For over 40 years, HeartLand Child & Family Services has served North Sacramento communities. Our mental health team provides counseling, and when necessary, medication to help children cope with the stresses of everyday life.
Operating as usual
Keep that connection strong.
Your opinion is yours to own, regardless.
Soph (preferred pronouns They/Them/Their) joined HeartLand on February 22, 2022 as a bilingual (Spanish) Youth Advocate based at the Watt Clinic. Their passion for supporting youth makes the position as a Youth Advocate a dream come true. “I absolutely love my job and the kiddos and families I get to work with. I love the staff at HeartLand and I could not have asked for a better or more supportive work environment.” Soph has a passion for learning more about mental health so those encountered can most effectively be helped. “I am constantly reading books, listening to podcasts, anything I can do to develop my knowledge. Whenever I get the Amazon incentive gift cards, I always use them to buy books!” They recall their own struggles growing up and depending on friends who had their own difficulties for advice and help. Counseling was never an option for them. “I just know how much better it would have been if we had the kind of help HeartLand offers to kids.”
Soph grew up in Auburn and after high school graduation lived in Portland and Berkeley before returning to the Sacramento area. They had jobs in customer service but always felt a pull to be helpful and caring for others. “My life experiences, growing up as the child of a single mother who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico and struggled to learn English, complete her education and become a nurse, exposed me to the importance of having a support system. My mother worked three jobs when I was growing up. She couldn’t spend a lot of time with me but she worked hard to provide for us.” Soph says that their mother is their hero and role model. “As I‘ve gotten older, I’ve gained even more respect for my mother. No matter the adversity, she always has a smile and will do any good deed that she can. She is literally the sunshine and warmth in any gathering.”
Soph’s faithful companion is a big, friendly dog named Dad. Although they never knew their own dad, Soph comments, “I can always say I really love my ‘Dad’!” He keeps a smile on Soph’s face and makes sure there is plenty of sunshine and exercise for self care.
Thanks for being our HeartLand Hero, Soph!
We can't control everything
Marisa joined HeartLand on September 7, 2021 as a Coach in the Therapeutic Behavioral Services program based at the Grand Avenue Clinic.
Marisa credits her strong commitment to stopping the stigma associated with mental health services for guiding her into this work. “Trying to get rid of the stigma of mental health and validating, empathizing, advocating, and teaching skills is a game changer for many children. So many of us did not learn the skills to deal with intense emotions and have been labeled ‘bad’, ‘lazy’, or ‘emotional’ when all we were doing is trying to meet basic needs. Being someone that can help and use my gifts of empathy and patience for children to make a difference is important to me.”
Marisa grew up in Bakersfield, California and attended Simpson University where she earned a psychology degree. She lived several places in northern California before settling down in Elk Grove. Spending time with her family, especially her dog Oakley and cat Zeke, help her relax when she isn’t working. She also uses her free time to travel, take long walks, listen to podcasts, play softball and make many Dutch Brothers coffee runs.
Marisa sums up her philosophy with this thought: “’If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.’ We all have different strengths. Teaching skills that have never been learned and breaking destructive cycles can make the difference that changes lives.”
Thanks for being our HeartLand Hero, Marisa!
You are worthy!
Let it go.
It helps to ask!
Dr. Vreny became a HeartLander on on January 31, 2022 as a bilingual (Spanish) clinician at the Grand Avenue Clinic. She brings a wealth of education and experience to her work, along with a true passion for community mental health and lived experience as a child of an immigrant family. Born in Salamanca, Guanajuato, Mexico and raised in Salinas, California, Dr. Vreny graduated from Alliant International University-Sacramento with a Master’s and Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology. She relocated to Los Angeles to complete intensive pre- and post-doctoral training at the Children’s Institute, Inc. with focus on trauma specifically with Latinx families. This experience fostered her passion for community mental health and deepened her understanding of the need for families to have therapists who speak their own language.
“My motivation to help others, especially the Latinx community, came from my life experiences and the strength, courage, and determination I saw my mom, brother, and grandma “Ama” exhibit during adversity. My family were my first role models in teaching me about kindness, invaluable work ethic, responsibility, and determination. However, I was not blind to the struggles that came with being an immigrant family and the lack of mental health resources available to families like mine. Therefore, my career choice is how I honor my family. Due to my education and advocacy skills, I’m able to be one of the many resources for other families that my family would have benefited from when we arrived in the United States.”
“Throughout my career and personal development, I have found that there’s an array of things that inspire and empower me to persist in life. Lately, I have found said inspiration and empowerment in “doing whatever it takes” in the families/clients that I serve throughout HeartLand. I’m inspired and motivated by their strength, humor, resourcefulness, and perseverance they hold despite their circumstances. These families are “doing whatever it takes” to help break intergenerational trauma cycles, and to me that is commendable.”
“My biggest lessons in life have been outside the classroom. Therefore, when I show up in my professional role as Dr. Vreny, I show up with lessons I learned in academia and lessons that I have learned along the way in life. Graduating with a doctoral degree, especially as a first generation, is not easy. There have been many times that I have experienced setbacks, but what makes me unique and one of my biggest strengths is my ability to believe in myself and know that I can and will accomplish my goals, even if it takes me a little bit longer, because at the end of the day, I trust that I have the grit and desire to reach my goals, while simultaneously being kind and compassionate to myself. Furthermore, my ability to be kind to myself influences my work at Heartland because I understand that setbacks are part of the healing and growing process. I understand that there is more to the person in front of me than their presenting areas of improvement. Therefore, it allows me to see the families/clients in their journey and I have the privilege and opportunity to empower them along the way. As one of my favorite Mexican songwriters wrote, “Que no hay que llegar primero, pero hay que saber llegar.” -Jose Alfredo Jimenez. “It’s not about getting there first; it’s about knowing how to get there.””
During free time, Dr. Vreny enjoys running, hiking, hot yoga, writing poems, dancing, and traveling. Her favorite self-care food is a home cooked meal from her mom (i.e., carne en chile rojo con nopales/maiz y frijoles) or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich prepared by her wonderful husband.
Thanks for being our HeartLand Hero, Dr. Vreny!
As simple as that
Be kind to yourself
Go where the love is.
Dr. Stephanie joined HeartLand on February 22, 2022 as a clinician at our Watt Avenue Clinic. She comes to us with a wealth of experience in providing services to children and their families in Nevada before moving back to Sacramento, her “second home.”
Born in Ogden UT and growing up in the small agricultural town of Corning in northern California, Dr. Stephanie attended CSU-Chico for her post-secondary education. She relocated to Reno and earned a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from the University of Nevada-Reno. Her research specialties are in childhood trauma (specifically Adverse Childhood Experiences), burnout, and compassion fatigue. Her clinical specialties are in childhood trauma, play therapy, and working with neurodivergent clients and the LGBTQIA+ community.
“I decided to pursue counseling as a career because I attended counseling as a child due to trauma and I wanted to provide children with better support than my sibling and I received. I love that our motto is “Doing whatever it takes” because it allows us to advocate for our clients and their families and provide services that I have never been able to provide in other agencies. I am inspired by the incredible stories and achievements of our clients and the knowledge that it only takes one positive connection in a child’s life to change their entire life path.”
Outside of work, Dr. Stephanie spends her free time volunteering with an organization of bikers who empower children with a history of abuse to live their lives free of fear. She enjoys ballroom dance, shopping, bowling, roller skating (she used to play roller derby), and participating in pageants, holding two state titles and a national title.
Thanks for being our HeartLand Hero, Dr. Stephanie!
Some things are worth giving up.
Rose joined the HeartLand team on November 30, 2021 as a bilingual (Spanish) clinician at our Watt Avenue Clinic. “I’ve lived in Sacramento most of my life and it has been a gift to be able to provide my services here, where I am most familiar. To be able to learn about Sacramento’s mental health services and provide support within that system has been an extraordinary thing. I’m very happy to be able to provide support to those most in need within my own community, especially the Spanish-speaking families who often struggle more to get services that fit their needs.”
Rose credits her inspiration for this work to her mother who always goes the extra mile to help others and to the clients and families who seek out services to improve their lives. “It’s not easy to ask for support. To come to services, engage, and acknowledge and see their own progress really empowers and motivates me more to do a better job.”
As a child development major in undergraduate school, Rose realized she wanted to make a greater impact on her community in a way that supports individuals and children through the toughest moments in their lives. This led to her career path as a mental health clinician. “Working with children and adolescents has been a life-long goal for me and to be able to do that here at Heartland makes me really happy!
I’m also grateful to be able to serve the Spanish-speaking community and bring a bit of comfort to families that they have someone who can support them. Lastly, being a first generation Mexican American woman also helps me better understand my client’s struggles to develop a sense of identity for themselves when they are growing up in the US, with differing values, compared to those of their parents who grew up in Mexico.”
During her free time, you will find Rose having fun and engaging in self care by taking her dog out on walks and playing with him. She also enjoys traveling and exploring close and far places. Trying new foods is a passion for Rose.
Thanks for being our HeartLand Hero, Rose!
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