An American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter was having difficult time helping a person served and staff communicate during a Single Point of Access (SPA) meeting.
Val Morschl, an adult outpatient therapist on the Deaf Services team, wanted to ensure that the meeting discussion was being communicated accurately to both the person served and colleagues. Because she is fluent in ASL, she was literally able to lend a hand—or two—to help the situation.
“The interpreter was not advanced enough to give the client a voice or be able to communicate for staff in the meeting,” explains Justin Smith, practice administrator, one of two colleagues who nominated Morschl for the June Colleague of the Month Award because of her outstanding work on behalf of persons we serve.
“Val single handedly interpreted the entire meeting and still was able to provide her own feedback,” Smith says. “This was not an easy task. I am in awe of her skills.”
Morschl admits that serving as both therapist and interpreter at that meeting was “really” difficult.
“I did the best I could because it was best for the client,” she says. “I always try to make sure I’m doing well by them.”
During her undergraduate studies, Morschl chose an ASL class to meet a language requirement, “fell in love with it,” and decided to make it part of her career as a therapist.
“It was really challenging to be a therapist in my second language,” Morschl says. “It really motivated me to keep learning and growing.”
ASL isn’t the only skill that helps Morschl connect with persons she serves. She is also a board-certified art therapist.
“Art is kind of a third hand when I’m working with people who are Deaf,” she says. “Folks who are Deaf are visual people by nature. Art can say what words just can’t. ASL and art have equipped me to be the best therapist I can be.”
Christopher Lu, Outpatient therapy clinical lead, nominated Morschl for the award after receiving a phone call from Ed C., a person she serves who expressed his gratitude for having her as his therapist. Ed, who is hearing, had glowing praise for her, noting her compassion, kindness, and that “she really listens to him.”
“He shared that he has grown so much with her support,” Lu says. “He has quit drinking and has a much healthier aspect on life. Val’s work with him reflects the values that we hold at Pittsburgh Mercy and her person served stated that he shares what a wonderful place Pittsburgh Mercy is with those in his life.”
In Ed’s own words: “I still remember the day I started working with Val. On Friday, I had gone to the suicide ward and was told that there were no beds available. I was sent home and I didn’t know what to do. Then, Monday, Val called me and we started working together.
“I’ve learned so much through Val,” Ed continued. “For the very first time in my life, I’m not worried about what someone else’s opinion is of me. I know I am OK as I am, thanks to her. She opened my eyes to learn as much as possible at Pittsburgh Mercy. With Val’s support, I was able to quit alcohol. She taught me how to manage stress, anxiety, depression, living alone, how to not feel so bad about myself, and how to accept change.
“She showed me there’s good fear and bad fear and to know the difference. She gave me peace of mind, knowing I am a work in progress, and helped me to always keep trying and never give up. I learned that I don’t have to change who I am, I just have to accept and adjust to the change around me. She has shown me how to disconnect from my old ways and try new ways and rediscover my true identity.
“The world is a gift to us but Val and all of Pittsburgh Mercy is a gift to the world,” he added. “Please be the gift that gives forever and give to others what you gave to me so freely.”
Another compliment came from a woman served who wished to remain anonymous: “Val has been such a positive therapist. She is gentle, listens, doesn’t judge, offers perspective, doesn’t shame, and helps me to feel heard and not feel marginalized. I really like that Val combines art therapy with talk therapy and it helps me because I am a visual person. She has taught me how to reframe. I don’t have many family supports and had a hard life, but she helps me to feel supported and draw strength from what I have.
“She taught me to ask myself, ‘what can I do?’ and I am managing my independence and self-sufficiency. Val doesn’t lecture or scold, she doesn’t make you feel lik
e it’s your fault. Thanks to her, I am able to bloom like a daisy growing out of concrete. I’m still going to carry on despite how hard life has been, despite not having the resources. I’m going to leave a legacy of love behind, and do good and be kind every day. I’m going to have the audacity to survive.
Morschl says she was “shocked” to receive the Colleague of the Month Award.
“I thought I was walking into a really complicated team meeting. I was just floored. I believe it was spurred by the compliments.”
“Seeing clients progress is everything,” Morschl says. “Being recognized by a client—that’s what it’s all about. It’s the highest honor I could get as a therapist.”
Morschl shares a best practice she has learned that can benefit others working with persons served.
“Communication accessibility is everything. If you have a Deaf client or one who doesn’t speak English, do everything you can to have therapy in their own language.”