Staff Spotlight

For any young person, mental wellbeing plays an important role in achieving one’s goals. For youth experiencing homelessness, quality mental health care can be the spark to a lifetime of lasting independence. Creating a safe space where our youth feel free to express themselves, knowing they will get help when they reach out, is vital to the success of our mission. During her tenure as Director of Mental Health at Covenant House Texas, Turquoise Pipes-Purnell has embodied the empathy and unconditional love at the core of our mission. She has elevated the services we provide with her professional experience and genuine compassion.
“My son was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old, so seeing the therapy process work for him started me on this journey,” said Turquoise. Watching her son go from being nonverbal to now close to graduating from the University of North Texas, cemented her passion for helping others and becoming a catalyst for change in a young person’s life. “I can’t see anything else I want to spend my life doing,” she shared.

Drawn to our mission amidst her doctoral candidacy, Turquoise began working for Covenant House Texas because of the opportunity to impact young lives. “It’s rewarding work. You’re helping others work through their problems and helping them unlock their full potential,” she said. “One of the main drivers for me is to help these youth find their voice and become productive members of society.”

The secret behind her impact on our youth is simple: meeting them where they are in their personal journey. “Creating a therapeutic alliance and approaching them from a nonjudgmental stance is what breaks down those barriers,” she said. The beautiful part of the therapy process, she adds, is that it helps the youth understand their experiences and its impact on their lives. In Turquoise’s experience, the youth are experts on their own lives and know what they have been through, so creating a mindful understanding of those experiences helps empower them to speak out for themselves.

Creating that empowerment does not happen overnight. Turquoise hosts a psychotherapy skills session every morning for youth, to help create better mental health practices for them. “We go over self-care strategies, recognizing and managing anxiety, and help them gain intrinsic knowledge about themselves.” she explains. The daily group session practices a variety of mindfulness techniques, even taking a deep breath to help balance emotional upheaval and change how the mind responds to stressful situations, which all plays role in helping our youth make better choices.

Managing the different services we provide as well as monitoring the mental well-being of all our youth is a daunting task, but Turquoise credits the team with being able to handle it all. “Scheduling makes all the difference. To ensure everyone gets served and has counseling, I lean a lot on our case managers and intake staff,” she said. “The teamwork definitely makes the dream work.” The team’s work is far from over, as Turquoise has exciting new plans for the department this year, from potential new staff to expanding Covenant House Texas’ recovery programs. The excitement for these plans and the passion in her voice when discussing youth care makes it clear why Turquoise has had such a positive impact on our youth.

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