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Helping people find hope: Meet Nastassia Satahoo

Nastassia Satahoo ‘17 is a therapist for Rogers Behavioral Health in Milwaukee. In this Q&A conversation, Satahoo shares what she values most about her work and how her educational experience in the Human Development & Family Studies program prepared her for a meaningful career.

How do you describe your role?

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Nastassia Satahoo, Human Development & Family Studies ’17

My role is to listen, assess and evaluate patients who struggle with mental health disorders and provide support in the form of validation, guidance, encouragement and accountability. I help people understand their symptoms and how they can navigate what they are going through by helping them create a treatment plan and supporting them in finding long term support in family and friends, as well as other services in their communities.

How did your undergraduate major prepare you for your current role/career?

I did not end up pursuing what I thought I wanted to do when I started college. When I found myself really discouraged in my college journey, I started taking classes I liked until I figured something else out. By the time I was ready to declare my major, I’d already completed most of the required classes for the Human Development & Family Studies major. I loved those classes because I was able to learn more about people, the importance of communities, where the most support was needed and how to make an impact even in the smallest ways. The journey that led me to HDFS reminds me that it is OK if things do not turn out the way I planned, and I’ve learned how resilient people are.

The classes I took pushed me to become more comfortable questioning how the world works and how people respond to it. I can remind myself about the importance of accessibility, advocating for people the field does not always make space for and being committed to lifelong learning. Throughout my educational journey, I’ve learned the importance of humility over competence. It is OK that I am always growing, learning, creating and expanding the space for more marginalized groups to feel that they are deserving of quality mental health care.

What is the most exciting aspect of your work?

The most exciting thing for me is having patients meet their goals because I love celebrating people. It is so important to celebrate all the “small” wins, which I think are always big. It’s such a wonderful feeling to see people’s mindsets change and watching them become more hopeful about being capable of dealing with something that is so incredibly heavy for most.

What do you find most gratifying about your work?

Knowing that an impact was made. With mental health, the person struggling cannot be the only one to change. If they are making the effort to cope better and establish and maintain boundaries, then the people around them and their environment have to change as well. Typically, a ripple is created because patients are encouraged to go home and teach their friends and family skills they are learning, so everyone has a chance of coping better and supporting one another. I think that’s a beautiful thing.

When do you know you’re making a difference? Is there an example you might share?

Once a patient is discharged, the therapeutic relationship ends there. There’s no communication and we do our best to maintain that boundary for both parties. It’s a nice reminder when patients, even knowing that, will still send an email to check in and state that they are doing well or expressing gratitude. Those messages are all very appreciated. Even though it’s great to hear from patients, feeling like I’m making a difference also comes from me knowing I did everything in my power to support someone and having that be good enough, which can be a work in progress, depending on the day. Most of the time we know a difference is made when patients leave doing better than when they came in.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d consider myself lucky because HDFS fell in my lap, but once I figured out that it was the space I wanted to be in, I really worked for it. I absolutely loved my major. I loved learning about people, relationships, communities, injustices and how to be of service to others. The major is truly wonderful and there is so much to do with it. I was also able to be successful because of my experience with the advisors and professors who supported me along the way. I am eternally thankful for my experience, even if there were a few bumps along the way and it wasn’t the original plan.

Nastassia Satahoo ‘17 is one of more than 16,000 alumni of the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

More than a degree. A difference.
Learn more about the Bachelor of Science in Human Development & Family Studies.