I always tell people what I do what my occupation is and often get confused looks. I usually have to give a little more explanation to help people understand but sometimes I get the feeling that others, even ones close to me, don't really truly understand what my job is. Usually when I say I'm a therapist, most people immediately nod their heads and say "oh yeah, a physical therapist!" and then I have to correct them by saying "no, like a mental therapist."
I have a master's degree in Social Work. Am I a Social Worker? Yes, and no. I am a Social Worker in the sense that my degree is in Social Work, after I document anything I have to write LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) beside my name as my credentials. But no, I am not the stereotypical Social Worker that works for the Department of Human Resources, or otherwise known as the Department of Child and Welfare Services in Georgia. With a master's degree in Social Work one can do many many different things, which could make a whole other post, to which I will not delve into here. But, back to the point of this post, I am actually a clinical Social Worker, which means that I work as clinician or therapist in the mental health field.
I work at Hill Crest Behavioral Health, which is a free-standing psychiatric hospital many people have never heard of here in Birmingham, Al. We have Acute units for children, adolescents, and adults. These are just like the psychiatric wards in hospitals, except Hill Crest is its own hospital. We also have residential long term programs for teens. I work on the Adolescent Acute Unit. So basically, I work with adolescents who are admitted to the hospital for "stabilization" or short-term psychiatric care.
I am one of the two therapists on the adolescent acute unit. We work in a treatment team with Psychiatrists, Nurses, Psychologists, and Mental health workers. When a patient becomes admitted to Hill Crest, they are assigned a doctor and therapist (that's me!). I usually carry a caseload of around 9 patients. These kids come from home, from DHR placements, or from detention. They go back home, or to another DHR placement, or to detention. Just because they come from somewhere doesn't necessarily mean they go back to where they came from.
My daily activities include gathering psychosocial histories on new patient's which are assigned to me, writing treatment plans for their treatment, conducting 1 hour group therapy sessions, and Individual and/or family sessions. I also do discharge planning, which is planning for what will happen when they leave (where they will go, who they will follow up with). I do what most people think Psychiatrists do. The truth is, most Psychiatrists don't provide any therapy, they just write the prescriptions and monitor how the patient does on them, often in very brief visits.
The reasons that a patient could be admitted to Hill Crest can be due to Depression, attempting or wanting to commit suicide and/or homicide, a person is psychotic, has behavior problems, or any other mental illness. We basically try to help them as much as we can until we feel they are stable enough to leave the hospital and return home or to a less restrictive setting. On the adolescent unit, we work with a lot of teens who have anger, impulse control problems, or are just plain defiant. Those are the ones who can be a pain in the butt!
No day is the same and I love what I do. I am blessed to be able to have a lot of freedom and flexibility with my job, I can come in and leave whenever I want, and can choose who I see and when I see them each week (for therapy sessions). I can play games, watch movies, color, play sports, art, and do pretty much anything with the patients as long as I can make it somewhat therapeutic. I can't believe I am so lucky to have such a great job which I feel truly impacts others lives at the same time. Though I will probably never become rich doing this, I still feel rewarded by my job. And not too many people can say they feel that way!!