After serving 3 years in the Army, multiple military moves and transitions, I became a stay-at-home mom for nine years (2006-2015), during which time I earned my Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. When I graduated from my Master’s program in 2015, my Army husband received orders resulting in our family completing a military move to Texas. During this time, I commuted to New Mexico, where I worked as a Residential Treatment Therapist. A couple of years later, we were transferred to Georgia. Instead of continuing to work on my independent therapy license, I tried a few different jobs but was unable to find a good fit. That is, until I finally landed a position that I enjoyed and satisfied my passion of helping people as a Suicide Prevention Program Manager for a division of Army Reservists out of Fort Benning, GA.
Unfortunately, I was only able to remain in this position for slightly over a year due to yet another military move, this time to South Carolina. When we relocated, the job market was very slim for my career field, so I again had trouble finding suitable employment and ended up taking a much lower position at Army Community Services. Despite feeling underemployed, unchallenged and not able to fully utilize my skills and talents in the mental health field, I decided to still give the position 100%. During that time, I also worked some evenings providing therapy to at-risk kids in the foster care system.
My passion for helping people within the mental health field wasn't fully satisfied or realized with this work, so I waited until our next military move to be more picky about my career search and determine where my interests were. When we settled in our “forever” location of Minnesota, and my spouse made the decision to retire from his military service, I was able to begin my job search yet again. When searching in communities close to military bases, I applied for a lot of jobs but was frustrated to receive very few calls for interviews. After arriving in Minnesota, I was relieved to receive a number of interviews and was fortunate enough to accept a job just 5 months after my job search began.
I found a position at the VA working with veterans in an inpatient setting as an Addiction Therapist, which is where I’m currently working. I’m thankful for the many opportunities I’ve had while moving around to various locations - I won’t (and can’t) forget the struggle of each attempt to relaunch my career and reinvent myself every few years while not having much of an opportunity to grow and thrive within the mental health field. At times, I still feel underemployed because the VA where I work only recognizes social workers and not mental health counselors. This is a barrier for any upward mobility in my current position, but I truly enjoy working with veterans. I am advocating for the VA to start hiring therapists, which would open up growth potential for myself and others that hold similar roles. I will keep trying and I refuse to take “no” for an answer!
Click here for a profile of Jessica and to learn what she felt was the most frustrating part of her relaunch journey.