What Motivates Someone to Choose a Helping Profession? Limelight Interview

what motivates someone to choose a elping profession people on a mountain helping each other up

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), helping professions are “jobs or positions that offer health and education services to individuals and the community.” Helping jobs are often motivated by a desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Today in the Limelight Interview, we discuss the role of helping others with Sanford Clinical Director Wade Stitt, MAC, MS, LPC. Wade credits his parents, three biological brothers, six adopted siblings, and 700 foster children as motivation for his choice of a helping profession. He also credits his own mental health journey.


As the Clinical Director of Sanford Behavioral Health, Wade Stitt oversees the clinical direction of all programs provided at Sanford. He ensures that evidence-based practices and therapies are provided to affect the best quality of treatment for those under his care. Wade says, “When I think about helping other people, I remember what the experience was like for me. Going through a mental health condition at a young age set the tone and the passion. If I can help others, it fills my cup.”


What Motivates Someone to Choose a Helping Profession?

Limelight Interview with Clinical Director Wade Stitt, MAC, MS, LPC

helping profession Wade Stitt clinical director at his desk

Ready to help – Clinical Director Wade Stitt, MAC, MS, LPC

SBH – Tell us about your job, please.

Wade Stitt –  As the clinical director for Sanford Behavioral Health, I am clinically responsible for all programs, including addiction, eating disorders, and mental health primary care. I am also responsible for building the mental health track. My position includes working with the clinical managers, the unit managers, and the clinical staff to make sure that we’re not just using the best evidence-based care and interventions but providing the best clinical care all the way around. Our goal is to be the best. That is what I am always going to strive to do.


SBH – How did you arrive at Sanford Behavioral Health?

Wade Stitt: This is my first endeavor in the private sector. For the past twenty-plus years, I have worked within the community mental health systems. I have always been a crisis psychologist at heart, working with folks when they are struggling and at their worst—homicidal, suicidal, or psychotic. I have always found the passion and demeanor to deal with those situations and to help people find hope.

In my previous job at LIFEWAYS, I built a 24-hour crisis center and crisis residential unit for two counties and revamped their access to care team. So, I had that continuum of care from the onset of the crisis to assessment and diagnosis to connecting them to services. I enjoyed that a great deal, and I accomplished what I had set out to do. Working with a staff of 50, we provided a valuable service to the community.

The interesting thing is that there are more mental health services if you have Medicaid instead of commercial insurance. The services they offer drew me to Sanford Behavioral Health. Sanford also wants to become bigger and better at helping patients and to build their mental health primary track. It is a great fit for me from a clinical and administrative standpoint.


SBH – What is your take on the state of mental health in 2024?

Wade Stitt – The pandemic set the tone for the direction that mental health is going in 2024 and beyond. It is the reason there’s such a shortage of mental health providers and services now, not just in Michigan but across the nation. Our patients are more acute, and having all our services under one roof creates stability, continuity, and the sense that we can help our clients from beginning to end. The staff loves the integrative approach because consolidating our talent and resources allows us to focus on helping clients get better.


SBH – Could you talk about the integrative approach?

Wade Stitt – Dual diagnosis (in other words, a mental illness, substance use disorder, or eating disorder happening simultaneously) can be treated individually at Sanford. Co-occurring treatment is important because the journey is not the same for everyone. We may need to address personality disorders or obsessive-compulsive tendencies if we’re going to be able to properly treat substance abuse, for example. They absolutely play hand in hand. Treating one mental health condition at a time limits what we might be able to do to help a person.


SBH – What are the keys to successful outcomes in treating mental health conditions?

Wade Stitt – In my opinion, there are no general “keys to successful outcomes.” Every person is different, so what is impactful and what works for me may not work for you. We came to the moment of needing treatment with very different life experiences, so we think differently. As a clinician, you must understand who’s sitting across from you, understand their struggles, and how they got to this point. It may be motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, DBT, or a combination of all the above. I am a cognitive behavioral therapist at my foundation, but I draw from many different theoretical modalities. I’ve been trained in DBT, and I constantly adapt my interventions based on the issues and the person sitting across from me. Each person in our care has a unique treatment plan.


SBH – What about the tools we send them home with? Are there some that work for everyone?

Wade Stitt—When I think about it from a general sense, I think about hope. We instill hope in the healing process and make sure our clients have resources available to them. But from a therapeutic stance, having a clear understanding of their plan to get better and how they are going to continue to recover is vital. At Sanford, no matter the duration of our client’s participation in our programs, we will set them on their path.



SBH – We are embarking on new virtual programs for eating disorders and mental health primary; what is your take on virtual versus in-person treatment?

Wade Stitt – Obviously, the pandemic has changed things in terms of virtual health. But I come from a world where we were first responders. Virtual treatment is a wonderful tool to reach clients that we might not otherwise be able to reach. From Sanford’s standpoint, it really gives us an opportunity to expand our service delivery area. But, clinicians must be trained in virtual therapy and have an understanding of the differences between virtual and in-person treatment.

From a clinical standpoint, I am a very visual person, and 90% of our communication is not nonverbal. In virtual treatment I get your nonverbals from your shoulders up. If you are sitting there as a whole person, I may clinically have a different perception of what’s going on. What are you doing with your hands? Are you clenching your fists? Are you tapping your foot? All these different things can give us clues and insight into what’s happening with our clients.

However, virtual treatment has been proven to be very effective and convenient. There is a lot to be said for a client or patient in their own environment. They feel safer, they’re more likely to talk and to dig into difficult topics because they feel safe.


SBH – We have a full continuum of care at Sanford Behavioral Health. Are there individuals who are not appropriate for virtual treatment?

Wade Stitt – There are individuals where it would be very challenging to use virtual treatment. Again, it is individually based, not diagnosis based. As you can probably tell, I am not a line in the sand kind of guy. In our mental health program, we may be able to treat a person who is diagnosed with schizophrenia virtually. But the next one that comes in with that diagnosis might not be able to participate in a virtual world because of the level of their psychosis, their ability to actively engage, or whether it is a group or an individual session. The good news is that Sanford provides treatment across a continuum of services and levels of care. If a virtual program can get someone started on the journey of wellness, it opens the door to other, perhaps more efficacious, modes of treatment.


SBH – What do you like about your job?

Wade Stitt – I have a lot of energy for this job. I grew up in a very large family. I am the youngest of four biological boys, and then my parents adopted six children younger than me. And they were foster parents on top of that, taking care of over 700 children in 40 years. As a result, my biological brothers and I are all in helping fields. My parents instilled the value of helping and taking time for other people.

The other part of my passion is that I have “been there.” In my late teens, early 20s, I went through an anxiety disorder which included suicidal ideation. I added psychology to my bachelor’s degree to try to figure myself out, and it set me on my path. When I think about helping other people, I remember what that experience was like for me. Going through a mental health condition at a young age set the tone and the passion. If I can help others, it fills my cup.


SBH – What about the challenges?

Wade Stitt – As somebody who’s been a crisis psychologist for twenty years, that is a good question. I’m a relationships person, so I lead by relationship. I spend time with my staff and clients listening and understanding as much as I can. Because if I’m going to be an effective leader at Sanford, I need those relationships. I am at the core, a problem solver. Crisis is what I do – thrust into a situation, you don’t know what you’re walking into and you have to figure it out in a moment. I thrive on that atmosphere! Dealing with the challenges means understanding human psychology, understanding your own abilities, and helping the person in crisis see that there is hope.


SBH – What makes Sanford Behavioral Health Unique?

Wade Stitt – Number one is that the services are under one roof. Sanford has the only residential eating disorder treatment center in Michigan and that is fantastic. I see Sanford Behavioral Health as the tip of the spear, the pinnacle for eating disorders, substance use disorders and mental health primary. It’s comfortable. The talent is exceptional and to a person they care about what they are doing.

Thanks Wade!


If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, eating disorders, or co-occurring mental health conditions, don’t wait to change your life – click the link below to speak with an admissions specialist about our programs.

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 www.sanfordbehavioralhealth.com.