A Carreer in Mental Health: Where I started and Where I am Headed!

As the first full work week of 2015 comes to a close I want to take a moment to look at my career, my goals, and where to go from here.  I’ve been on this career path that at times is comparable to walking in a fog and I am ready for the fog to be lifted. Now is time to change and grow.  Here’s my story so far:

I have been working in the Community Mental Health field for just shy of 9 years.  I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree from Temple University and quickly went on to work as a Case Manager working with children and adolescents.  I was young, I was out of college, I had my first job…and it was not as glamorous as I had dreamed it to be nor was it lucrative.  Now I know, I know, that going into the helping profession is not about making money, but I was young and naive. This job helped me become more familiar with the city of Philadelphia and get to know children, families, and their struggles.  Though I may have complained from time to time working with children was rewarding.  My role was mainly to link children to services whether it be medical, psychiatric, education, or extra-curricular.  However, this was not enough for me and my career aspirations.  Something told me there had to be more.

I stuck with this position for a good 9 months before moving into my next role.  I stayed at the same company and continued to work with children, however my title changed to Mental Health Worker.  The hours were a little more chaotic and I had to be on call from time to time, which required me to carry a pager.  Having the pager was the last thing any young 20-something wanted on the weekend; luckily the pages were far and few between.  Remind me to tell you about the time I went away to the shore for the weekend while on-call (leaving the state was a major no-no).  This position required me to work part as a two-person team with the other half of this team being a master level therapist (this is another topic for later posts).  A few things happened here:  1.  I was able to get a greater understand of a therapist’s role; 2.  I was able to learn about system therapy and family dynamics; and 3.  I was inspired to go back to school.

For a brief moment I almost considered diving in head first and going full steam ahead towards a PsyD; however the amount of student loads and the inability to work while in school was a deterrent.  I ended up applying to my top school choice, La Salle University and I was accepted.  I chose this school because of it’s small class size, it’s reputation and it’s emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy.  I truly enjoyed this program and was much more motivated than I had been during my undergraduate years.  I learned a lot about psychology, I met some wonderful professors and made new lifelong friends.  At times this program was very difficult, especially with juggling a full-time job, a course schedule, an internship and some form of a social life.  The only downfall school does not prepare you for the reality of working in this field.

Perhaps I was a little bit delusional, but I expected my Master’s Degree in Clinical-Counseling Psychology to open doors for me.  Thus far the only door that it has opened is back working in Community Mental Health, only this time under the title of Therapist.  I am coming up on 3 years working as a Outpatient Therapist with adults suffering from chronic Mental Illness.  Working with people is great and seeing them make progress is even better.  Along this journey I’ve had to opportunity to do group therapy and couples therapy; I’ve seen pain, heartache, healing and growth.  I have learned a lot about mental illness, resilience, and life.  I’ve also been able to learn things about myself I never knew of.

Where do I go from here?

As we start a new year I need to look a head and work towards the next goal.  I am not exactly sure where I go from here, other than UP!  I want more and unfortunately that is not available to me working in the community mental health setting.

I am a person who wants to work towards a goal, a raise, etc.  The field of mental health is a tricky field for finding success, unless you want to work your way through more and more education.  I am not at a place where I am ready to add to my debt.  I am in a place where I am willing to make changes.

This year I have to think outside of the box and take a leap towards greatness.  I am not sure exactly where I am going next and that is a scary feeling.  I plan to educate myself on different avenues and opportunities.  Some of my career goals at the moment include:

  • Work towards obtaining my licensure as an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) or LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist).
    • Complete 2 more courses in order to have enough credits for licensure.
    • Pass the licensure exam.
  • Obtain information on obtaining a certificate in Divorce Mediation.
  • Seek and apply for career opportunities that would allow me to take on a more administrative/supervisory role with in the mental health field.
  • Explore the possibility of working for myself.
  • Educate myself on the business aspect of the mental health field.

This is a good place to start and I am sure these goals will grow and evolve.  If you are reading this and have been in my shoes, please share your experience and wisdom in the comments.  If you are looking to break into this field, don’t hesitate to ask me questions.

I am determined!

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

                                              -Abraham Lincoln

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2 thoughts on “A Carreer in Mental Health: Where I started and Where I am Headed!

  1. Kitt O'Malley says:

    I wish you the best in your career path. Getting your license is key. Community agencies are where you start out. Then you can progress from there. Working in the community offers a fabulous education and readies you for licensure.

    I have been an LMFT in CA since 1992, but haven’t practiced in over 20 years. I’m 51 now and using my skills, knowledge and lived experience as a blogger.

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