Preparing Mental Health Professionals to Manage a Field in Flux
Perhaps there is no field affecting us all that has been under more contentious debate this decade than the healthcare field. Concerns over sky-rocketing costs, the role of insurance companies, and access to healthcare for everyone have become tangled and knotted, resulting in the socially and politically inflamed discussion over managed care and its ensuing effects. Mental health care, not to be spared the turmoil of the field at large, has been facing tremendous changes that require flexibility on the part of its practitioners and realistic self-scrutiny on the part of the institutions granting degrees.
How One Man Plays Multiple Roles in his Mission to Help
Flip Brown, MA ’94, is also prepared to face the challenges of change in his field. At one time, he noted, “people might have entered the mental health care field because they wanted to work with people. But that’s not enough anymore. These days, a drive to expand one’s areas of expertise and stamina for self-promotion–a business approach–are necessary elements in mental health care career development.” He speaks persuasively on the need for self-marketing, savvy reading of the field’s trends, and networking. “You need idealism to keep you going and realism to make it happen,” Flip said.
While Reuthe took the political approach, Flip advocates a better working relationship between psychology and business; it’s an interest he incorporates into his own job and one which perhaps dates back to when he was in the business world. After ten years as an executive in the ski business and a basic mid-30s values change, he wanted to have a different connection with people. He finished a BA at Burlington College and then matriculated in Antioch University New England’s Counseling Psychology Program. Still drawing on his outdoors experience, during his summers of graduate school Flip managed to write The Vermont Outdoor Adventure Guide, published in 1994.
Flip is an associate at the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a division of the Howard Center for Human Services in Burlington, Vermont, the largest community mental health center in the state. The EAP is designed to help employees and their family members deal with difficult situations so that the employees can stay focused at work.
In his position, Flip does short-term counseling and problem solving with the employee, makes referrals to community resources, and provides consultation to corporate supervisors. Additionally, he goes into businesses to conduct employee orientations and sexual harassment training sessions, which he also develops. He considers it the perfect job for him, “it’s never boring, I utilize a wide range of skills, see people from all occupations, all classes. I have the privilege of being invited into people’s lives and helping to make a difference.”
In addition to filling multiple roles as Flip does, establishing a working network of professionals in the community is very important. The Department of Applied Psychology sees the internship and practicum components of its curriculum as opportunities to expand the network a student begins upon matriculation with his or her classmates and faculty members. Through the internship/practicum, students blend theory and practice, explore the range of job possibilities within the field, and sometimes even create a position where they want one. All of these require entrepreneurialism, an essential skill in today’s job market.