Working In Mental Health Care Is Making Me Sick: A Therapist Laments

(9-6-19)  From My Files Friday – a letter from 2010.

Hi Mr. Earley.

I’m a family therapist in [deleted for privacy] having recently graduated from [a prestigious school]  I interned at a federal correctional facility in its mental health unit and I currently work in a psychiatric residential treatment facility for children ages 6-12 who’ve been through complex trauma.

I’m beyond disgusted with our system.

I’ll be honest — the mental health treatment was better in the federal prison where I have worked than what I’ve witnessed in our community mental health system.

Disconnect Between Management And Clients

My agency recently hired new leadership. Our manager has been onboard for more than a month but has not met any of our clients. It’s extremely sad, but again, based on my observations, people with mental illness are being warehoused.

As a fairly new clinician in the field, I can tell you that many mental health agencies do not offer any orientation or training to assist one in doing their job. I have to put my therapy notes in Microsoft Word because there isn’t a documentation system. I want to leave working in mental health because I live paycheck to paycheck, have to pay for clinical supervision out of my own pocket (the licensing boards are surreal), do not and have not received any training in how to implement therapy with any job I’ve had, and am emotionally spent because of these reasons.

The main reason I believe I’m burnt out is because I deal with children who dissociate from their flashbacks, become violent, and I can’t help them!

It’s not the clients, it’s the system that’s draining me!

Earning an advanced degree taught me theory and the professors claimed we’d learn how to implement therapy once on the job. I’ve worked for a couple of other agencies aside from my current one, and NONE of them trained me in anything.

I was dropped into crisis after crisis and told to fix the problem. I’m at a point where I believe therapy is false and I feel like a phony telling people I provide therapy because I couldn’t even tell you what the hell therapy is!

And there’s nowhere for people to go.

My facility serves children from two states because there aren’t any places near their homes to send these children. I even had an inmate admit to me when I was working in a federal prison that he purposely committed a federal crime to be sent back to our mental health unit because the mental health care was better there than what he could get in the community.

I read your book Crazy while I was in graduate school, and have reread bits and pieces throughout my short career in mental health. It’s revolting that we can’t get people the treatment they need and deserve, and it’s absolutely disgraceful that those who work in mental health and do care to help are not trained to help.

I apologize for this extremely long vent session. I’m sure it’s things you already know plenty about. But working in mental health is making me mentally ill.

I’m emotionally, physically, and financially strained.

I feel as though my education was a waste and that I’ve embarked on a career that made false promises to me and has me making false promises to others. I have no idea what to do; I want to escape and wish there was a way out of this twisted system.

I believe others feel the same way but don’t want to express it. I do not believe I am alone in this. Someone needs to do something to help us do our jobs.

Sign me

Disgusted and Frustrated!

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.