Community Mental Health: The Pros and Cons

Originally, I wrote a post about Oppositional Defiant Disorder for this week but in light of my horrific day, I’ve decided to switch gears and write about what working in community mental health is like as a professional.
Community mental health is a branch of mental health at works with clients in an outpatient or community setting. This includes your standard counselors, community-based programs, psychosocial rehabilitation, in-home services, and many more. Basically, if it’s not in-patient, it’s community mental health.
Let me begin my sharing my transition of positions over time. I was initially hired at my current company to provide Mental Health Skill-Building Services. After about 3 months, I transitioned to providing Crisis Stabilization Services. Both of those positions were working directly with clients in the community and the primary support of my post today.
After my first year with my company, I was offered a clinical position in the office, which I accepted. This previous month, I have also accepted a secondary position to manage the Crisis Stabilization Services program. Since originally accepting positions in the office, I’ve witnessed and participated in some unpleasant experiences that happen behind the scenes.
Sometimes, you end up having to do hard things that you don’t want to do. I had a particularly aggravating day at work today and ultimately ended up going to get an Emergency Custody Order (ECO) on a client because we were concerned for her safety. This is never a good feeling and I hate knowing she may no longer trust us after this experience. The only solace I can find is in reminding myself “I’d rather her be mad at me than for her to be dead.”
So when you face situations like this with regularity, you spend a lot of time reflecting on what you do, why you do it, and how you’re impacting those around you. I’ve compiled a short list of the pros and cons of working in community mental health.
 

Pros

  • Your clients are primarily voluntary which makes bonding with and working with them easier and more enjoyable.
  • You often have the ability to make your own schedule.
  • You can witness progress over longer periods of time.
  • You develop really helpful skills for both your personal and professional life. For example, you quickly learn how to set and maintain boundaries, or how to leave work at work.
  • You are making a positive difference in the world.
  • Sometimes you are the only stable person in a client’s life.
  • Your clients teach you so much.
  • You get to immerse yourself in difference cultures.
  • You become passionate about social justice and economic issues.
  • Most of the time, your supervisors and coworkers are supportive and amazing.
  • You build strong relationships with your coworkers because they know how it is in the field.
  • Clients are often really excited to tell you about their successes.

 

Cons

  • You are ethically responsible for the safety of your clients and have to do some uncomfortable things like take out ECOs on clients.
  • Sometimes you have to have unpleasant conversations with people, like telling a client they don’t qualify for services or disagreeing with another provider.
  • You find yourself asking “What should I do?” at least once a week when something really crazy happens.
  • You get yelled at. A lot.
  • You are often struggling to find balance between your personal and professional life.
  • The paperwork never ends.
  • You become passionate about social justice and economic issues.
  • You can never tell strangers you work in mental health without them assuming you’re a therapist. This usually leads to them telling you their life story or asking you to diagnose their cousin.
  • Or worse, you just have “the face” of a mental health professional and strangers somehow KNOW.
  • Explaining what is is you actually do is so obnoxious you often lie about what you do to avoid having to explain it. Unfortunately, you can’t really do this with family.
  • You get canceled on. A lot.
  • When you’re not with other mental health professionals, sometimes you feel alone.
  • You hear a lot of really traumatic stories that tear up your soul.

The Pros and Cons of Working in Community Mental Health

This is absolutely not an inclusive list and I would love your additions.

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