Katheryn (Katie) Allen Berlandi ’88, P’19,’21 has dedicated her career to tending to the mental health needs of others—children, adolescents, and adults. Through her trained lens as a clinical social worker, she is pleased to note the increase in conversations about this topic. “Any awareness about mental health is paramount, be it during May’s Mental Health Awareness Month or any month,” she said. “It is a privilege to be a part of those conversations every day.”
Berlandi is the dean of counseling and a psychology teacher at Trinity-Pawling School in Pawling, NY. She feels grateful for the opportunity to “wake up every morning knowing that I’ll be able to interface with students and to work with colleagues I call friends.”
Along with her siblings, John Allen III ’71 and Rebecca Allen Ehrhardt ’86, P’19, Berlandi followed her father to Hotchkiss. The loyalty of the late John M. Allen ’45 to the School was renowned, and his great camaraderie with his classmates led him to years of service as a class agent. Berlandi said that her father found tremendous opportunity at Hotchkiss, speaking often about the powerful influence of Headmaster George Van Santvoord, Class of 1908. “I recently came across some of his files, complete with copies of letters he sent to his classmates over the years,” she said. “They were filled with the warmth of long-standing friendships, updates about Hotchkiss, and, of course, requests for annual support.”
Berlandi found those same meaningful relationships in Lakeville. “Playing soccer, ice hockey, and lacrosse proved fundamental to my experience, offering me a sense of belonging, fun, and guidance. Through the mentorship of my coaches, I grew as a player and person.” One of her favorite classes was public speaking with Sarah Tames. “Her energy, interest in her students as people, and her knowledge of writing and speaking provided for much growth through vulnerability.”
Noting the influence of her maternal grandfather, Berlandi decided to major in psychology at Bowdoin College. “In the 1930s, he partnered with Dr. Smiley Blanton, a preeminent psychiatrist (and analyzed by Sigmund Freud). Together they brought the practices of psychiatry and theology together to counsel those in need. Blanton-Peale Institute & Counseling Center in New York City remains a vibrant resource for therapy and the training of therapists.”
After spending two college summers working at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, CT, she was further inspired to practice. “This was the first of hundreds of camps and programs founded by Paul Newman to provide normalized, fun experiences for children with cancer and blood diseases. As a camp counselor, I was exposed to campers with diseases and their medical treatments, and I had the opportunity to enhance young lives—lives deeply challenged by illness.”
Her psychology studies initiated her understanding of the mind and behaviors. After college, she completed a child life specialist internship at Boston Children’s Hospital, and then applied to clinical social work graduate programs. With her master’s from New York University, she returned to Boston Children’s as a clinical social worker, providing therapeutic care and interventions on the medical and surgical floors and then in the Congenital Heart Disease Department. “I was drawn to the practice of medicine and applied to Columbia’s postbac medical program. Despite my acceptance, I decided to focus on starting a family instead, and eventually a private practice.”
Years later, she took a position in Danbury Hospital’s psychiatric emergency room, noticing a rise in the admission of children, primarily due to the risk of harm to themselves or others. “The number of such admissions to the psychiatric emergency rooms throughout the country has continued to escalate. Youth have been challenged in ways incomparable over the past three years. COVID forced isolation, excessive social media and gaming use, and inconsistent school and academics, resulting in less exercise and other self-care outlets,” she said.
“This school year has been particularly challenging for adolescents,” she continued. “Getting back to ‘normal’ and the pace and demands of life has increased and intensified anxiety and depression. The mental health field is responding as best as it can, but there are too few mental health clinicians. However, the combination of communication, collaboration, and a student-centered approach present many opportunities for growth. It is incredibly rewarding to open young minds as to why people think and behave in the ways they do.”
Berlandi also finds time to volunteer at Guideposts, an organization founded by her grandparents more than 75 years ago. “Its mission is to inspire people to believe anything is possible through faith, hope, and prayer. I’m honored to consult and write for Guideposts and serve on the board of directors.”
As did her father, Berlandi serves Hotchkiss. She is a current class agent as well as a former president of the Alumni Association and member of the Board of Trustees. These positions have given her a “rather consistent lens” through which she has continued to learn about the School. Her daughters, Amelia Berlandi ’19 and Eloise Berlandi ’21, have also followed the family path to Hotchkiss.
“Hotchkiss taught me a number of lessons, through successes and failures, yet those that I carry with me consistently are the valuable and necessary effort to find balance in life and the deep joy of camaraderie in learning, serving others, and caring for oneself.”
Berlandi looks forward to her 35th Hotchkiss reunion in June.