2010-2020 A Decade of “Returns” and New Directions💫

As 2020 fast approaches, I can’t help but think its necessary to reflect on what was the most ambitious, self-directed, and awe-inspiring ten years of my life. There wasn’t a moment I would re-live, so much to celebrate, and nothing I’ll ever be able to forget.

The decade began with applications to graduate school. I was applying for my MSW degree in social work, and was eager to return to Binghamton for another tour of duty on campus. After crying out in joyous sweet vindication, I was able to process the fact that I was accepted for graduate study after being rejected so violently years prior by the English department.

Months passed, and before I knew it I was ready to move into my apartment in Binghamton. I arrived early just to savor the feeling of re-capturing my youth as an undergraduate student. But alas, there would be no recapturing, especially of my youth. Instead/just a five car pile up on the nearby highway after being T boned by another car running a red light.

The jaws of life, and several emergency service workers managed to pull me out of my car. All that fuss to rip me out of the car just to find out my pelvis was broken. I wont drone on and on about my broken pelvis, or starting graduate school after years of anticipation, just to survive with my father sleeping next to my bed on the floor, and caring for me while my bones healed. Sure, I may have wheeled into my internship in a chair, but I cruised on all dignity cylinders that entire semester laying the groundwork for my masters.

In 2011, I started my first internship in mental health working for the Southern Tier ACT team. I learned first hand what evidence based treatment was, and a whole lot more about working on an interdisciplinary treatment team. While I went to nursing rounds my first year, the nurses dominated meetings, unless of course a doctor was present, at which point, the hierarchy was painting an ugly portrait of medicalized social work interventions.

I wanted no part of that, so when I joined the ACT team I was thrilled. We all sat at the same table, discussing the same people, in our own unique language and bringing with us our own style of interventions while following a modality, of course. But no matter how prescribed Evidence Based really is, nothing can prepare a person for an ACT visit in the rural upstate hinterlands of the Southern Tie. Five counties, one catchment area, and one team to cover the vast lands assigned to this team.

In 2012, I graduated with my MSW from Binghamton. This was the first time my parents could attend a college graduation due to the unusual circumstances of the end of my undergrad experience. Graduate school may have passed, but I continue to hold on to the meaningful relationships I crossed paths with there to this day. 2012 was a year of transitions. I transitioned into full time work that year with the Mental Health Association of Westchester as a mobile mental health therapist in children’s mental health. I was happy to be back in the field but not so happy about doing the work without the guidance and strategy of teamwork. I labored through that year, and the next.

Later that year, I passed my clinical exam, and was awarded my LCSW, clinical licensure. I was able to mobilize my new credential and take back the power in my own care and switched providers for my own mental health treatment. I also found myself working for an old boss from mobile mental health in the Bronx at a clinic on Courtlandt Avenue. This would be my home for the next three years.

In 2014, an opportunity came up to join the agency’s ACT Team. In a heartbeat, I jumped on it. I was the new family specialist on the team. I was also a peer professional in another program with a hand in the same client base. I was matched up with clients poorly and burning from two sides of the same candle. I was in dual, sometimes triple roles. I complained, but my recommendations fell on deaf ears. Finally, after the situation devolved further, I became the target of bullying by our team’s secretary. I again complained. While I wasn’t outright dismissed, my complaint was met with a response that “whatever is happening doesn’t fit the definition for bullying” and so, I was forced to look elsewhere for work again.

Office in the Bronx clinic

The next three years were outrageously fun. Bosses would come and go, staff would cycle in and out, but I was passionate about what I did and loved doing it. I became a supervisor for interns, and took a class at Lehman so I could work with interns in the field. I worked with interns for two years, both masters and undergraduate level. I love students, and working with them in a meaningful way is my way of giving back to the community and people who can benefit from a steady reflective hand in their social work field education.

In 2017, I found out one of journal article submissions was accepted for publication. The article was on injections and its impact on therapy, etc. This moment, and the restored belief in my own abilities, jettisoned my writing to a new dimension. I churned out material from this point of departure into the next decade. Getting published every six months in the same journal, I went on to launch my blog mental health affairs. There, I would mix and match ideas until finding just the right language to address any given clinical, peer, or practice issue in mental health treatment. I still blog today.

Standing at the podium in a Fordham classroom (LC campus)

2018 was success on top of success. More journal articles were accepted, and my blog was in full swing. I was now preparing for bigger endeavors. Mid year I opened my private practice in my home town. In that office, I would write my first two books, and set the stage for a number of other advances in the discourse. These advances would creep into the following year. Not before journeying to England on the Queen Mary to speak at a blogging conference in London. Then, in 2019, NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) published one of my articles on my parents, and another, more lengthy piece in their magazine. As far as I was concerned, I had taken a big issue years prior, and brought it front and center to the national level for the country to evaluate.

My practice in Ardsley, New York

My cat Cesaer, Age 3

NAMI article in the Advocate Spring 2019

I also began teaching graduate level social work at Fordham University. Teaching Family Oriented Treatment and a Macro practice class, I finally reached the highest level in academe for my station. I also had the opportunity to lecture in a university and do role plays with students. I truly consider my days in Lincoln Center on the sixth floor the most rewarding out of all my experiences so far as a social worker in mental health

High Tea on Queen Mary

All of this was so exciting I didn’t leave room for too many book tours, and self-promotion. SARDAA (Schizophrenia Alliance of America) positively reviewed my book University on Watch/Small Fingernails, along with Psychreg, and Psychreg Journal of Psychology. what more could I possibly hope for in a decade? Another interview? What else is there? Time will pass soon enough, and we will see, just you wait and see. Today, I sit on the board of CITY VOICES, a peer run newspaper. Tomorrow, who knows?

SARDAA Book Review of University on Watch

As for me, I am excited about the opportunities of the new year and decade. The last ten years was certainly recovery and a road test in sustainable behaviors when living with a chronic mental health condition. So, this really isn’t one man’s story of recovery, and my personal victory lap. Instead, its really something a little more global. Indeed, I am sharing all this to resonate with others facing what seem like insurmountable challenges in their life to hear it is possible to eliminate any barrier and understand it as a vehicle of infinite change and possibilities.

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  • J. Peters writes on his lived experience, and also brings his story into his work. J blogs daily on his site mentalhealthaffairs.blog and for other sites around the United States and Europe, bringing his passion for mental health to consumers everywhere.

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