Introduction

As a career coach I’ve worked with many clients who have expressed interest in mental health related careers. I hear common motivators: they like working with people, they’re helpers by nature, they find psychology and human behavior interesting, and they want to be of service to the community.

Whenever a particular career interest arises, we explore it from all angles. Those intrinsic motivators are a big part of it, but we also examine the extrinsic realities: Are they aware of the education and licensure requirements? Do they have realistic salary expectations? Do they understand the realities of interning in a community mental health center? Or struggling to make a private practice thrive? Can they imagine the personal toll of constantly listening to people’s problems? Handling crisis situations?

To obtain a clear picture of any career option, I encourage my clients to research the field and talk with people working within it. With the latter exercise in mind, I embarked on my own homework assignment. In an effort to provide insight into a variety of mental health career experiences, I recently put out a call to action to the general public working in any mental health related job:

Seeking experiences from a variety of mental health workers. Provide pros & cons and frank realities about pursuing education and careers in mental health related fields. Responses should be kept to a minimum and address the following: 1. Name, job title, and degree(s) 2. Describe of your job duties. 3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry. 4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

I received many responses—far more than I can include here—and have selected the following 23 responses for their completeness and succinctness. May this admittedly lengthy collection of career profiles help you or a loved one explore the opportunities and realities of a career in mental health.

Career Profiles:

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Lisa Murdock

Homeless Street Outreach Worker

Masters in Clinical Psychology

2. Describe your job duties.

“In a “nutshell” my primary job duties are two-fold:  get mentally ill homeless folks into permanent housing. To do this: I conduct outreach and engagement to mentally ill homeless people sleeping outside or at homeless service programs within the City of Portland and Multnomah County. 

I collaborate with other community providers and social service agencies to secure resources for clients that may be the “hurdles” that is holding them back from securing permanent housing…This means that I have to spend a lot of case management time researching what their debts are, brainstorming and problem solving with agencies to reduce this debt and obtain funds to pay off these debts.

I also provide clinical mental health support by conducting a mental health assessment and treatment plan.  I can and do provide in the moment crisis support and also future problem solving and skills training to manage distress...”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“I find it fulfilling to work in this industry because I can see firsthand and directly the positive impact I have on another person.  I can immediately provide someone with a resource that can make their lives better for having worked with me.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“I would caution prospective students entering into this field that though I have obtained a Masters in Clinical Psychology and my Graduate School Program was basically “private practice centric” I spend the majority of my time engaging in ‘case management” activities versus direct therapeutic interventions.  In my nearly eight (8) years since graduation, I have observed that I have been involved in jobs where Social Work skills and activities have predominated.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Támara Hill

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Therapist

Bachelor’s in Psychology, minor in Forensic Psychology, Masters of Counseling Psychology

2. Describe your job duties.

“A day in the life of a therapist can be very stressful. My daily duties include making insurance calls to prove why my clients would benefit from continuing care in the residential treatment facility. These calls are called "Continued Stay Reviews." After these calls are complete, I am often swept away into multiple meetings (staff, clinical, etc), individual and family therapy sessions, or a crisis which might involve me processing with a client following a restraint, attempted escape from the campus, or something of that nature. I usually end my day with lots of paperwork including treatment plans, progress notes, and discharge summaries. Sometimes I have to make return calls to parents, extended families, case managers, probation officers, other therapists, etc. which all must be documented. It's a very, very busy day!”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“Although this job can truly affect the psyche and lead to compassion fatigue or burnout, I find that my most fulfilling cases and experiences are those that include trying to reach the most difficult kids. Those kids who have been abused, neglected, or traumatized and who do not feel they can trust anyone. My fulfillment comes when I see that child opening up and reaching back for me.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“I would caution all students interested in this career to be mindful of the great commitment you are making. This is not a field where you will be acknowledged for everything (or maybe anything) you do. This is a field where you will operate in humility the majority of the time and will have to meet your clients and their families where they are. You must be armed with patience, selflessness, and compassion.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Christian J. Dean

Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision

2. Describe your job duties.

“I work at Counseling for Growth, LLC, an independent private counseling and marriage/family therapy practice providing individual, couple/marital, and family therapy for children, adolescents, and adults.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“The most fulfilling component of working in the mental health industry is helping people to be the best they can be, individually and/or within their family systems while reducing distress and discomfort.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“The areas of caution for any student would be in entering into a graduate program that results in little opportunity for employment. Students are encouraged to research the various mental health professions, related accrediting bodies for each profession (i.e. APA for Psychology programs, CSWE for Social Work programs, CACREP for Counseling programs, COAMFTE for Marriage and Family Therapy Programs, etc.), and the licensing regulations, scope of practice, and insurance reimbursement/job opportunities for each profession within their state and/or federal agencies.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Daniel Stuart

Executive Director

Masters of Science, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

2. Describe your job duties.

“As Executive Director of Solstice RTC (a mental health treatment center for female adolescents), I over see all program operations, staff training and management. We provide comprehensive mental health services for troubled teenage girls, including mental health treatment and an accredited academic program.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“The most fulfilling aspect of my job is to witness the tremendous growth that our clients experience as they transform from sad, lost, struggling girls to confident, capable, self assured young women. The happiness and confidence they gain is worth all the challenges they face along the journey.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“This work is tremendously emotionally challenging. Before entering this field one should determine if they have the emotional strength, ability to connect with teens, sense of personal and professional boundaries, and strength of character to maintain composure in the face of the overwhelming pain and struggle that these young teens face. One must have the ability to manage one’s own emotional responses in order to maintain a therapeutic relationship with their clients.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Tyler McCord

Clinical Social Worker

Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Social Work

2. Describe your job duties.

“I provide teletherapy services to students with behavioral, emotional, and social deficits. I work with students, families, and school personnel in order to improve the student’s functioning in school and at home. This includes providing evidence-based practices via individual therapy services with students, social skills groups, parent education and training, and behavioral support for teachers and school staff. I also participate as a member of the Individual Education Plan Team, ensuring that appropriate accommodations and modifications are in place in order for the student to achieve academic success. In addition, I complete special education evaluations in order to determine if a student qualifies for special education services per state eligibility requirements…”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“One of the most fulfilling aspects of working in the mental health field is being able to provide support to others during the most challenging moments in their life. Moreover, this profession provides the privilege of offering compassion, inspiring hope, and teaching others the necessary skills required to overcome their current circumstances.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“When preparing for a career in the mental health field, keep in mind that you will not always experience instant gratification from your work; change takes time, especially when dealing with pervasive mental illness, developmental disabilities, and other behavioral or emotional problems. Focus on the small influences you have on others and rest assured in knowing that all change is significant, no matter how small it may appear.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Joy Jones

Project Director

Bachelor’s in Broadcast Journalism

2. Describe your job duties.

“I started off as a social work major but decided my truest love was writing. However, I have maintained a long term interest in psychology. I recently left a job as Community Relations Director for Psychiatric Institute of Washington. Currently, I am the project director for a creative expression program at St. Elizabeths Hospital (SEH) in Washington, DC. The creative expression program was co-founded by a SEH social worker and myself 25 years ago. I pay myself with grant funds.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“At its best, when you work in mental health, you do work that makes a person’s life better. And even when no dramatic changes are happening, observing human behavior is fascinating.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“Be flexible. There is more than one approach to getting your dreams fulfilled or your needs addressed in the marketplace. Although I didn’t major in psychology or social work, I have found a way to do that kind of work by being creative and by partnering with others.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Dr. Daniel M. Pacheco

Chief Medical Officer

Medical Degree, Master of Arts Psychology, Bachelor of Arts Psychology

2. Describe your job duties.

“Oversee the day to day clinical operations, provide clinical leadership to the providers, and help to ensure quality care is being delivered. Oversee the Peer Review, Quality, Utilization Management and Pharmacy & Therapeutics committees.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“The greatest reward is helping others overcome their condition and improving their overall quality of life. There are many different positions within behavioral health where you can make a difference whether you have a high school diploma or medical degree.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“If choosing to embark in a career in this industry one should be aware that often positions in mental health do not pay the best, you can make a living but recognize pay is often low in this career field. The positive aspect is that there are many opportunities, and the field is in need of all types of mental health workers. The pendulum is swinging and there is more awareness of the importance of behavioral health which should translate to more money for positions and clinics.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Ned Presnall

Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Masters of Social Work

2. Describe your job duties.

“I direct Intensive Outpatient Programs for addiction and mental health at Clayton Behavioral in St. Louis. Although I am a director, I spend more than half my time as a clinician, providing individual and family therapy to persons in our program as well as consultations to families that are seeking treatment.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“It is fulfilling to accompany people as they make changes in their lives to achieve improved health and well-being. I feel that I have a privileged vantage point from which to witness the courage and goodness of human persons.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“I would caution prospective clinical social workers to consider whether they have both the necessary empathy AND contemplative detachment to engage in social work. Change is difficult and is never guaranteed. Empathy provides a basis for staying engaged, meeting clients where they are, and remaining patient as people chart their own way forward. Contemplative detachment allows us to remain healthy ourselves as we encounter human suffering day after day--some of which does not remit with treatment. I would also urge clinical social workers to read--to continually learn new, effective ways to approach the problems they encounter. Clients deserve not only well-intentioned but well-informed practitioners.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Keyowanna Hammonds

Assistant Director Of Behavioral Health, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Master's in Social Work

2. Describe your job duties.

“Oversee the daily clinical and administrative operations of an OASAS Licensed Substance Abuse Clinic. Oversee various professional staff including Case Managers, CASACs, LMSWs, LMHCs and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners that conduct mental health assessments, medical assessments, and case management services. Provides clinical supervision to staff and Social Work interns that provides individual and group therapy for special populations including HIV/AIDS, homeless, substance abuse and mentally ill. Meets with social work interns on an individual basis to help them enhance their counseling skills by processing their recorded counseling sessions with their respective clients. Works with the interns to also assist them with developing their research skills, and a deeper understanding of counseling theories.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“One thing I find fulfilling is the opportunity to be a change agent in various clinical capacities. There is a large range of opportunities to work with various populations, such as private practice, foster care, substance abuse, mental health, research, education or corporate entities to say the least.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“There is a major factor to consider before embarking upon a degree in the field of Social Work. It is critical for individuals to continually assess their own emotional health when embarking upon this helping profession. Social Workers do a great job at being a clinical source of support for patients, but often overlook their own emotional needs or effects of vicarious trauma. This can be a slippery slope, putting the very patients were are summoned to help at risk for further harm.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Kristen Martinez

Co-founder and Counselor

Master of Education (M.Ed.) and Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degrees in Mental Health Counseling

2. Describe your job duties.

“My job duties include: recruiting potential clients; working with clients; overseeing marketing for Pacific NorthWell, including content marketing and social media channels; and supervising our other counselors' experiences as they transition into private practice with us.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“What fulfills me the most about working in the mental health care industry is being able to experience people's change and growth into the people they'd wanted to be but had never envisioned to be possible. It's the greatest feeling when my clients say that they don't need me anymore, because that means I've done my job.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“One of the biggest pitfalls in working in this industry (and in private practice in particular) is that, in essence, we are selling ourselves to the public and we are our own product; it is very tempting for us to get our self-worth tied into this aspect, but it is of the utmost importance that we separate our self-worth from our success as therapists.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Carl Grody

Private practice therapist, Family therapist columnist

Masters in Social Work

2. Describe your job duties.

“I specialize in family therapy from a strengths-oriented approach.  Family therapy is 90% of what I do; I occasionally see individuals.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“So many times, a family's issues repeat from generation to generation.  If a family breaks a negative pattern in their current family system, they're also likely to stop handing the negative pattern down to future generations.  There's a lot of responsibility in that, and it always leaves me in awe of families when they accomplish it.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“It's important to keep balance in your life; self-care might be the most important thing you do to ensure a long career.  It's also necessary to work on being self-aware to make sure that you don't let your personal life leak into your professional work with clients.  Everybody has something going on, and therapists are no different; it's important not to project those onto others in the therapy room.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Teresa Wren Johnston

 Director Kennesaw State University Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery

Masters in Professional Counseling, Licensed Professional Counselor

2. Describe your job duties.

“As the director of Kennesaw State University's Center, I oversee and provide services in our programs which include addiction prevention/education, collegiate recovery support services, individual and group counseling with students on campus struggling with substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders, among other administrative responsibilities.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“The most fulfilling aspect of my work is helping students who are struggling with substance use and addictive behaviors begin the journey of recovery. When you first meet them and hold space for them, after a time they emerge and 'become who they were intended to be.' It is beautiful.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“It takes a good deal of personal growth and emotional maturity to sit and hear the stories, the trauma and pain of another human being without being covered up by it. Having good administrative skills is a plus for a counselor in this day and age. This is not a get-rich-quick profession.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Dr. Chester Goad

Director of Disability Services

EdD in Education Leadership with a concentration in Special Education, Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration, and B.S. in Education

2. Describe your job duties.

“I work in the field of college and university disabilities services and support. While my background is special education, many people in our field have psychology and educational psychology backgrounds or social work. We work with students with diverse disabilities from emotional and psychological disabilities from autism to PTSD, to physical or even learning disabilities like dyslexia. We review documentation from appropriate evaluators, and determine services to make the campus accessible. We assist students in receiving necessary accommodations on campus and we also work closely with counselors and medical professionals.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“It's a terrific and worthwhile field for people who may not want to practice mental health, but still want to be supportive or allied with it. I strongly encourage people interested in the field to consider higher education student affairs work, it's meaningful and fun, and makes a difference.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“My greatest caution would be not to isolate your interests or limit your possibilities.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

John McGrail

Clinical hypnotherapist, Author

BS, PhD in hypnotherapy

2. Describe your job duties.

“I work with people (from 7 to 85) create change and transformation in their lives, working across the spectrum of human behavior. Most of what I do is helping every day people overcome every day problems like stress, unhealthy or unwanted habits, creating more health and wellness in their lives, getting over a limiting belief, fear, phobia, or chronic worry. I hope people enhance their performance at work, in sports and at school, and with appropriate referral from a licensed professional, I also help clients manage and sometimes overcome a variety of psychological and medical conditions.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

I absolutely love the feeling of watching someone transcend an issue that has been holding them back in their life, allowing them to live more freely, abundantly hopefully and happily.

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“Hypnotherapy is enjoying ever greater popularity as a safe natural and powerful way to bring change and transformation into one's life. It is a very satisfying career. Two cautions I would offer to interested prospects would be: Be very careful about the training program you choose. There are a lot of "fly-by-night" schools out there that do a poor job of training and preparing a person to actually practice successfully. It's also important to remember that while doing the work of hypnotherapy is extremely satisfying, the business side is like any other business. It requires commitment and diligence in marketing and promotion publicity, etc. to build and maintain a successful practice. A lot of very talented people fail to be successful at it because they don't want to or are not prepared to address the business side of the business.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Esther Boykin

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Writer, and CEO

BA in Psychology and Communications, MS in Human Development with a specialization in Marriage & Family Therapy

2. Describe your job duties.

“As a marriage and family therapist my job primarily is to meet with clients. I assess their needs and concerns and work with them to create a healthy plan- whether it is focused on repairing a relationship or managing a mental illness like depression or anxiety. I do some consultation with doctors and other therapists when needed but most of my work is focused on my clients and helping them thrive in their lives and relationships. As an entrepreneur and CEO of my private practice my work is much more about the big picture. I spend a lot time dedicated to developing my business model and brand as a fresh and modern approach to psychotherapy. I spend countless hours reading, researching, meeting with potential collaborators, and creating a business structure that fits my vision of mental health and relationship care as an integral part of every healthy lifestyle.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“The most amazing part of my job is being able to witness our ability for resilience and love. It is extremely fulfilling to watch my clients, and my colleagues, grow and create the lives and relationships that they want for themselves. When given support and guidance, people can do amazing things.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“Working in mental health is incredibly rewarding and incredibly demanding of not just your time but your emotional energy. Be sure to do your own work to be come self aware and capable of very good self-care and health boundaries. I would also urge prospective therapists to be open to a wide range of specialities during school and internships but when it's time to build your career, find a niche or two and get really good at your specialty.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Leslie Ralph

Clinical psychologist

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology

2. Describe your job duties.

“I have a lot of freedom in my job, so my job duties really vary depending on what I choose to focus on. Generally, I see clients for individual, couple's, or group psychotherapy. I am trained as a generalist, which means that I treat a broad range of concerns and disorders, but I have the freedom to specialize in areas that I enjoy working with, like anxiety. I also do a fair bit of presentations and outreach activities in the community, such as teaching stress relief strategies or talking about the warning signs for psychological distress. My job also involves meeting with colleagues for case conferences and peer supervision, research on treatment effectiveness and program evaluation, crisis intervention, and record keeping.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“What I enjoy most about working as a psychologist is meeting so many different people and learning their unique stories as we work together to help them find relief from their problems but also to create a more enjoyable life overall. I love seeing people realize just how great their potential is and then start to work toward that life that allows them to use that potential.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“Getting a Ph.D. is a major time and financial commitment, and while there are wonderful things about process and the degree, I would recommend that prospective students think about their long-term goals (i.e., is it research, clinical practice, being a director of an organization, etc.) and explore the different routes to get there.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Dr. Kristen Lee Costa

Lead Faculty for Behavioral Sciences, Private practice clinician (LICSW), Researcher, Author/Speaker

BS, MSW, EdD

2. Describe your job duties.

“I wear 4 hats: a) Am lead faculty for Behavioral Sciences at Northeastern University (oversee 40 faculty and curriculum, and teach students on pursuing careers in the field), b) behavioral health private practice clinician (specialties include working with adults and families: burnout prevention and treatment, anxiety, ADHD spectrum, depression), c) qualitative researcher (resilience, burnout prevention) and d) author, speaker, and advocate (recent book is RESET Make the Most of Your Stress-I travel extensively providing education on burnout prevention and self-care for organizations, schools, companies, and through SNS--I also blog for PSY Today and Huff Post).”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“I love my work since I have the opportunity to make a direct impact in the lives of my patients and students. The needs are tremendous in today's complex landscape. Stress has become an epidemic, and many times people simply need tools and strategies to make it through their long lists and the challenges they experience in the day to day-and also when they are hit with major blows such as loss, trauma and illness. I also love helping those I serve to build off their strengths--the mental health field has come a long way in recognizing that it's not just about diagnosing or looking at "what's wrong", but also looking at what is working well and how we can build off of that. We are much more resourceful and resilient than we usually realize.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“I urge anyone pursuing a path in the mental health fields to know that one of the #1 risks is professional and personal burnout. The demands in these fields are escalating-and we are facing a critical shortage of workers that is expected to climb off the charts. There will be more demands and fewer resources as more and more people need treatment. The growing needs of veterans, the aging baby boom population, children and families and those in poverty are expected to place huge demands on the service delivery system. This will provide many career opportunities, but anyone in the field must ensure they carefully tend to themselves to avoid overload and burnout.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Elizabeth Singer

Licensed Psychoanalyst

Certificate in Psychoanalysis, MFA in Acting, BA in Theatre, BS in Journalsim

2. Describe your job duties.

“I work with patients to understand and heal anger and rage.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“There is no better feeling than to provide relief from suffering through understanding.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“If you want private practice, you will need to start a business and all the usual risks apply. Failure is possible. Most new businesses don't make it. How hard are you willing to work to make sure that's not you? Insurance companies dictate reimbursement amounts at levels that are under operating costs. If you choose to work outside of insurance, you are competing with someone like me. My marketing spend averages $1500 a month.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Suzanne Strisower

Life Purpose Expert, Life & Career Coach, Author, Radio Show Host

MA in Counseling Psychology

2. Describe your job duties.

“I got my MA in Counseling Psychology many years ago while I was a residential treatment counselor, the went into public policy and advocacy for human services at the county government level, then moved into social work for almost a decade and then finally became a life coach for the last nine years.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“The things I find most fulfilling about helping people in whatever capacity with these types of degrees is that you have many tools and venues you can use to help them. I loved empowering people and making a difference in the quality of their lives which I did in each of the different professional roles I played.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“The caution or pitfall that I would give people is that you have to be willing to work with people's dysfunctions, system's dysfunctions and that in spite of your best efforts, the ultimate outcome might be less than you had expected. The results are not solely based on who you are but what people do with it. Over the yeas, I found that frustrating and that's when I became a coach where now I only work with very high functioning people.

The counsel I would have for students, is to make sure that your degree offers you flexibility and then to get as credentialed as you can so that you can work in any environment where that skill set is required. Often you must have licenses to get the best and highest paying jobs.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Karen R. Koenig

Self-employed in private practice, Volunteer therapist

LCSW, M.Ed.

2. Describe your job duties.

“In my practice, I do individual, couples and family therapy, but mostly see individuals. I also do tele-therapy within the state. My specialty is the psychology of eating. At my volunteer job, I see a range of clients who are in crisis and unable to pay high rates or, sometimes, anything at all.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“I enjoy the deep connection of doing therapy and the chance to significantly improve lives. In my practice, mostly treating binge-eating and overeating, I enjoy helping people get healthier physically as well as mentally; in my volunteer work, I love guiding people in overcoming trauma.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“To be an excellent therapist, you need to get to know yourself completely and can’t avoid managing your own issues. And you need to be able to turn off whatever happens at work in order to take care of yourself in your personal life and be of use to your clients.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Carolyn Mallon

Psych nurse (former), Nurse Writer and Parenting/ADHD Blogger (current)

RN, ASD in Nursing, Pursuing BSN

2. Describe your job duties.

“I worked as a full-time psychiatric nurse for a few years right out of nursing school. That was the field I really wanted to be in. I worked on a busy admission unit as a state hospital in NH. I did admissions, rounds with the doctors, held treatment team meetings, did discharge teaching... I also did daily milieu management on a floor with very acutely ill patients.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“I LOVED working with this population, especially the young women there. I wanted to be able to help them. I loved having the opportunity to teach them that they *could* learn new ways to cope, that with the right supports in place they could make a plan and start working toward recovery or at least a life with better management of their symptoms...”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“I left psych nursing because I wanted to be able to participate more in treatment and to see more of a focus on therapy, but that isn't the healthcare climate now, at least here in NH. The reality was different than what I had hoped to see. There is a lack of funding, and so the hospitals become a long waiting list for beds and there is a lot of pressure to discharge as quickly as possible whether or not the patients have an outpatient appointment set up for week or months! Instead of working with patients and exploring proven therapies like DBT or even group therapy work, the focus is on unit safety and "managing" the more disruptive patients. Patients who *could* benefit from real intervention and therapeutic support cannot get it there, and it's demoralizing to many of the staff who go into the field wanting to help these people. Still, if you are moved to help people with psychiatric illnesses, it is a calling, and that patient population needs people who really care.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Carole Lieberman

Psychiatrist and Author

M.D., M.P.H.

2. Describe your job duties.

“I treat patients with psychotherapy and medication, write books, appear on TV, host a radio show, and work as a psychiatric expert witness.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“I find it incredibly fulfilling to be able to share psychological insights with patients in my office, and the general public through my books and appearances.  As soon as I read Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, as a teenager, I knew this was what I wanted to do.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“These days, many psychiatrists limit their practice to medication management or ‘med visits’ because of financial concerns. I only see patients who are interested in coming for weekly sessions of psychotherapy, and if they need medication, I provide that at the same time. Med visits are boring and medication alone is just a band-aid. The real help comes from psychotherapy. But, understand that this is bucking the tide.”

►►►

1. Name, job title, and degree(s):

Dr. Nichole Adams

Clinical Supervisior, Psychiatric Assessment Unit

Psy. D., ABPP

2. Describe your job duties.

“I screen and assess individuals that have undiagnosed or poorly diagnosed mental health conditions that impede them from being positive contributing members to society. I create and implement individualized treatment plans for those individuals. I supervise doctoral level interns that need neuropsych, cognitive, personality, and educational assessment training and supervision. I provide training for corrections officers and clinical staff. I provide supervision for clinicians that provide direct service to inmates that are particiating in the program.”

3. Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in the industry.

“The most rewarding part of my job is being able to accurately identify a person's strengths, sharing that information with a patient, and helping them learn how to utilize their indivual strengths in a practical way. For many people that I serve, this is the first time they are hearing that they are 'valued' and have something 'valuable'. It is very humbling and awe-inspiring.”

4. What would you caution/urge prospective students to understand before embarking on a degree/career in your field?

“I would encourage students to study all subjects through a multicultural lens. It is important to learn about and embrace diversity. It broadens your clinical perspective and allows your work to be relevant and practical with the populations that you serve. I would also encourage students to diversify their educational portfolio. Having training in various areas of expertise allows you to be more marketable and prevents you from being 'pigeon-holed' in one type of job.”

_____________________________________________________________________

Enjoy reading mental health career interviews? Check out my fascinating behind the scenes look at life as a sex therapist: Sallie Foley, What Is It Like To Be A Sex Expert?

Also check out, 10 Stereotypes of Mental Health Professionals _____________________________________________________________________

Brad Waters, MSW provides career coaching and consultation to clients by phone nationwide. He specializes in working with non-traditional career seekers, entrepreneurs, creatives, introverts, and Millennials. Brad helps people clarify their career direction and take action on life transitions. He holds a Master's degree in social work from the University of Michigan and is a preferred career coach for the University of Michigan Alumni Association. More info at BradWatersCoaching.com

Copyright, 2015 by Brad Waters. This article may not be reproduced or published without permission from the author. If you share it, please give author credit and do not remove embedded links.

You are reading

Design Your Path

12 Tips for Landing a Job at a Company You Admire

Strategies for getting a dream job at the place you love.

Our Answers Find Us In The Quiet We Create

Struggling with big decisions? You may not be making space for answers to arrive

How To Get A Free College Education

Free classes for anyone with an internet connection.