AHEC - North Carolina Area Health Education Centers Program
Touched by an AHEC: Stories from 100 Counties
Sandy Walton

Sandy Walton
LMFT, RNC, CNS, Mental health nurse, adult psychotherapist, marriage and family therapist, CE/AHEC workshop participant

Pitt County | Eastern AHEC

Sandy Walton, LMFT, RNC, CNS, Mental health nurse, adult psychotherapist, marriage and family therapist, CE/AHEC workshop participant

AHEC’s clinical, practical workshops and convenient CE courses are what Sandy Walton, a mental health therapist for 35 years, emphasizes when she is asked how AHEC has touched her life. A clinical nurse specialist/adult psychotherapist and licensed marriage and family therapist, Walton is the owner of Life Quest, which provides individual, couples, and family therapy.

An Eastern AHEC workshop in 1991 was a turning point in her professional life. The dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) workshop caused her to begin making the shift in her therapeutic approach from an analytic-based treatment modality in use at the time, to mindfulness-based therapy. “Through AHEC, I was able to learn the effectiveness of this particular behavioral approach to treating patients,” she said. “The workshop presented mindfulness way before it became a buzzword.” The DBT approach, she explained, was developed to be used for individuals with borderline personality disorders. “It also works for anyone with anxiety, depression, self-esteem and emotional issues who is willing to practice it. I still use it to this day.”
AHEC helps Walton stay current with trends in mental health, particular clinical issues that arise, and information on psychotropic medications. “It’s also a much easier way to earn my re-credentialing hours, as Eastern AHEC is right in my back yard,” she said, noting that she must obtain 150 hours in her field every five years.

Another practical aid during the course of Walton’s career has been the AHEC Digital Library. “I had no idea of the volume of information accessible to me through this resource and its links,” she said. She has been a nurse preceptor at ECU School of Nursing off and on since the 1970s, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that as a preceptor she could access the ADL and its vast amount of resources free of charge.  She has used the ADL to find literature for patients, prints handouts for her patients on medication, and to find out about medical conditions that can affect mental health - information that can help patients make an informed decision about their medication. She encourages others to use this resource as either a guest or paid member. For more information on the AHEC Digital Library, visit www.library.ncahec.net. To find local health practitioners, go to www.nchealthinfo.org

Walton is a member of the Eastern Carolina Women’s Psychotherapy Network. This network of more than 30 women in private psychotherapy practice started in 2000 as a way to meet other private practitioners in the community as well as a way to identify resources in the community where clients could be referred for treatment. She also volunteers on AHEC’s Eastern Region Adult Services Training Committee, which identifies training needs and develops a spring program for practitioners in mental health. “This is my way of giving back to AHEC for all of the things AHEC has done for me.”