Pros and Cons: My Non-Profit Life

So, I can’t really tell you exactly where I work…it would be a conflict of interest.  However, I can tell you that I work at a local non-profit mental health clinic in the Borderland of El Paso, Texas.

For those of you therapists or clinicians who are reading this blog, I hope that you have found your dream place to work.  Non-profit clinics or agencies are not for everyone, nor are private practices.

When I first entered the counseling field as a fully licensed and board certified counselor, I realized that it would be difficult to find a job with all of my requirements.  It was sort of like trying to find the “perfect man” or “partner”.  After all, I would spend 40 hours per week with this entity, so I had to take my criteria and search very seriously.

I knew that I needed a place with lots of room….different kinds of space.  For example, room to express my creativity and room for error.  This is all I knew I wanted in the beginning.  That idea has since evolved into a more robust list of requirements.

I’ve worked for different companies over the years employed within different roles:

Psychiatric Hospital Intake Center=not for me.  Too hectic.  “Heads to beds” mentality, which I viewed as unethical.  Gained 22 pounds and lost hair.  Pretty sure I got Acute Stress Disorder from intercom codes.

Larger Not-For-Profit Agency in a Shelter Setting=was okay but not stimulating enough.  Because the company had a larger mission and vision, it was hard to make changes in the system.  Creativity was not really allowed.  Room for error…pfft…We would probably get fired.  We couldn’t even leave the premises for lunch.

Multi-Systemic Therapist with Juveniles Involved in the Justice System=fun, lots of variety, very demanding.  I was on call 24/7 for my clients.  Caseload was small, but had to run around all over town for my clients and visit homes.  Got laid off because funding/grants were cut.

Country Bar=hectic, interesting, lots of work for little pay.  This was after I got laid off from the MST job (above) and desperately needed a gig.  Got yelled at by a drunk white dude…gave my apron back immediately and left with $60 for the night.  I go maybe once a year to enjoy some time out and get oddly nostalgic.

Local Community College= Taught Psychology 101 for a couple of semesters…it was fun revisiting all the basic psych stuff from undergrad.  I hated having to fail a student for plagiarism on a final paper.  Inconsistent schedule, so it wasn’t a steady form of income.  I was allowed to be creative though.

My Current Local Non-Profit Clinic Job=fun, interesting, sometimes causes burnout and existential crises.  The clients I see now are mostly children with trauma histories.

Pros of the Current Non-Profit Gig:  I have lots of creative freedom as far as how I conduct therapy sessions with kids.  I get to create activities, games, and trainings for my clinic, the community, and clients.  Intellectually stimulating and a high standard for care=ethical and not-boring.  For the most part, my colleagues here are understanding and competent.  There are opportunities to be certified in EBTs (I got my certification in TF-CBT and PCIT, currently working on EMDR Certification).  Our staff have a camaraderie and rapport comparable to brothers in blue.  We have access to an in-clinic psychiatrist and have a weekly case staffing so we aren’t all alone in support and decision making.  I don’t have to do my own billing or schedule my own clients.  We have access to legal people if we get subpoenaed.  Potlucks where all the staff bring their favorite goodies are great too.

So looking at the “pros” above, you may be wondering, “what bad could there possibly be at a place like this?”  Well, the label “non-profit” should be the giveaway here.  If someone needs supplies, a new desk, a computer mouse, light bulbs or working toilets, you’re crap out of luck. (pun?)  Money and funding is a huge issue for all non-profits right?  Well, not necessarily.  I’ve heard of some non-profits who have private funders that continuously supply needs for years and years.  Ours, not so much….  Part of the problem, I think, is that mental health is underappreciated, under-served, and invisible. I ain’t complaining much, but it’d be nice to get a higher salary for all the expertise and responsibility. (This goes for all our staff, not just me.)  Sometimes because of our funding crises, management can be a tad out of touch with the clinicians…but it all works out in the end.  Also, no minorities in leadership is a thing here (trying to make it a bigger thing, but that’s exhausting…and would merit a blog post of its own).

So now as a “seasoned” therapist with experiences in different roles, I can say that I like agency life.  This is a small window view into the world of my job at this place.  By no means is this the ultimate guide to non-profit work.  Every agency and clinic has its own pace, culture, and requirements.  As long as I continue to be appreciated here, I might as well stick around and see how much I can grow.

My passion in life is to conjure up the importance of mental health, mental illness, emotional struggles, psychiatric care and trauma.  I try to do so with this blog.  I also now have a podcast that is all about mental health ( SHAMELESS PLUG.  No longer will mental health be in the dark in my community….at least not if I have anything to do with it.



Published by ThroughTheEyesOfaTherapist

Mental health clinician, advocate, boxer, drummer, healer. Podcaster, blogger and creative spirit. Cristal Martinez Acosta has been working as a therapist within the border community of El Paso, Texas since 2011. Cristal is a Licensed Professional Counselor Board Approved Supervisor (LPC-S) in the state of Texas and a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) through the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). She graduated with honors from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology. Then she attended New Mexico State University (CACREP accredited), where she received a Master of Arts in Counseling and Guidance with a 4.0 GPA. She has experience working with youth and adults who have been affected by traumatic events. Her areas of interest are childhood abuse, domestic violence, anxiety, high-risk youth, depression, Reality Therapy, and immigration issues. She is certified in both Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Parent Child Interaction Therapy and trained in EMDR, EFT, Motivational Interviewing, and ITCT-A.

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