Reflection on My Career Path

My journey to solve the problem of reintegration of veterans began my freshman year of high school in a little town called Ashland, Oregon. I had the opportunity to participate in a school spring break trip and on the very first day there, I happened to stumble into a bookstore on the corner of a side street. Previously, a fellow classmate and I had entered into a conversation over the book she had been reading which had to do with mental illness. It sparked my interest and I wanted to find whatever I could regarding the topic. The bookstore had a used copy of Helter Skelter, the book written by the prosecutor in the Charles Manson case, which was the only thing they had available that remotely had to do with mental illness. As soon as I started the book, I could hardly put it down. While its main focus was on Manson’s life and then the case, what I learned about both the mental state of Manson, and that of his followers, was highly fascinating. After that I was hooked and I went on the hunt for other books that focused solely on mental illness, trying to expand my understanding of how the brain worked and what could throw it off. 

Junior year, I signed up to take a human body class with the premise that I needed to understand how the body functioned in relation to the mind.  In the class, there was an assignment regarding mental illness and I decided to dive deeper into posttraumatic stress disorder. After doing research which ranged from reading an article about treatment options to watching the documentary Restrepo, I was disappointed by what I found. There are 21.8 million veterans in the U.S. to only 345,000 Veterans Affairs workers. That is not nearly enough VA workers to provide adequate care to these veterans. They are being stretched thin and sometimes have to turn away those seeking help. Along with limited physical treatment options, drugs are often the perceived solution when in reality they are only a temporary fix. Inevitably, drugs stop working, have horrible side effects, or aren’t readily available. These men and women need concrete coping mechanisms for the symptoms of PTSD that can last them a lifetime. This inspired me to pursue the idea of a more holistic therapy practice which promoted sustainable mental health.

My dream is to open my own practice that provides alternative coping methods to those who suffer from PTSD, mainly veterans and parolees, in tandem with spoken word therapy to help with rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Alternative methods ranging from something physical to build up the body like yoga or strength and conditioning to art therapy or music therapy to keep the mind sharp and distracted have even caught my attention. There has been little research done regarding these kinds of treatment for PTSD but what has been done is positive and hopeful. This topic has a large significance to me because I hold the belief that every human being has dignity and worth no matter who they are or what their background may be. Today, society tends to push aside those it views as “different” and I feel as though I am called to provide support to those who are struggling. Since deciding I want to go into counseling, I have taken two local community college classes to help me better understand the mind. Sophomore year, I took an introductory psychology class and junior year, I took an abnormal psychology class. These are but small steps on a long, hard road that holds many twists and turns which I cannot wait to experience. Taking those classes has only made me more determined to put my ideas into action and be a voice for change toward a more holistic approach to rehabilitation.