My journey to become a licensed therapist did not start off in a traditional college setting. Throughout my professional career the occupations I held were, Certified Nurse Assistant, US Postal Services Worker, Social Services Director and Residential Care administrator for the elderly, Protective Services Worker with Child Welfare Services, Long-term Care Ombudsman. Yes, I have held many jobs prior to becoming a therapist.
I had more than 10 years of professional experience in the helping profession, when I realized I wanted to become a therapist in 2009. At this time I was a mother of three girls ages 3, 6 and 9 years and working full time for Child Protective Services.
I will never forget the day I walked out of court after recommending that a single black mother child reunified with her children. This mother followed her reunification case plan and attended therapy for over a year, due to her own trauma and mental illness she had many challenges reunifying with her children. I consulted with her therapist several times and read countless treatment plans on her progress.
I felt proud to be apart of helping put a family back together and realized instead of being the social worker who remove children and write court reports, I wanted to be on the other side of helping families, heal from past traumas and abuse. This case made me believe that psychotherapy was beneficial and powerful.
Growing up in a disfranchised urban neighborhood in Southeast San Diego, I have witnessed firsthand how the lack of cultural diverse needs in public mental health care has hindered my community. I myself did not believe in therapy and bought into the stigma of “Black people don’t go to therapy" until I witness several people healing and starting a path to new lives with the help of psychotherapy. This was a motivating factor to be a change agent for my community. As a former protective services worker Health and Human Services Agency of the County of San Diego it was often a challenge to refer families on my caseload to therapists within the community that were minorities.
As an African-American woman I represent a voice for a large community of under served minorities. This gave me the motivation to attend graduate school to become a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). As an MFT, my vision is to outreach to African Americans and other minorities about the importance of mental health treatment and clinical trials while educating and supporting disfranchised communities on mental health services. I understand the dynamics of negative reactions from some African Americans about seeking counseling for any reason. I believe my exposure in the community as a mental health professional has been a valuable contribution due to the lack of minority MFT’s.
My community faces severe economic, cultural, linguistic and physical barriers for treatment of mental illness, difficulties which prevent individuals from being properly treated. As family member to someone who suffers from mental illness it was difficult to find resources to help my own family who suffers from depression. The biggest factor was my family’s misconception about services for mental illness. I also experienced these same thoughts prior to my exposure and education about mental health services. I believe this affects how many ethnic minorities communicate symptoms of mental illness, and their willingness to seek treatment.
No longer is the middle-class white American’s were the only population seeking counselor the United States has become one big melting pot and today a MFT’s will more than likely treat client’s from various backgrounds and cultural beliefs.
Given the range of the diverse populations I have worked with it is my passion to work as an MFT to help reverse the stigma of mental health issues in my community. The knowledge I acquired while working with the county helped me realize the critical needs in the public mental health care system. My desire to interact with people and understand their experiences and ideas actually stemmed from being minority, a women a mother and most importantly a child who grew up with a single parent having to seek out resources in the community.
I have learned to be emphatic and lay aside my own judgments and values. I know first-hand what it means to be culturally competent to meet the needs of my clients based on my personal and profession experience. My post-degree training and experience has allow me to provide mental health services for disfranchised communities. As a licensed therapist I integrate wellness, recovery and resiliency concepts to work effectively with diverse groups.
My commitment as a licensed MFT is to create outcome-driven services to my community and properly detecting and treating mental health disorders.
NaTasha Bailey. LMFT