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What are the psychological affects working in the mental health department?

For majority of my existence I have personally dealt with Mental Illness and I know that in many cases one could get triggered on a certain topic. For me though, helping other people who are just like me has always been such a huge dream, but I want to know my risks involved so I am not only prepared, but certain that I won't go down a dark path when dealing with any subject. This has always been a passion of mine and if I can save the life of one person then I think my life is fulfilling. #nevergiveup #psychologymajor #mental-health #mental-health-care

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Lo’s Answer

Hi Monica!

First of all, thank you for sharing your personal journey with mental illness. For me too, it was also the catalyst for joining the profession. I believe that your personal experience will make you a more empathetic and understanding professional. Your concerns about being triggered are legitimate though. I think it is important to continue your own journey (ie. counseling or therapeutic activities of some sort) and to constantly work on yourself. (In fact I think everyone should do this but that's another story for another time. ) Another very helpful thing is supervision. Most mental health professionals seek out and receive professional supervision throughout their careers (a lot of times it is built into a job). A good supervisor will help you process your reactions to what clients might share. A good supervisor will also help you decide if it is beneficial to your client for you to continue to work with them if you are being triggered by their situation. You cannot always protect yourself from being triggered but you can use resources and tools you will have as a professional to cope with it when it happens. It might also be helpful to reach out to some professionals to see how they have handled working with clients who remind them of their own personal issues. I hope this helps! Do not give up on your dreams!
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Nickesha’s Answer

Hi Monica,

I think your openness about your struggles with mental health shows that you are self-aware and I think that is a necessity for individuals working in the mental health field. Being triggered by a topic or issue that a client is sharing is common and most likely will happen. But that should not scare you away from pursuing a career in the field. I am enrolled in a clinical mental health graduate program and supervision is required throughout. I had to complete a year long internship at a counseling site and I had to be enrolled in a supervision class that required me to meet with a supervisor on a weekly basis. It was also required that I have a on-site supervisor. These individuals are there to guide you on how to best work with your clients and also to offer you any counseling you might need if you are feeling triggered. Supervision is also required throughout the licensing process which can take up to 5 years AFTER graduation. Most graduate programs will also include some form of counseling for the students in the form of group or individual sessions. I mention all of that to say that the mental health profession is filled with people who have past struggles and experiences as well and as result the profession was developed with that in mind. A good counselor is one who demonstrates genuineness and empathy and when handled appropriately, your past experience can add to your effectiveness as a counselor. Self-care is vital and your professors/supervisors/coworkers will encourage you to have a good work/life balance. Never forget to utilize your resources and being self-aware will help you avoid burn-out.
I hope this helps!
-Nickesha

psychology counseling-psychology mental-health-counseling psychologymajor
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Judy’s Answer

I am a licensed clinical social worker in California. I also have an undergraduate degree in psychology. Since 1996, I have been working with kids, families, community, incarcerated youth and adults, psychiatric in-patient and out-patient clinics. I am now currently working as a parole office, but with my mental health background, it has been a huge blessing to serve and assist those who have been incarcerated, a chance to re-integrate back into the community.

I have practiced in a clinical setting and have been a case manager, but one of the most important things to help you when working with your clients is to make sure that your boundaries are check. For example, people in this field go into this field because they want to help. But if you cannot separate your feelings with that of your clients, you may feel "stuck" and possibly feel helpless too. Its necessary to have clear roles, discuss and practice supervision with your colleagues and practice self-care. These steps will help you advocate for your client, feel a sense of purpose and avoid burnout. Vacations also help!

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