Individuals facing serious mental health challenges often become estranged from family members, lose their jobs, and lose their sense of self. One's sense of self - one's autonomy, purpose, and role in life - is a personal and priceless aspect of being human. Once you are labeled with a diagnosis of serious mental illness, that diagnosis enters the room and speaks on your behalf before you even get there. It steals your individuality.
One person who understands this reality very well is Bradley Richards, Founder and President at Bradley Richards, Inc. Richards is a psychiatric and behavioral interventionist who works as an advocate, mentor, court-appointed care manager, and consultant in care plan development for adults with autism and serious mental health issues. His calming presence is often called upon if someone is suicidal, facing major depression, experiencing severe psychosis or other rapid changes in behavior, or facing myriad issues that bring them to a crisis crossroads.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Brad about his work as a psychiatric and behavioral interventionist. When you speak to him about his work, you know you’re talking to someone with vast experience and also to someone with a tireless caring for the individuals and families he serves.
How does one become a psychiatric and behavioral interventionist?
For 10 years, Richards worked for Eden II Programs on Long Island, building behavior plans, training and managing teams of caregivers, and launching two group homes for adults with autism. His tireless work and commitment to these individuals and their families one day caught the attention of the late and honorable Judge Joel Asarch.
Asarch was a Supreme Court judge who presided over guardianship cases for vulnerable individuals who could not advocate for themselves - he had a reputation for having a big heart and being a fair and compassionate Judge. Richards one day found himself in Asarch’s courtroom, ready to support one particular case; Brad thought he would meet with the Judge in chambers and was surprised when Judge Asarch called him up to the stand. Richards then found himself being scrutinized by Asarch, delving into his experience and qualifications for the benefit of the whole room. In the end, Asarch found Brad to be the right man for the job and assigned him to one of his toughest cases - a case that the system deemed hopeless. Richards, as he does with everyone he works with, threw himself into this case and knitted together supports and resources for this “hopeless” case and in doing so, impressed Judge Asarch so much that he became a regular court-appointed care manager.
Since then, Richards has worked with a range of complex situations from adults with autism to adults in psychiatric crisis, those needing short term stabilization and those needing every aspect of their long-term quality of life arranged. Brad refers to his work as advocacy and mentoring. He gets to know the families he works with on a meaningful level and stays in touch with many of them for years.
“I’m not just correcting the problems that are happening today and tomorrow; I’m more concerned about creating independence so that when I am no longer involved, the person and family are set up.”
As a care navigator, Richards creates alliances with individuals and family members dealing with the impact of mental disorders, autism, and/or substance abuse. He does this by literally meeting people where they are - be it in a jail cell, a hotel room, their parent’s home, or a group home. He connects the person needing care with appropriate services, supports, and resources, acting as their guide and advocate, moving nimbly between disparate and often confusing public and private systems.
Through his company, Richards oversees a support team of 20 mental health professionals and coaches and works nationally with a broad professional network to help families achieve desired outcomes. Richard’s work has placed him at the very intersection where many people fall through the gaps in our healthcare system - often encountering them when they are at their lowest.
In talking about the nature of his work, Brad says, “These interventions can be a battle of wits… [the client] is struggling to communicate. The ‘battle’ part is trying to help people understand that what they are doing is not going to get them what they want or need.”
He often takes on the cases that the public system has labeled as tough or hopeless and turns lives around. His approach is natural and relaxed, allowing him to assess people as individuals and move at their pace. In addition to Judge Asarch, Richard’s caught the attention of Carolyn Reinach Wolf, a mental health lawyer practicing in NYC. The New York Times referred to Wolf as A Guide in the Darkness, highlighting her work with individuals facing crisis, incarceration, and life-or-death situations in the face of addiction and mental illness. Richard’s often assists Wolf and her team with challenging cases involving families facing many crises due to mental illness.
In talking about working as a part of a multi-disciplinary team with people such as Carolyn Wolf and Virgil Stucker, Brad says, “The most amazing thing about this work is getting to work with other talented people who come together as a team. When you’re at a stalemate and have run out of ideas, and reach out to this network of team members, you gain a new perspective and a different skill set. This opens up other possibilities and avenues for the client.”
Brad does not approach a new client through their diagnosis, but instead in an open and curious manner where he gets to know them as an individual first. It is this key approach that sets Richards apart and makes all the difference to his clients. For the first time in a long time, people who work with Brad feel seen, heard, and safe. He helps them advocate for themselves, rediscovering their own voice. And in so doing, rediscovering their autonomy and sense of self.
The work requires dedication to a vision for a hopeful future. Brad and his company, in partnership with supports offered through Virgil Stucker and Associates, are cutting an alternative path for mental health recovery and wellbeing. Our collective belief is that a responsive, integrative, and compassionate approach to serious mental illness that begins with engaging the individual in the process is a major missing piece in our healthcare system today.
To get in touch with Richards or to learn more about his work, you can find him through his LinkedIn profile. To learn more about how Virgil Stucker and Associates work with Brad Richards, Inc. on sensitive and urgent matters, please email Virgil.