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How can I decide whether to transition to elementary teaching from the mental health counseling profession?

For as long as I can remember, I have gone back and forth between the two careers. I even have master's degrees in both fields, so I am technically qualified to do either. I have only ever worked in the mental health field though. I never really made the jump to being an elementary teacher. I have made pros and cons lists. I have thought about the differences in lifestyles. I ruminate over this regularly and it gives me a lot of anxiety.

In my current job as a mental health therapist and own my own private practice, I can make my own hours, work as much or as little as I want and the pay is decent. My practice is telehealth only and I work from home. However, I am extremely lonely and really miss the camaraderie I experienced when I did my student teaching.

Through my experience in student teaching and a short stint at a daycare after graduating with my Bachelor's in 2015, I really enjoyed the ability to be creative, come up with lesson plans and crafts/activities. Summer's off would be really great as well. I thought it was fun, whereas I would not say my current job is 'fun.' It's intellectually stimulating, but not fun. Oddly enough, I think the more structured schedule of a full-time job as a teacher may also be better for me mentally. I also know there are downsides to teaching, such as limited opportunity for advancement, difficult parents, difficult students, issues with administration, and the pay isn't great.

Another kicker - I am currently 5 months pregnant, so I know I can't make any changes right now, and I also know I may feel differently about all of this once I have the baby.

I am also concerned that since I completed my education degree and student teaching three years ago, I don't know who will write my letters of recommendations if I do decide to switch to teaching and apply for jobs.

Any insight from someone who has made the switch from mental health counseling to teaching or from teaching to mental health counseling is helpful. Any insight that I might be missing about the field of education from teachers would also be helpful.

+25 Karma if successful
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Subject: Career question for you

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TRAVIS’s Answer

If you make your own hours, why dont you substitute teach for the time being? I am certain elementary schools are clamoring for mental health professionals. Many states offer exemptions for far less qualified individuals to get teaching jobs. Call the local school districts HR offices and ask them what you need to get started and see if any openings are available. If you ae still unsure, try substitute teaching for now.
Thank you comment icon I think all of the advice in this thread is excellent - I like the concept of 'trying' teaching before committing. Doing this via substitute teaching, is a great option. You can also consider volunteering at a local school as well (if your local school boards allow that) - sometimes volunteering is an excellent way to 'test the waters'. Carolyn Willson
Thank you comment icon I also like the idea of subbing and may give this a try. Kayla
Thank you comment icon Thank you both for your advice! Kayla
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Michelle’s Answer

Hello, Kayla !

As a former behavioral health professional who transferred once again from and back to the original career of Acting, I think I may have some advice because I think that I understand what you're probably sensing/feeling/experiencing. You are so awesome to hold two Masters degrees and what's more, owning your own practice. Dream job for you field of work, yes ! Now that you are expecting a baby, it would be prime time to accelerate opportunities that will provide as much freedom as possible and as less stress as possible. I have some ideas for you.

Missing the socialization part of employment can happen, even though you already have an ideal situation which many people would envy - being your own boss and making your own hours and work days just to name just two. Let's start with what you could do with education and teaching, assuming you have a teaching credential already. There may be opportunities with or without a teaching credential.

Go to your School District's website and get as much information as possible - what positions are open and what they entail. Teaching in a public school is not always fun and you do need to consider what you've said you know about it. There also may be obligations that you will have to comply with as well as trainings and conferences that may not be held close to where you live. Find out if you'll need to be at the school six or eight hours a day and how do they select their Summer School teachers (if you definitely want summers off). Also explore private schools that may have a different atmosphere more supportive of your preferences. I've left a link to private schools in your area to consider and explore, too.

My advice is not to give up your service, rather make some changes in your hours for it and consider a different population if that's been too stressful. I can only know that what I would do is just keep the business going and look for creativity and fun through outside hobbies and recreation. But you must follow your instincts, realize that your life will greatly change in four months with starting a family and do what makes you happy.

You do not have to teach in order to have a social experience incorporating crafting and art. I have left a link below of opportunities where you live for what seem like fun jobs. What would be really awesome would be if you could start a Crafting Circle. Post a Crafting Circle forming on Meet Up and that may be a quick way to use your creativity, socialize as well as get some crafts done. You can also post flyers for it in your neighborhood and anywhere else you think would draw people in. Also explore the Macungie Institute which is a community center at which you may offer to be a crafts leader and also socialize at their events. I left the link for it below.

I hope that this is helpful and I wish you all the best !

Michelle recommends the following next steps:

PRIVATE SCHOOLS IN MUCUNGIE, PA https://www.niche.com/k12/search/best-private-schools/t/lower-macungie-township-lehigh-pa/
CRAFTING AND ART JOBS IN MUCUNGIE https://www.indeed.com/q-Art-l-Macungie,-PA-jobs.html?vjk=7c5cf7000d33a57e
THE MACUNGIE INSTITUTE OFFERS ART AND EVENTS - COMMUNITY CENTER FOR CULTURAL AND SOCIALIZATION OPPORTUNITIES http://www.macungieinstitute.com/
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Billie-Jazz’s Answer

Hello Kayla,

It seems like you're standing at the threshold of numerous exciting opportunities, thanks to your education and passions. When you picture your professional journey, what stands out as the most important aspect for you? What do you hope to achieve or cherish in the upcoming years? What aspects are you prepared to let go of for a change in your social environment? Spend some quality time reflecting on these questions. This will ensure that your next move aligns perfectly with your true desires and aspirations.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Kayla
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Michelle’s Answer

Hey Kayla, it seems like you're not quite content with your present job. My top suggestion would be to spend some time pondering what truly makes you happy and fulfilled. Have you thought about your career objectives for the next 5-10 years? What are the key elements that would make your career truly satisfying for you? Remember, some aspects may hold more significance than others, like prioritizing mental well-being over financial gain. I'm confident that you'll make the right choice for yourself. Good luck!
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James Constantine’s Answer

Dear Kayla,

Considering a Transition from Mental Health Counseling to Elementary Teaching

Making a career transition, especially from mental health counseling to elementary teaching, is a significant decision that requires careful consideration. Given your qualifications in both fields and the experience you have in mental health therapy, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each profession to make an informed choice.

Assessing Your Motivations and Goals

Reflect on Your Passions: Consider what initially drew you to each field. Reflect on your interests, values, and long-term career goals. Determine which profession aligns more closely with your passions and aspirations.

Impact and Fulfillment: Evaluate the impact you wish to have on others’ lives. Mental health counseling focuses on individual well-being and emotional support, while elementary teaching involves shaping young minds and fostering learning and development.

Work Environment: Compare the work environments of both professions. Mental health counseling often involves one-on-one sessions or group therapy, while teaching requires managing a classroom of students with diverse needs and personalities.

Career Growth Opportunities: Research the potential for career advancement in both fields. Consider which profession offers more opportunities for professional growth, skill development, and personal satisfaction.

Analyzing Lifestyle Differences

Work-Life Balance: Assess how each profession may affect your work-life balance. Mental health counseling can be emotionally demanding but offers flexibility in scheduling, while teaching typically follows a structured school day calendar.

Social Interaction: Consider the level of social interaction each profession provides. Teaching involves daily interactions with students, colleagues, and parents, fostering a sense of community that may be lacking in private practice counseling.

Job Security and Stability: Evaluate the job market demand for both professions in your area. Research factors such as salary potential, benefits, job security, and opportunities for advancement to make an informed decision.

Seeking Guidance and Support

Professional Advice: Consult with mentors or professionals in both fields to gain insights into the day-to-day realities of each profession. Seek guidance from experienced educators and mental health counselors to help clarify your decision-making process.

Networking Opportunities: Attend networking events or workshops related to elementary education to connect with teachers and administrators. Engage in conversations about their experiences, challenges, and rewards in the field to broaden your perspective.

Continuing Education: Consider pursuing additional certifications or training programs that bridge the gap between mental health counseling and teaching if you are interested in integrating aspects of both professions into your career path.

Making an Informed Decision

Ultimately, transitioning from mental health counseling to elementary teaching requires thorough self-reflection, research, and consultation with professionals in both fields. By carefully evaluating your motivations, lifestyle preferences, career goals, and seeking guidance from experts, you can make a well-informed decision that aligns with your values and aspirations.

Top 3 Authoritative Sources Used:

American Counseling Association (ACA): The ACA provides resources on career transitions within the counseling field and offers insights into the challenges and opportunities associated with changing specialties.

National Education Association (NEA): The NEA offers information on teacher preparation programs, professional development opportunities for educators, and insights into the teaching profession’s demands.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): The BLS provides data on job outlooks, salary information, educational requirements for counselors and teachers, helping individuals compare key factors when considering a career transition.

GOD BLESS YOU!
JC.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for your words of wisdom! Kayla
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Charissa’s Answer

Hi Kayla,

I wonder if you have thought about opening your own center at home once you are settled with your little one once they are a little older. Not sure if that is something you have considered but with your qualifications you could offer amazing care and knowledge to your community and have the freedom that public centers offer.

I hope this helps and God bless you and your little one.
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Megan’s Answer

Hi Kayla,

Although I have not made this switch, with teacher shortages across the country, I think you will have no problem making the switch. I also think the careers are similar and have transferable skills. Not every school asks for letters of recommendation so I would not worry about that. When you get there- you will figure it out! I think it will work out easier than you are thinking.

I just wanted to be a reassuring voice that you are qualified, you are needed and you can do this!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for taking the time to offer advice! Kayla
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