Home About Us Services Guest Speaking News Resources Contact Us

The following is an excerpt from an article originally appearing in the York Sunday News in October, 1999:

Former DJ is listening to others now
By Wanda Murren
Hanover/Adams Bureau

(Used by Permission)

Rocky Spino is no longer spinning discs, but young people are still tuning in to him.

Spino is a child therapist with a practice in New Oxford.  But in the Hanover-Adams County area, he is still widely remembered as a popular disc jockey on 98-YCR, a local Top 40 radio station.

“I didn’t think of my radio work as counseling, but I always thought of my audience, always kept in mind, ‘Who is my audience?’” he remembers.  “Now, it’s become ‘Who is my client?’”

During his years with YCR, Spino would open the phone lines and let young people call in to talk about whatever was on their minds – but not on tape.

“I’d always put kids on the air live.  That made management nervous,” he said.

But he trusted his young callers and it worked.  No one ever crossed the line into subjects too crude or risqué.

“I never got burned.  There was almost like an unspoken kind of etiquette or mutual respect, but the kids never got me in trouble,” he said.  “I always enjoyed taking things to the line, but not crossing it.

“We had fun and we could go to that line.  We could be clever and careful about it, but not crude.”

Teen jockey:  Spino was still a teenager himself when he started in the radio business in Colorado.

“I just wandered into a rock radio station at age 15 and never left.  I hung around and made a nuisance of myself until they said, we’ve got to do something with this guy,” he said.

By the time he was 16, he had his first paying job in the business and continued spinning discs for about 15 years, in such places as Denver and Cheyenne, Wyo.

“I knew I wasn’t going to stay in radio forever,” he said.  “Radio’s one of those careers that’s wonderful and exciting and fun, but at a moment’s notice you have to be able to move on to the next call letters.  It’s not a very secure career; it’s pretty nomadic.”

Spino began undergraduate work at Penn State, planning to eventually teach English at the high school level.

Niche in Paradise:  But before he got beyond student teaching, he realized he had happened upon something that would be more fulfilling.

He had been working at Paradise School in Abbottstown, a residential treatment facility for boys.

It was his first experience working in the mental health field, and his first experience with kids who were at risk for what he terms anti-social behaviors:  substance abuse, aggression and destructiveness.

He began to question his decision to go into teaching.

“I knew I wanted to work with kids, to work in some kind of helping profession,” he said.  “Then, I thought it would be more meaningful to work one-on-one.”

After graduating from Penn State, he immediately began work on his master’s degree in counseling at Shippensburg University, a program that emphasizes practical experience.

“You are working with people from the very beginning.  Your helping skills are on the line the whole way through the program,” he said.

Stressful practice:  With his counseling accreditation in hand, he returned to Paradise School, but knew it would be only temporary.

“That’s a pretty stressful place to work,” he said.  “You know right out of the gate you’re going to be cussed out every day, that they’ll be trying to intimidate you every day.”

But to this day, he said, the experience helps him understand what parents are up against in dealing with a troubled or destructive child day after day.

After he left Paradise, Spino worked at Adams-Hanover Counseling for a year, then for about three years with Children’s Aid Society in New Oxford before beginning his own practice in East Berlin.

It was just this past summer that he moved his practice, for children ages 2 to 18, to New Oxford, adjacent to New Oxford Elementary School.

Unknown quantity:  These days, few of his young clients know about his work a decade ago at 98-YCR, Spino said.  If they do know about it, it’s only because their parents have told them.

He keeps up with today’s music, but doesn’t do so in order to stay in touch with his clients.  Instead, it’s the other way around.  “Kids will come by here and put a CD on in the waiting room and say, ‘Hey, listen to this,’” he said.

The man who used to introduce kids to the newest sounds now gets it from them.  And he likes it that way.

Anyone who works with kids would be wise to keep up with all the things that are important to them, he said.  “You have to know families and how families work; you have to know peers and friendships.  And you have to know schools.  You really have to know the schools and how they operate,” he said.

Like home:  Spino works to make his office a place where kids will feel at home.  Out back, there is a playground and basketball court.  He makes sure his clients know they can always drop in.

“I want to be exceedingly accessible,” he said.

One of the things he finds most satisfying is when he’s able to change a young person’s notions about counseling.

“There’s this stigma that counseling means you’re sick or crazy.  But I tell them it just means that you’re stuck in something you need some help with,” he said.

Spino said there are times when the preconceived notions begin to go out the door as soon as they walk in.

“Sometimes, you see that there’s kind of a sigh of relief.  Like they expected a guy with gray hair and a pipe,” he said.  “Pretty soon, they see that counseling is OK.  . . . They kind of shed some of the stigma.  Then we can work on the things that are most important to them.”

For this former DJ, moments like those are sweeter than any music.

Top | News

©2009 Rocky Spino