Interview with Doug Holder
In my 30 plus years working at a major psychiatric hospital just outside of Boston, I have worked with countless patients and staff on both locked and unlocked settings. One of the most creative of these people is Sheree Pollock, a veteran psychiatric nurse. Pollock is a dramatic personality, and uses her knowledge of theater, literature, gardening and other creative passions to engage the patients on a more human level. The minute she walks through the door her presence is known, and she is not too shy to quote Bette Davis, or Joan Crawford--or belt out a few lyrics from a Judy Garland song to make her point. She is a natural storyteller and thespian--and makes what can often be a purely clinical experience into a richer milieu. I had the pleasure of interviewing Pollock on my Somerville Community Access TV show Poet to Poet Writer to Writer.
DH : You tell me you were influenced by Dr. Maxwell Jones--he was an advocate of the therapeutic community.
SP: In the 1950's Jones worked in England with psychopaths. He had the notion that clients and staff are all individuals and are all equal. He viewed the clinical milieu as a therapeutic environment. People's issues played out in this context. He thought clinicians could pick up issues within the social milieu. And hopefully they could get people to see themselves in an unguarded way and grow from that.
DH: Do you think there needs to be more of an emphasis on the clients' spiritual needs on the unit?
SP: Clients come and go so fast on the unit--so there is little times to address their spiritual and creative needs. When they stay longer we help them with their creative sides. There are writers, photographers, who work on staff and have helped clients with their creative capabilities.
DH: You have a rather eclectic background. You have worked in a number of different fields.
SP: I have been in the jewelry business and a jewelry designer. I studied Gemology. I am also a licensed hairdresser, and I ran a garden design business. I helped people realize their vision for their outside environment.
DH: And in fact you use your gardening expertise at work.
SP: Way back--when the program that I work in was in its infancy--I designed a garden for it. We had Morning Glories growing of trellises--the works. It was dramatic. It was like magic for the clients. The garden is an idealized environment--so it lifts people's spirits. I remember a patient who was physically imposing, but couldn't express himself. One day I asked him if he would take a tree and plant it outside. I knew the soil was hard and it would be difficult. He was up for it--he did a great job, and felt on top of the world for doing it.