At NorthShore Health Centers, they take their patient’s mental health just as seriously as their physical health. That’s why they’ve brought on psychologists such as Dr. Kathryn Schreck, who brings with her both expertise and love for her work.
Her passion for the field was ignited as an undergraduate student, when a professor recounted his experience on Skid Row, a neighborhood in Los Angeles known for having one of the highest populations of homeless people in the country.
“He’d kind of went undercover there, for months, as a homeless person,” she said. “He wrote up articles about it and spread the word about what the lives of these people were like, living on Skid Row with substance abuse issues and homelessness. I just thought wow, this is psychology. You can walk in people’s shoes and use that knowledge to advocate for others – I’m into it!”
Dr. Schreck completed her undergraduate studies at Indiana University Northwest, then spent some humanitarian work and studies at the United Nations University in Costa Rica. She returned to the States and completed her doctorate studies at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. When she decided to move to Northwest Indiana, her sister, who is a family nurse practitioner with NorthShore, recommended she check out what they do – provide quality care regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.
“I got in contact with people here and looked at their mission, which is the most important thing to me,” she said. “I just thought, this is awesome. This goes along with the activism I did, the human rights work I did in the medical and mental health industries. It just fit really well for me.”
Schreck feels that NorthShore’s mission is particularly important when it comes to mental health, which is too often seen as a supplemental aspect of wellness.
“Mental healthcare is not a luxury, and over the years I’ve seen it become kind of a political play piece,” she said. “Mental health is just as important as physical health, and when you neglect one you’re neglecting the totality of a person. It’s something that needs to be provided to people, they need to have access, and NorthShore is offering that.”
When it comes to patient care, Dr. Schreck’s first priority is establishing a relationship where her patients feel comfortable and welcomed.
“I would say my absolute favorite part is that relationship,” she said. “Roughly 70% of outcomes are based on that relationship a patient has with their therapist. For me, being able to connect with someone, really understand what they’re looking for and need, or had as a difficulty in their life and helping them through that is the most important thing.”
Some of her ability to connect with patients comes from her years of training and education, but Dr. Schreck said that ultimately, the key to her approach is that she’s naturally a people person.
“I’ve just got a natural interest in getting to know people, I really want to know them further,” she said. “There’s just an innate curiosity to learn more about someone. It’s a very social aspect for sure.”
Dr. Schreck is excited to continue meeting new patients, and stressed that patients should never feel ashamed about seeking mental healthcare.
“It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you, or that you’re a traitor to anybody else,” she said. “You’re safe. That’s what I want, to make somebody feel safe when they may not have felt that way at home, or in the larger scheme of things.”
Dr. Schreck is now accepting new patients via telehealth or in-person at the Portage location. To learn more about NorthShore Health Centers, visit northshorehealth.org.