Natalie Brown is a clinical supervisor with People Incorporated Mental Health Services, a Twin Cities-based nonprofit that provides more than 60 programs in the Twin Cities metro area. She works for the children’s programming area formerly known as “Family Networks.”
“I started working in our mental health clinic about nine years ago, doing intakes for new clients. I had just finished my undergraduate degree. I handled scheduling, calendars and administrative work,” she said.
As Brown learned more about therapy, she got interested in pursuing additional education. She returned to school for a Master’s Degree in Social Work, specializing in mental health and intervention. She continued to work full-time in her administrative position.
“Halfway through my MSW, People Incorporated started doing a diversion/restitution program. Young people were diverted into that program instead of going to court. In that program, I began providing direct service to clients. It wasn’t a therapeutic program, so I could do it without the master’s degree,” she said.
A clinical practicum in her graduate program gave Brown experience doing therapy. After she became a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW), she continued to do diversion work but also began seeing therapy clients. When another position opened, she moved out of diversion and focused “100 percent of my efforts doing clinical work,” she said.
At the end of 2012, she applied for a supervisor position. She moved into the position in February 2013. As Clinical Supervisor of the Adolescent Day Treatment Program, she said, “I oversee and provide supervision around mental health treatment — the different treatment options, the best needs of clients, how to coordinate that.”
What were the benefits of starting in an administrative job before moving into a professional position?
I was fortunate to be in a really good program and have the opportunity to grow the way that I did. I think in this field it’s possible to do that because there are a lot of different levels. I was able to work with clients, but not in a clinical capacity. I was able to have a better sense of security that I was in the right place, doing the right things.
What was it like to be working full-time while going to graduate school?
Where I got my Master’s, at St. Thomas/St. Kate’s, they were geared toward working adults. They have classes after work. They have a two-year program, but I did mine over four years. It’s a combination of students right out of undergrad, plus people working full time and people coming back for a second career. It was helpful that I was able to apply what I was learning. At times it was hard because of the workload — it’s just a lot to do. But having a job that I enjoyed, and I kind of knew this is what I want to do, that helped. I was going to school to be a clinical therapist, and I got to be in that environment and see the work we did every day. That kept me motivated. I had really supportive people I was working with.
What does it take to be successful as a clinical therapist?
Patience is a big thing. I also think being creative — looking at interventions, changing things up for the person you’re working with. Being empathetic is huge, being able to develop relationships with people, enjoying being around people. You need flexibility — there’s not one day here that’s the same.
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