Career Story: Mental Health Clinician

Mental Health Clinician

Job Title: Mental Health Clinician, MFTI

Education: MA in Marital Family Therapy, Pacific Oaks College

Previous Experience: I worked with youth (ages 16-21) for eight years under the title "Business Specialist" which consisted of placing high school students in work experience temporary jobs, help them get back on track in school to graduate with their grades and attendance, taught pre-employment skills and social skills. Learning that the students I was working with required professional counseling, I obtained my Masters Degree in Marital Family Therapy and have been working as a therapist for the past two years with a specialization in Play Therapy, Victims of Violent Crime, Pre-natal and Post-natal mothers.

Job Tasks: I work in a rural clinic as a Behavioral Health Clinician. In a typical day I see an average of six patients. I write an assessment within the first three sessions to gather all of their personal information, what they feel is the problem, and any symptoms they may have in order to make a diagnosis. Each patient has a 50 minute session where they are in a confidential setting to share what is going on in their life without being judged and feeling supported. During the session I provide techniques and strategies to help them with their concerns. For example, if a patient is experiencing anxiousness I may teach and practice with them deep breathing techniques to help them remain calm.

After each session I write a very brief note and place it in their file. At least two days a week I conduct home visits to three neighboring rural communities for those who do have not transportation to the clinic and provide counseling services in the comfort of their home.

I also refer patients for a psychological evaluation by a psychiatrist as they may needs medications as well as therapy to help them. I also refer patients to other agencies for financial help with utilities, food, shelter and employment as needed. I spend about 15% of my time on writing notes or assessments. 70% of the patients learn about our mental health services and call for services for themselves or a family member. 30% of patients are referred by doctors from the clinic or other medical offices. 90% of our patients have medical insurance to pay for the services they receive. For the other 10% of patients they either pay cash, have private insurance or on a case by case review I see them for free (pro-bono).

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is knowing that I have helped patients through their tough time. The bad part is sometimes you want to help your patient more than they want to be helped. The most discouraging and disheartening time is when a patient comes in and you know they are not being honest with and are attempting to get a referral to a psychiatrist for medications to get high or to resell.

Job Tips: If you do not enjoy helping others and have poor listening skills then this is not the profession for you. Being a therapist required listening and allowing the time with your patient to be all about them, which includes not including your personal beliefs on your patient. I would recommend taking some child development courses to learn what occurs at each stage of life.

Additional Thoughts: My job is very rewarding.

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