Joann Watkins: Community mental health is “extraordinarily gratifying”


Clinical Director Joann Watkins was a part-time therapist for North Street Community Resource Center when Puente merged with North Street in 2007. Today Puente’s Behavioral Health Services team covers all aspects of health and wellness. Watkins lives in La Honda. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist, was trained at The Mental Research Institute, and is a former adjunct professor at Notre Dame de Namur University.

Community-based mental health is my passion. I struggled early on with how to maintain client confidentiality and live in the community.  I have found that although it is difficult at times, the good far outweighs the negatives. You are able to see systemic change from your efforts within the community.  As an example, it is extraordinarily gratifying to have worked with a child for years, send them off to college and have them come back and report their success.

Today, at Puente we operate as a very cohesive and comprehensive behavioral health clinic. I have an amazing staff and I am extremely proud of the work that we do. When I started at North Street Community Resource Center, I was often the only therapist and would do therapy in the closet, on a park bench or wherever I could find a bit of privacy.  Because of Puente’s efforts we now have a designated space for the therapist and client to meet in privacy.

Our services cover all aspects of behavioral health.  We provide individual, family, and group therapy and have clinicians embedded in each of our school district’s four school campuses.  Our group focus is diverse: we provide drug and alcohol prevention education and awareness, parenting classes, domestic violence prevention, and have specifically targeted maternal depression in the community. Moving forward, I am excited to implement comprehensive child abuse prevention awareness training for all members of the South Coast community.