I wrote about the Triangle of Mental Health originally as the Health Guide at HealthCentral.
The third corner is practical career counseling. I have tried to understand why things happened the way they did. I see now that it’s so that I can talk with authority about my experience with the community mental health system I was involved in circa 1988 to 1991.
Years later I think I succeeded despite my time in the CMHS not because of it. I had to fight to be taken seriously in my goal of getting a full-time job and living independently. These are two things that ordinary Americans take for granted that they can have.
So why did a person like me have to fight to get these things? Why was a person diagnosed with schizophrenia in the late 1980s relegated to a CMHS where her diagnosis and symptoms were the proxy for her personality? Instead of having staff use the Asset Model to treat her that would’ve focused on her natural traits and gifts she could use to succeed?
In the 2000s it wasn’t any better for a lot of people diagnosed with a mental illness like schizophrenia. So-called job coaches at FastTrack and other agencies tasked with finding people jobs created terrible resumes for their clients. I’ve had to re-do a resume that was created for a guy I know. The job coaches sent his resume out from their own e-mails not this guy’s own e-mail. He was 50 years old and didn’t know how to submit a resume on his own.
I didn’t get practical career counseling until a fortuitous meeting with a therapist. He did career counseling because Oxford Insurance authorized only five visits because I had a pre-existing condition. Imagine that: a woman with a so-called emotional illness was denied therapy because she had an emotional illness.
I’ve written in here before about the Career MatchMaker quiz that is a great free starting point for discovering the careers you might like and be good at.
Also: you can often find resume writing help and job search help at your local public library now. In 1990 I was willing to get a job as an administrative assistant as the first step to full-time employment. Yet even then there was no true career counseling given to me. At that time my OVR counselor thought I should get a job as an elementary school teacher. I quickly nixed that option and told her I wanted to work in an office.
I’ve given talks to clients at an IPRT about going to school and finding work. At the IPRT the clients set a 12 to 24 month life goal they want to achieve.
Practical career counseling can start with motivational interviewing to see what interests the client as a life goal and how the client sees themselves as responsible for achieving it. From experience with a guy I know I see firsthand that he wasn’t given the tools to conduct a job search on his own.
How does someone who’s looking for a job not even have his own e-mail to send resume attachments from? How does he spend a whole year having his job coach at FastTrack send and monitor his job applications.
The UCLA Psych Rehab program that Dr. Robert Liberman, M.D. leads is first in its class in providing social skills training and cognitive remediation for clients who have gone on to become a teacher, a film score compose, a mental health advocate, and a driver of a truck for a business, among other careers. Dr. Liberman easily boasts of 36 clients who have returned to having a so-called normative life in terms of a job and a home.
Now that’s practical training and counseling that works to get people diagnosed with schizophrenia back into the mainstream.
I will continue to talk about using your interests and skills as the springboard for finding a suitable career. In the coming blog entries I’ll again talk about things that no one else in the mental health field is talking about. Stay tuned.