Compassion & Empathy in Rehab Admissions – Limelight Interview

The Sanford Admissions & Outreach Center, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Sanford Admissions Specialists use the same words when asked about what their job entails – compassion and empathy. And when you consider how it feels to pick up the phone and ask for help, someone on the other end of the line feeling “with you” is key. Especially if you are a person with a substance use disorder (SUD). Or if you are calling for a loved one who you fear is risking their life with drugs or alcohol.


Compassion and Empathy

At Sanford Addiction Treatment Centers Admissions, we try every day to listen, answer all questions, crisis manage, and most of all help those who call us find the right treatment program for them. Whether it is Sanford or one of our trusted partners. The job of Admissions Specialist forms the front line. They have a big responsibility and they take it very seriously. We sat down with Marrissa Sheehy – our longest standing team member at the admissions desk – to ask her how she does this job every day? And how she stays positive when so many people are in crisis.


This would be a tough job if I didn’t feel like I had the backing of our treatment center. I could not do this if I didn’t trust Sanford to provide the help our clients need. Marrissa Sheehy


The Limelight Interview: Marrissa Sheehy, Admissions Specialist

1. Let’s start with how in the world do you do this job every day and keep smiling?

(Smiles) I have a personal support system. I use my coping skills and I think about all the success stories. Like many people, addiction has impacted my family. And having personal experience certainly gives me passion for the job I am doing.


2. How did you become an Admissions Specialist?

I applied at Sanford, because I knew I wanted to work here. And I got a job as a part-time Residential Supervisor. In three months I was the House Manager at Sanford House at Cherry Street for Women. After that, I was promoted to Admissions Specialist. I think my personal experience and work at one of the Sanford houses has helped me with my current job. I want to be a successful in this life and help as many people as I can along the way.


3. Could you define your job now?

I partner with Mary Zimpleman in all aspects of the job. We take every call with the same goal – calm everyone down and provide viable options. It’s a skill you have to learn. It takes compassion and empathy, but you have to set boundaries and not take it all on. Often our caller is alone and intoxicated, so it is vital to have Mary’s nursing background. It might also be a loved one who is frustrated, angry or confused. We provide phone assessments; manage insurance benefits and coverage; determine detox needs, transportation, bed availability, scheduling, etc. We tag-team what is necessary to solve the problem, diffuse crises and we appreciate that every situation is unique.


4. What is the most challenging part of the job?

The lack of resources – lack of insurance coverage and lack of referrals for those in need. When a person makes a call, it is just the beginning. And the details of actually implementing viable options can take a while and be frustrating.


5. What is the “fun” part?

I have been doing this for three years and the most rewarding part of my job is meeting the clients and their families when they are admitted to Sanford. And as I mentioned – seeing the success stories and the proof that treatment works.

6. Any heroes in your life?

Yes. My best friend Brooke. She has every attribute I would like to have – patience, strength, a kind heart. She is a beautiful person inside and out.


7. What do you think is the key to successful outcomes in recovery?

Wanting it. Aftercare and a long term continuum is important. Also, accountability and the support of family and friends. You know, when you are in active addiction, all you think of is your addiction. In early recovery it seems you are a person in recovery – it becomes all you are. I think you have to move past that to a whole life.


8. Do you read for pleasure?

No. I just read for school at the moment. And I am hoping to start studying for my RN degree in the fall. I am very excited. I have always loved anatomy and physiology. In class, I have held human organs in my hands and it is the most incredible thing in the world.


9. Okay … what are your most marked characteristics?

I am resilient. And I have a dark sense of humor…


10. What makes Sanford unique do you think?

The staff makes Sanford Addiction Treatment Centers. It is a great program and everyone, at every level, has genuine compassion. And of course the heads of the organization – Rae and David Green have their priorities and treatment philosophy in the right place.


11. Anything else? A favorite possession?

Yes. It is not an possession, but my cat. I would be lost without her.

Thanks Marrissa … SH



Sanford Behavioral Health is licensed and accredited as an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving all of Michigan and beyond. Each of Sanford’s facilities in Greater Grand Rapids is carefully and diligently crafted to create a welcoming and comforting environment. Sanford is led by a psychiatrist-led team of medical, clinical, and support personnel providing medication-assisted, evidenced-based treatment to residential, outpatient, and telehealth patients. For more information, visit