Spotlight: Lisa Congdon

Lisa Congdon

employee spotlight: lisa congdon

Aaron Pylinski | Community Writer

It’s Suicide Prevention Month and we’re stomping out the stigma of getting help. We reached out to the Community Counseling Program (CCP) and spoke to one of our own employees, Lisa Congdon, who helps those looking for a safe harbor when they are most in need of assistance navigating the choppy waters of behavioral health.

Ms. Congdon is an Australian native and a trained social worker. She met her husband, a then-Marine Air Traffic Controller, 18 years ago and left Australia. Her husband has since retired and they are still living the military lifestyle here in Iwakuni. She started as the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) Manager in March 2013 and moved over to behavioral health the next year where she’s been ever since. Ms. Congdon is passionate about her role in helping servicemembers and their families when they need it most.

Lisa’s not only passionate about her work but travel, too. She and her husband have covered most of Southeast Asia and Japan either by plane or motorcycle. She gives us a glimpse into her life here both professionally and personally.

Tell me about the team you work with.

We have awesome administrative support and then there is my colleague Jessica Grimm, myself, and our supervisor Mr. Williams. We work to support Marines, Sailors, and their families and because we’re outside the continental U.S. (OCONUS), we also support Department of Defense (DoD) Civilians, DoDEA, MCCS staff, and contractors and their dependents as well. We provide general counseling services which are non-medical in nature.

What that means is that we provide services like relationship concerns, anxiety, depression, grief loss counseling for children and adolescents as well as adults. We always see people here with adjustment issues. This is their first time in Iwakuni, or their first time in the military, or even their first time away from home; some of those life transition challenges. We also provide support to survivors of military sexual assault.

September is Suicide Prevention Month. We provide the Marine Intercept Program, which is a program for active servicemembers on the installation where we provide continuing care for up to 90 days post any suicidal ideation or attempt. We want to engage people who have experienced any type of crisis to support them and help them enhance their coping skills and problem-solving skills and make sure that they are connected because I know that just the stigma of having a suicidal behavior or ideation and then verbalizing it, some people are afraid of what people in the community will think about them. That fear and the stigma enhances that feeling of isolation of being so far away from home and loved ones. We want to reach out and help connect that person back into the community and at least normalize some of that distress that they’re experiencing in that time.

In what ways do you feel like you are making an impact on the community?

Our impact is just providing our services day- to-day, helping people enhance their coping skills. More directly, when we identify somebody at imminent risk, then that’s obviously a much greater impact and to make that person feel comfortable enough to share whatever they’re experiencing with us is a great reward. For me, it’s a privilege working with military servicemembers and their families. I feel privileged to have that opportunity. My husband’s been in the military so I have that extra passion for military families and military servicemembers.

What are some of the greatest rewards you’ve had working in your position here??

My greatest reward is seeing people coming here in a state of crisis and then come through the other end feeling that they can solve problems on their own. That’s what we want in CCP. We don’t want to foster dependency, we want to foster their self-determination and enhance the individual coping capacities. Just seeing people smiling again, despite some of the adversity that they’ve been through is very rewarding.

What do you consider to be most challenging working in your position?

One of the biggest challenges is we’re isolated. We don’t have the extensive community resources that you find in the United States, where we’re lacking referral options for client care. We don’t have all the access to all the training development courses that you would find on other installations. Having this isolated locale adds layers of complexities for our clients.


When you’re not at work, what do you like to do in your free time?

I travel as much as possible. I go to Australia, but my husband and I have traveled all through Southeast Asia and through Japan. He has his Harley-Davidson here and we like to bike all over Japan. We also have our fur babies; our dogs. I also like to hike and exercise.

What are you looking forward to bringing to the community this year?

Every year that I have been here, I’ve grown and developed as a professional. Through that growth and wisdom, I feel hopeful that I can better assist people that are coming through the door.

What message do you have for those who may want or may not want to come in and seek help?

I encourage everyone who thinks they need help to get help. Sometimes, it takes courage to get help. If anyone is feeling uncomfortable about seeking help, because of the stigma of mental health in the community, sometimes it takes them a while to get their foot in the door, there are no wrong answers. If they don’t want to come here to CCP, there are other options on base. There are the chaplains’ office and branch health. There’s also FOCUS which is family orientated. We also have confidential helplines like the DSTRESS line. Please reach out to somebody in the community, don’t be alone with your thoughts, worries, troubles, or concerns. Just reach out to us at CCP or reach out to other services in the community, whichever you feel comfortable with.