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Women Changing Lives in Worcester

Monday, September 10, 2012


Carla Kenney

Carla Kenney of Uxbridge has a huge heart for people suffering from behavioral disorders. The licensed mental health counselor specializes in the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and other spectrum disorders such as hoarding, body dysmorphic disorder, trichotillomania, skin picking, Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders associated with Strep (PANDAS) and Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS). Carla says that while some of this work can be very difficult, it is ultimately very rewarding.

“There is nothing better than seeing a patient’s symptoms decrease, get under control and then seeing the patient do things they have wanted to do for a long time but were unable to because their symptoms were holding them hostage. It is amazing to see them reclaim their life,” she said.

Carla provides home based behavioral therapy to children, teens and adults. Sometimes individuals with these illnesses are unable to leave their homes to see a doctor or a therapist in an office setting. She uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure response prevention (ERP) to treat these often disabling illnesses.

This approach teaches individuals how to identify and change their thinking and behaviors with exposure practice, so they can live normal, healthy lives. Carla says she is grateful to conduct her work in Massachusetts, and particularly in Worcester, where she and her female colleagues are highly supported and some of the best work in this field is being conducted.

“Massachusetts is the home of the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation. We have the top experts in this field right here in Central Massachusetts and throughout the state,” she said.

The self-proclaimed nature lover says her work can at times be stressful, so she keeps her life in balance by volunteering at animal rescue groups. Carla has been recognized for her service with animals and supports local fundraising events such as Pet Rock, Paws in the Park and Whisker Walk to name a few. However, her greatest love is bringing hope to patients who feel hope is lost.

“It is important to remember that OCD is a very treatable illness,” she explains.

Carla and her team of women colleagues are excited to lead a free lecture series for people and families affected by OCD and similar behavioral disorders at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. If you or someone you know would like to attend the upcoming lecture series and support groups, you can contact Carla Kenney MA, LMHC directly at [email protected].

To learn more about OCD and related illnesses, visit the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation website here.

Allison Alaimo

She’s not a soldier, but every day Allison Alaimo of Worcester fights to ensure the country’s service men and women are well cared for when they return from war. Allison is the Director of Finance and Development for Veterans Inc., a full service non-profit organization that helps veterans and their families in need throughout New England. She volunteered at the organization 10 years ago, and soon began working there full time.

“I have such a great amount of respect for those who have served our country. I enjoy helping those less fortunate, and in my mind there’s no one more deserving of support than those who stood up for their country,” she said.

During her time at the shelter, Allison has assisted in more than quadrupling the agency’s operating budget by bringing in millions of dollars in funding for new programs for veterans, military service members and their families. This includes the state’s first housing program for women veterans and their dependent children and the development of programs that replicate the shelter’s successful service model all around New England.

“Seeing the growth of Veterans Inc. over the past few years, and ultimately the number of people in need that are being served, brings a sense of accomplishment," Allison said. "This is intensified when you hear real life success stories of veterans who live a happier/healthier/better life because they received the assistance from our organization – housing, help finding a job, counseling, whatever it might be."

Originally from California, Allison has made Worcester her home and the community is better for it. Allison defines success by doing what you love, and she has an endless amount of passion for her job.

“I consider myself very lucky; I actually get paid to do what I love. I get the chance to use my writing skills for grants and proposals, my creativity to develop new programs, and my business and financial background to make sure the organization runs smoothly,” she said.

While Allison believes it’s always challenging to be a woman in a position of authority, she handles it quite well.

“In my opinion, an intelligent woman with a professional demeanor makes for an excellent leader and can be at an advantage in the workplace because of her ability to communicate effectively,” she said.

Allison feels the city is supportive of professional women and references the number of women who are elected officials as an example. She also serves and has participated in a number of boards for women and networking which she feels “the city as a whole stands behind”.

Allison was recognized in the Worcester Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty in 2008, and in 2007 received the “Unsung Heroine Award” for Worcester from the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.

Daisy Rivera

Daisy Rivera of Worcester knows she can’t change the life of every single Worcester Public School student she advocates for, but she won’t go down without a fight. That’s something coming from the wife of Jose Antonio Rivera of Worcester, former WBA welterweight champion.

Daisy works as a school adjustment counselor with students aged 13-19 years old who are at risk of dropping out of school due to a history of truancy and/or behavioral problems. These students are placed in an alternative school with the opportunity to recover credits in a smaller school setting.

“This is the program’s second year and I am proud to have been part of its success!” she says.

Daisy has a long career in mentoring adolescents. She started her professional path as a social worker for the Department of Social Services in 1999, working primarily with teens. Her young clients were abused, neglected, gang involved and exposed to domestic violence. She eventually earned her Master’s degree at Simmons College in Boston, and in 2007 became a probation officer for the Worcester Juvenile Court.

Her experiences led her to her current position in the Worcester school system, where Daisy says her biggest obstacle to overcome is to accept that she can’t have a positive impact on every student.

“I want to be able to guide them in the right direction and show them they have options. Many of these kids have been through so much that it can be a constant battle to get through to them,” she notes. “I overcome this by staying focused on the positive and acknowledging their resiliency through it all.”

Daisy uses positivity to accomplish her own goals as well. She has learned the importance of networking and encourages young women interested in her line of work to learn a second language, pursue higher education, and to be their own advocates.

“You can accomplish anything with a positive attitude," Rivera said. "Don’t let anyone get in the way of your dreams. If you want something, you need to go for it. “

In addition to making an impact in the lives of Worcester’s youth, Daisy values her time with her own children. She says working for the school system enables her to enjoy her dream job and her family life. She appreciates being able to pick her kids up from school and being involved in their extra-curricular activities.

“There is nothing more important than enjoying family time together." 


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