NCU Alumni's Unique Approach to Disruption:
Bringing People Together

Written by Judy Tierney

When we talk about disruption from a business perspective, it's typically about a radical change in the way an industry serves its customers or an innovation that creates a new market or opportunity. For consumers, the benefits can include lower prices, greater convenience and more options – think Uber and Airbnb. But for competitors who don't adapt, the impact can range from a loss in business to complete financial ruin.

Joy Quanrud Grimsley Joy Quanrud Grimsley

Now imagine a time and place where a transformation is underway. In this scenario, professionals are being brought together to share ideas and learn from one another. Although they serve the same people, they promote each other's services and refer their clients. Instead of a philosophy of "only the strongest survive," the mentality here is that "if one of us wins, we all win, especially our patients."

While it might sound far-fetched, this unique approach of bringing professionals together is exactly how Joy Quanrud Grimsley, NCU 2016 Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy (MAMFT) and 2018 Master's Alumni of the Year Award winner, is changing the way mental health services are provided – one patient at a time.

Born in the U.S. and raised in Mexico, Grimsley returned to the States to pursue her college degree. When financial challenges forced her to leave school, she started a career and climbed the corporate ladder, ultimately rising to the position of regional director of the National Safety Council before starting her own consulting business. At age 42 she got married and relocated to Reno, Nevada.

"I found NCU had already received COAMFTE* accreditation, and that was really comforting to me."

—Joy Quanrud Grimsley

Joy Quanrud Grimsley Joy Quanrud Grimsley

The move gave Grimsley an opportunity to reinvent herself. "I'd always enjoyed my successful career in the safety and health industry because I knew I was helping corporations reduce their injury statistics in the workplace," she says. "But this time I decided I was going to follow what my heart had been telling me I needed to do all along and help people on a personal basis."

Grimsley enrolled in the University of Nevada at Reno and earned a double major in psychology and sociology with a minor in alcohol and drug addiction treatment services. Determined to ultimately work with clients and knowing the limitations of the bachelor's degree in psychology, she sought out a reputable university that was accredited in marriage and family therapy to pursue her master's degree.

Office Grimsley's office at the Center for Therapy & Mediation

"I had heard stories about people who had graduated from other online universities and were later told by the Nevada Board of Examiners that their curriculum did not meet the standards for qualification in the state," Grimsley explains. "I found NCU had already received COAMFTE* accreditation, and that was really comforting to me."

While attending NCU, Grimsley worked as an online, virtual interpreter. Her clients and topics varied. Sometimes her voice could be heard in a New Jersey courtroom, while a few hours later, she may be helping technicians change satellite configurations in Chile.

In one session, interpreting a psychological evaluation between a psychiatrist and a prison inmate who was being considered for parole, Grimsley had a revelation that she was on the right track. "I knew becoming a mental health professional where I could work directly with clients was the right place for me," she says. "It reaffirmed my commitment to complete my marriage and family therapy degree and receive state licensure."

Hoping to build her local network while still in school, Grimsley contacted a board member of the Nevada Association for Marriage and Family Therapists (the state chapter of AAMFT). She began attending board meetings, met MFT leaders in her own community, and served as the NCU Student Board of Directors representative for two years. She also volunteered to be the state representative for the NCU Marriage and Family Therapy Student Association and began planning coffee meetings with NCU students in the area.

"I decided I was going to follow what my heart had been telling me I needed to do all along and help people on a personal basis."

—Joy Quanrud Grimsley

Grimsley's coffee meetings grew and grew, and soon interns and licensed professionals were also attending. Eventually she established a nonprofit organization, created a website, began hiring speakers and applied to obtain continuing education units (CEUs) for her events. The group, Mental Health Peer Connections (MHPC), whose mission is to offer educational resources and workshops to mental health professionals in the Northern Nevada area, now has more than 2,500 members.

Last year, in the aftermath of the Las Vegas MGM shooting, Grimsley came up with another idea for members. Contacting the Washoe County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program Director, she proposed that MHPC members play an integral role in providing a mental health component to the county's disaster plans. Today, dozens of the group's members volunteer as community mental health clinicians and are available to support a disaster in the county, should one occur.

Gigi, the therapy dog Gigi, the therapy dog

Grimsley's latest project is an effort to offer mental health clients access to a variety of resources all under one roof. The Center for Therapy & Mediation houses 14 private practitioners (and a therapy dog) who work together to provide a full range of client services including individual/couple/family therapy, mediation, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) trauma recovery, drug/alcohol counseling, hypnotherapy and massage therapy.

To add to the referrals The Center is receiving from other institutions, Grimsley actively visits hospitals and other facilities to market her own Spanish and English bilingual therapy services and to promote her colleagues. It's allowing her to continue disrupting things in her own way.

"As a landlord of The Center, I'm marketing all the clinicians in the building," she concludes. "Leads that I receive are distributed evenly to everyone, so everyone benefits. Hopefully, I will have a small role in contributing to the growth of everyone's private practice, and at the same time, make a difference in the local community."

*Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), 112 South Alfred Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Phone: 703.838.9808. Website: www.mftpeerconnections.com.