, Isabel Ballard decided to switch careers and apply to the Mandel School’s Master of Social Work degree program. Passionate about mental health, Ballard, now a second-year student in the Master of Science in Social Administration program, began volunteering at CWRU’s Student Run Health Clinic (SRHC) in the fall of 2019. She enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of the work, as well as the opportunity to connect directly with members of the Cleveland community, so decided to become more involved and apply to be their social work director, ultimately obtaining the position.
Although the SRHC shut down last March due to the pandemic, Ballard and her co-directors found ways to stay connected to the community despite not being in the clinic. They lead a mask making initiative for the men’s shelter they serve and hosted a fundraiser for two Ohio organizations: The Tamir Rice Legacy Fund and the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence.
Ballard was instrumental in helping to research a fundraiser for the clinic’s efforts, calling upon her connections at The Cleveland Foundation.
They also used the time to completely redesign the clinic space with help from their new community partner, Neighborhood Family Practice. Spending the majority of the year developing a new clinic flow with added COVID-19 safety precautions, they also added new clinic roles, including a student lab team to carry out blood drawing, which was historically done by their community partner’s employees.
With the new space and COVID-19 policies in place, the SRHC volunteers are excited to get back into the community and work together as interdisciplinary teams when the clinic opens later this winter.
Outside of the SRHC, Ballard fulfills another one of her passions by researching the benefits of animal-assisted therapies at Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center in Chagrin Falls, OH. The study’s purpose is to evaluate the impact of an Equine-Assisted Therapy, called Reining in Anxiety™, to see if the combination of therapeutic horseback riding and cognitive behavioral therapy reduces the symptoms of anxiety in children and adolescents. The program also teaches kids, and their caregivers, tools and techniques to better manage anxiety.
Ballard also recently published an article on her other interest, the impact of the human-animal relationship, in the Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal. “Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy with Young People: Why Insurance Coverage Matters” argues for insurance coverage in Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP), an experiential form of psychotherapy based on the concept that horses might be helpful or healing to people struggling with mental health issues. She insists that insurance coverage and reimbursement is necessary to not only advance the EFP field and increase the research quality, but to aid in service standardization that removes the financial barrier of accessing the intervention, all of which would ultimately benefit youth mental health.
Now as Ballard looks ahead to graduation, she most anticipates seeing her classmates again.
“Despite our program being online for the year, I am most looking forward to connecting with my cohort,” Ballard said. “I couldn’t get through grad school without their camaraderie.”
Learn more about Ballard in this week’s five questions.
1. What’s a topic or subject you would like to learn more about?
So many answers come to mind! But I’d actually really love to learn more about what I’m studying right now: mental health. In fact, the books on my nightstand are all about mental health. I’m lucky that I found something I want to constantly learn about and even luckier that there will never be an end to all that there is to learn about the subject.
2. Do you prefer to get work done early in the morning or late at night?
I’m most clear-headed in the morning. I set my alarm for 4 a.m. to get things done before the sun rises. I’m happiest if I’m asleep before 10 p.m. (8:30 p.m. is my ideal bedtime).
3. What do you consider the greatest invention?
I was racking my brain for an insightful answer, but honestly, right now Facetime and video calls are the greatest invention. Nothing makes me happier than Facetiming with my 15-month-old nephew.
4. Outside of school and work, what is your favorite way to spend time?
Outside with my dog (and soulmate), Cleo. We love to hike in the Metroparks’ Chagrin Reservation or down on the beach at Edgewater Park.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
The community. I never feel alone here. During the pandemic especially, it’s been nice to know I have people in my corner.