The purpose of this blog is to give some insight into myself and the changing of our mental health treatment. My first experience in the mental health field was as a child. With my grandmother being one of the first nurses and subsequently becoming the Director of Nursing for our local mental health authority to my mother replacing her after retirement, the lineage runs deep within our family in mental/behavioral health treatment. My personal journey began in high school in which I volunteered for our local Challenger league that included all ages in playing baseball. My long time friend’s mother created the Challenger League and we were designated as “buddies” to assist each participant in the activity. Upon graduating from high school and floating around with the, typical, unknown of “what do I do now?”. My first child and subsequently four total children and a wife, I knew there would be trying times but failure was not an option.
I was hired as a direct care worker at the age of 19 years old with a long-term, in-patient, treatment facility. Direct care is exactly what it sounds like, day-to-day activities, self-care assistance, meals, conflict resolution, crisis services. Due to the severity of low function clientele, cleaning, laundry, meal prep, assisting in showers and toiletries was a daily task…and eye opening as a 19 year old. I always encourage students in the psychology field to work in the direct care position. Invaluable skills and experience are gained in assisting individuals with daily needs and severe symptomatology.
After obtaining the undergraduate degree in psychology, I transitioned my employment to our local MH/MR (Mental Health/Mental Retardation) Center. As a Qualified Mental Health Professional, case manager, providing skills training in the community and surrounding counties allowed me to hone and better develop my skills in preparation for counseling services. While having my position as a QMHP, I attended and graduated with an advanced degree (Master’s) in Counseling Psychology and also earned a Licensed Professional Counselor license. After eight years as a QMHP, I began the “official” counseling position. After gaining the experience in the different facets of client care, the transition to outpatient psychotherapy was less of a change….except for marriage counseling of course.
After a couple of years in counseling, I went into private practice and further developed my counseling skills in all ages of clientele. More valuable experience was gained in the area of formal diagnostics and insurance requirements. I few years passed and the long process of the creation of Believe Behavioral Health (BBH) began. MANY sacrifices were made and challenges experienced in the creation and operation of BBH. Many individuals in this field do not like change and we were the first in the state of Texas to be able to “do what we do”, but that is an entirely different blog for another day.
While briefly discussing my experience and climb to today, I do so to further discuss the changes and challenges we have as counselors, parents, and people that deal with mental/behavioral health issues. This is simply my brief clinical opinion and experience over the decades in which subsequent blogs will be in more detail. The counseling realm tends to have an idealistic view of “saving the world”. Although that is ideal, it also produces counseling fatigue and added internal stress due to it not being reality. The counseling provided needs to evolve according to clientele and geographic location. What we do as clinicians is different in Texas, especially South Texas, as opposed to counseling in say, New York. The ability to wear “different hats” translates to increased relatability.
Parenting has significantly changed over the decades as well. We, as parents, face many new and significant challenges. From social media to an increase in blended families and other variables,
“common” parenting is not comparable to when we were children. The generational parenting skills have declined in which a significant increase in grandparents providing parenting skills has become more “normal”. But what happens when our grandparents are no longer with us? I see an increasing gap in these very important skills and the application in our future generations.
As individuals, the amount of added stressors in our society and our decrease in hardiness, ability to cope and adjust has increased such symptoms as depression and anxiety. From day to day stress to COVID-19 and everything in between, our mental health is challenged at an increasing rate. Even as I’m typing this blog, an alert notification popped up on my phone, school shooting at a Uvalde elementary school, fourteen children and two adults senselessly killed. I will wait for details to develop before communicating but school shootings are fairly new in comparison to the history of our nation. This is another example of significant events that increase our likelihood for symptomatology in mental health.
The purpose of this blog is more of an introductory to future communication. Not strictly mental health, other topics and reciprocal communication is encouraged and appreciated.
Justin Alexander, LPC