Patient in Therapy

The team of clinical professionals at Beacon Specialized Living continue to provide the highest level of support to their more than 80 homes in the Michigan area. In the Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) and Severe Mental Illness (SMI) populations Beacon serves, it is often difficult for our residents to understand why they’re feeling the way they’re feeling. The inability to identify and express these emotions and feelings often leads to frustration and aggressive behaviors.  Through the application of clinical therapies, Beacon’s clinicians make a difference every day to improve their resident’s lives.

Coping Skills

In a continual effort to improve the lives of those they serve, Kimberly Knickerbocker, Senior Director of Behavioral Health, and her team go into homes to teach coping and/or life skills. Teaching someone to label their emotions are better equipped to understand how they are feeling and why they’re feeling it. At Beacon, the clinical team puts emphasis on teaching communication. A lot of residents they speak with haven’t learned good communication skills throughout their lives. The clinical team teaches the residents to advocate for themselves in a positive environment.

Beacon provides clinical therapies in line with their ICARE values of Integrity, Compassion, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence.

According to Knickerbocker, self-regulation of emotions can be one of the most difficult things for a person with IDD or SMI.

“It’s even hard for [neurotypical] people to self-regulate at times. So, understanding what they’re doing and why they’re doing it is very important. The clinical team spends a lot of time on that topic and then, depending on if the person has the ability for therapy, they work on it with us.”

Providing the care is not enough for the dedicated staff of Beacon, however. Instead of increasing stressors for their residents, the clinical staff is broken up by regions, and attends to residents directly in the homes.

“A lot of people aren’t able to travel, or won’t travel,” says Knickerbocker. “We meet the person where they’re at and see what their needs are and kind of go from there.”

Living Skills

While coaching residents through stronger communication skills and understanding how to self-regulate, living skills are another important factor in the process.

“Many of our residents weren’t taught how to take care of themselves or don’t know what proper self-care and hygiene look like” says Knickerbocker. Small things that many of us take for granted such as bathing or eating don’t always take priority for a person with IDD or SMI. While Beacon’s workforce of Direct Support Professionals helps direct self-care, the clinical team intervenes to help provide additional education and resources for residents.


“I’m a firm believer in Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT)” says Kim. This field of study relates to borderline personality disorders and teaches individuals about things like emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and distress tolerance. “I’m looking at our clinical team to put that in place. We’re very eclectic. It depends on what the resident needs and what their history is.”

  • Acceptance of Situations
  • Change Oriented Strategies
  • Emotions Regulation
  • Distress Tolerance
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness

Knowing a residents’ history is key to understanding their behaviors and setting goals for the future. There isn’t a once-size-fits-all model at Beacon, and every individual has a unique situation. There is no therapeutic model, but clinicians use a diverse mix of different theories and therapies to drive their practice.

Kimberly Knickerbocker, Director of Clinical Services for Beacon Specialized Living.

Kimberly Knickerbocker is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a master’s degree in Social Work. She is both Dialectic Behavior Therapy and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy certified. For more information on Beacon Specialized Living’s services, therapies, and education, please reach out to our clinical team at


  • Alexander Furman

    Alex has been the Executive Director of Marketing for Beacon Specialized Living since 2021.