Could you tell us a little bit about your background before you joined CalSouthern? What motivated you to enroll back in school?
Prior to becoming a counselor, I was a law enforcement officer in California for several years and hoped to eventually promote up the chain of command into a supervisory or management role. Unfortunately, I was injured, medically retired, and found myself looking for another profession. I’ve always been interested in studying people and relational interactions, so I returned to school and earned my Master’s in Counseling Psychology, becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist. As gratifying as that was, I wanted to delve deeper into the study of personality and the mind at the doctoral level. I wanted to pursue a doctorate education, but couldn’t uproot my family, CalSouthern’s PsyD program was a great fit for what I wanted to accomplish.
What has been the education process like for you at CalSouthern? What did you study and why?
I’ve really enjoyed the PsyD program and my advisors have been very kind and helpful. I like interacting with students from a variety of vocations and geographical locations, who are also studying the complexities of being human and learning to help future clients persevere through hardship. I chose the PsyD program because it can lead to licensure as a psychologist in California, which would expand my scope of practice, allowing for psychometric testing and competency evaluations.
Could you tell us more about your current work?
For the last few years I’ve been working as a therapist at an inpatient psychiatric facility, treating people who may be a danger to selves, danger to others, or gravely disabled. This has afforded me the opportunity to gain a lot of experience treating severe and life-long mental health conditions, which I wouldn’t have otherwise had much experience with. In my capacity as a therapist, I am a clinical member of a multi-disciplinary team that meets with patients and discusses treatment options. From there, I meet with patients individually and provide counseling to help them meet their treatment goals.
What drove you to get involved in Bill 191? Could you tell us about your involvement?
AB 191 is a statutory change that would include Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC) as treatment team members qualified to provide secondary signatures on a Notice of Certification, which is a form the state requires for people receiving involuntary treatment beyond the original 72 hours. After the Notice of Certification is completed, the patient meets with a patient rights advocate and goes before a hearing officer who evaluates the patient’s need for continued treatment. This is not a fun process and can be difficult for patients.
I noticed this process was made more difficult for patients because sometimes their assigned clinician, if their clinician was a LMFT for example, wasn’t legally allowed to sign the Notice of Certification, making the patient unnecessarily confused about what the treatment team was doing. Consequently, I sought to remedy this situation, and hopefully provide a better service to our patients, by changing the law to include LMFTs and LPCCs. I spoke with CAMFT and they agreed to sponsor legislation that would remedy this situation, and AB 191 was born. Thus far, I have testified before the California State Assembly Health Committee and will soon testify before a senate committee. AB 191 was approved by the assembly and, if passed by the senate, will go to the governor’s office for consideration.
What have you learned from this experience of testifying at the Capitol?
This has been a rewarding process and I’m grateful to CAMFT for sponsor AB 191. In addition to helping the patients we treat, the best thing about this experience is getting to observe how we, as individuals, can engage in civic government to make things better. I’m glad I spoke-up and mentioned the need for changes to current law and I hope my meager efforts to improve the delivery of mental health services in these settings well reflects the patients whose lives we labor to improve.