Over the years I have had many varied jobs; car sales, auto & truck parts sales, and over the road truck driver. It wasn’t until one day after I gave up the trucking, that two friends in separate conversations, suggested I become a counselor. 20 minutes later I saw a billboard advertising Addictions Counseling at CTC. I called the number and here I am, five years later, working in a career field I love.
I had not stepped foot in a classroom in 30 years, so I started slow, just one class, the next semester I took two, the next year I moved up to full time. The professors and staff encouraged me and worked tirelessly to help me become who I wanted to be, instead of who I had to be for many years to make ends meet. Now I get to do what makes my heart sing.
CTC Mental Health Services Department helped me reach my dream. The program gave me skills and knowledge I use every day. I get to see clients have hope again, to start to like and respect themselves again - and of course a lot of paperwork during the process.
I made some great friends along the way both personal and professional, I have grown immensely, thanks to my experience at CTC. One step at a time I started towards my dreams - the greatest crime would have been to wait for my dreams to find me.
When I got out of the Army in 2011, I knew I was going back to school, but I was not exactly sure what my focus would be. As a combat medic in the military, I knew I really enjoyed helping others, but I did not necessarily want to work in the medical field. While I was completing my lower level classes, I heard about the social work program here at CTC, so I signed up for the Intro to Social Work class. I knew immediately being a social worker was exactly what I was looking for in a career. My goal is to be able to help other veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), like myself.
The social work program at CTC is full of professors who have worked in the field, so they teach from experience. They know the demands of the job, what will be expected of you and what you should expect. All the professors in the program work hard to motivate and challenge the students to do their best.
I completed my practicum at a Scott & White clinic in Temple. It was an amazing experience for me and a great opportunity to test the knowledge and skills I had learned in the program. I felt completely prepared when I began my practicum hours.
I graduated from Central Texas College in May of 2013 with an associate’s degree in social work specialization. I am now a student at Texas A&M - Central Texas in the social work program.
For any students who are new to the social work program at CTC, I offer this advice. Listen to your professors. They are a wealth of knowledge. Yes, there will be times you think your professor is torturing you with assignments, but they are just preparing you for your future as a social worker. Also, get to know your classmates. There will be times when you will need each other’s help and support. Good luck ya’ll.
Why I chose my degree... Initially I chose at-risk specialization because of my son who was diagnosed with Asperger. I wanted to help other children who were at risk of falling through the cracks due to the lack of communication between parents and schools. My education would allow me to be a voice for children caught between the school’s obligation to educate with limited knowledge/skills about the needs of at-risk children and the parents’ intense reactions to their children being seen as “different” or being “labeled.” In the middle of those two is a child who wants to learn and grow just like their peers. Until someone brings both sides together to listen and understand from the child’s perspective, they are the ones who suffer the most.
What I enjoyed most about my time here...Growing as a person and a professional. The mental health services classes are not just about doing assignments. The philosophy of the department is to engage students at the deepest level possible. Critical thinking exercises force students into first-hand experiences that go way beyond understanding concepts and theories found in a textbook. The instructors are personally involved in creating an atmosphere of trust and safety, both of which are necessary skills of any mental health professional. The discomfort students feel in those moments gives them a better understanding of what they might encounter in a practice setting. Their understanding of the process is sharpened from both perspectives to the degree they can relate to what their client might be feeling and, at the same time, be compassionate as a professional. As a result, they have a well-informed perspective from which to build the professional/client relationship.
Where I did my practicum and why I chose that site...The Fort Hood Family Advocacy Program (FAP) is involved in prevention of spousal and child abuse through education and support. I chose the site because it allowed me to be involved with educating military families about the importance of communication and relationships. During a time of military conflict, it is important to help families understand how deployment and separation impact family functioning. The primary focus of my placement was to educate adolescents, teens and parents about communication and dealing with the stress they experienced as a normal part of military life.
Instead of isolating and not addressing their feelings, families were taught ways to recognize their individual strengths and learn how to use them to support the family unit. Some of the most rewarding moments I experienced involved seeing children afterwards and having them introduce me to their family member who had returned from deployment. When they talked about things they learned and how those lessons helped them cope with missing their deployed parents, I felt like I had made a difference.
What challenges I overcame...As a single mother working and going to school full time, it was easy for me to give up and say the load was too much. I was also in the early part of my son’s diagnosis so there were many things I did not know or understand about Asperger. On top of work and school, I often had to go to his school and help his teachers understand his behavior. I wondered how many single parents were in my shoes but did not have the benefit of being connected to people like the faculty in the Mental Health department. It helped me further recognize the importance of supportive relationships. By the grace of God I managed to finish with two degrees and a stronger sense of purpose.
Where I am now working...I am working at a college in Kansas as a licensed masters social worker. I am also working part-time as a youth counselor at a psychiatric residential treatment facility for females between the ages of 9 and 18.
What I learned in the department that helps me in my current role...EVERYTHING I learned about myself and the field of social work helps me in my current role. From the very first foundational course to my practicum placement, I gained knowledge and experience I found to be invaluable to me as a graduate student and professional. Processing my own experiences in class helped me cope with feelings that would have otherwise been traumatic when encountering similar situations in my clients at the residential treatment facility. My own resistance to exploring change taught me to be more understanding when encountering resistance with my clients. At the same time, experiencing freedom gave me insight to help my clients understand how rewarding the work of counseling and therapy could be to someone ready for change but afraid of the process. I can say I know what it’s like because I have “been there.”
Advice I would give to current/future students...Absorb everything said in class. If it does not apply to you at the moment, tuck it away for future reference. At some point in your career you will have an “ah-ha” moment where those little nuggets of information are worth more than gold.
DO the work - not just the assignments - the mental and emotional work it takes to be successful. It is never enough just to turn in a paper if you have not learned something about yourself, someone else or life in general.
Everything you experience is a learning one. Just because you don’t feel or respond the way everyone else does to what is happening around you, does not mean you are not cut out to be a mental health professional. The blanket of mental health professionals covering humanity is made up of many different textures and patterns, every single one just as valuable and important as another.
Mental health services is not an easy field by any stretch of the imagination. The mantra I always heard was, “It takes a certain kind of person to be in mental health.” If you are looking for a feel good, glamorous or lucrative career, this is not the profession for you. If you are looking to help someone recognize their value and importance as a part of humanity without factoring in the cost of effort to help them learn, then full speed ahead!
What we do as professionals is rewarding because life for us would be meaningless without it.
I am Kendra, a mental health alumni of CTC. I did two degrees in the program:at- risk youth specialization and chemical dependency specialization as well as earned a certificate in criminal justice addictions. I chose the program because I come from a background that could have very easily sent me in the wrong direction. But I knew there was more out here, and I wanted to give back. I enjoyed the fact CTC offers online education that is accredited and recognized, unlike some of the online schools of today. The professors were always willing to help however they could within reason. Although the entire time wasn’t always easy, it was well worth it.
Once I did finally make it to my practicum, things began to come together. I completed my practicum during the summer of 2013 at Phoenix House in Houston, TX, which is an outpatient recovery and prevention program for adults and adolescents. At Phoenix House, I was able to apply techniques learned from my schooling with CTC such as to leading psychoeducation as well as process groups. I participated in doing client assessments and one-on-one client counseling and follow-ups. They even offered me employment, but I did pass it up only because I do enjoy what I do now and I need to be there for my family. But I can, at any time, make the call and become a part of their team. I absolutely LOVED my experience at Phoenix House and I do keep in touch.
I’m sure some are wondering what I am doing now and how it applies to me degrees. I am a life skills aide for special needs children at an elementary school. In my current position, I use redirection and reinforcers daily to help the students preform the task at hand. We use the ABA and DTT to help our students preform what you and I do without prompting. We set goals for our students through IEP’s, 504’s and ARD’s and we keep data on their progress. So, yes I am applying what I learned through CTC’s Mental Health program. If you want to know what the acronyms are, you will need to get enrolled in to one of the programs.
Now I will say before enrolling into the program, it will be in your best interest to find out about proctoring services available within your area. Also check to be sure the services are in fact open to proctoring for CTC, as this was my biggest obstacle. There were a few times when I was ready to throw the towel in, but Kim Wood, Mental Health coordinator, along with my professors, would help me through the challenges. But, all in all, I would and do highly recommend the Mental Health programs at CTC to anyone wanting to truly make a difference in their own life and the lives of others.