About Me: My Professional Story
My motivation for creating this website is to provide information to my clients and others who happen to stumble upon these pages. I think that there are tons of wonderful resources out there to get people thinking about themselves and their lives in new and interesting…and healthier ways. I’ve come across so many of these resources that I decided I needed to get them in an organized, easy-to-access format so that I can tell my clients a simple place to go to learn more about some of their specific areas of struggle. I firmly believe that one of my principal roles in working with people is that of an educator; helping them to learn about how their own personal brain works. Some of these are things that our brains are hardwired to do because of evolution and genetics, and there are skills and strategies that people can learn that emphasize their brain’s strengths and provide support for its weaknesses and “growth edges” (to quote an old college professor of mine, Dr. Michael Ellis).
To introduce myself, I am a professional counselor licensed to practice in the state of Pennsylvania. I graduated from SUNY Albany with my masters of science (MS) degree in counseling, with a specialty in “rehabilitation,” in December ’92. The specialty in rehab means that I did coursework that specifically taught me about various types of “disabilities” a person might need to accommodate to and cope with, both physical and mental. Additionally, I learned how to help clients determine what kind of career they can/want to have as well as be an advocate for clients’ rights in terms of access to government services and rights in the school and work world.
My university strongly encouraged us to choose this specialty because, at that time, social workers were the only masters-level clinicians who could obtain a license to be in private practice and be paid by health insurance companies. So, the rehabilitation specialty, at that time, had the clearest path to employment because disability insurance companies and the government do hire rehab counselors to help people get back to work. Fortunately, the American Counseling Association continued to advocate for our profession and now, all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico allow professional counselors who meet specific standards of training and experience to be licensed. I am deeply thankful for this because I feel like I’m finally in the dream job I’ve always wanted. I love going to work, listening to people’s stories, and walking with them for a time in their journey towards less emotional struggle and more peace and happiness in their lives.
Taking a step back to before starting work on my MS degree, I took a year off from my formal education and was employed as a child care worker with children in residential placement. I continued to work part-time in this job as I put myself through graduate school. While the work was hard, I really enjoyed doing it and some days wish I could go back to a position like that again, working every day, directly, with kids who needed frequent interventions to help shape their behavior and build coping strategies that would ready them to return to their lives out in the world. The residential center, at that time, was shifting from serving children with severe/profound developmental disabilities to serving children with an “average” IQ but significant mental health challenges. I was fortunate to have been there during that time because I had the opportunity to learn so much while working with such a variety of children. To this day, I still think of those “kids” (they would be in their 20’s and 30’s now!) and their families, and wonder how they are and what their lives are like.
Fast forward again to graduating with my MS, I worked for three and a half years at the Albany County Children’s Mental Health Clinic. Because of the limitations of my degree at that time, I started off in a intake/case management position but was then allowed to branch out to doing some clinical work with children and their families. In particular, I gained a lot of experience in working with kids in crisis, evaluating whether they should be hospitalized temporarily to keep them from hurting themselves while they started therapy and possibly some medications to help them feel better enough to safely return to their homes.
I left the clinic job when I relocated to the Philadelphia area and, here, started out working as as “clinical coordinator” for MENTOR on their “residential” program. This program placed kids with significant mental health issues who couldn’t be managed by their families (or by a foster family if they were in the custody of the state) but could find success in the home of an unrelated adult to whom the agency had provided special training for working with mental health issues. This job was a tough one because these kids had so many needs and the expectation was that the coordinator provide therapy directly to the child, support and ongoing training to the mentor parents, as well as intervene therapeutically with the family of origin, when possible, to help work towards reunification.
After the birth of my first child, who had ongoing medical issues, I decided to step out of the work world for a while and turn my attention to my new family. I kept myself pretty busy with raising my kids as well as various volunteer projects and a dash of computer consulting on the side for 14 years. And then in December 2012, I stepped back into my profession working as a therapist in a group practice, Psychology and Counseling Associates. I learned so much at PCA that I finally worked up the nerve to step out on my own. In June of 2017, I opened my own private practice in the heart of historic West Chester. It’s been a wonderful adventure and I’m so happy to be at this place in my career. I LOVE my job. The work that I do now is what I imagined myself doing when I first started working on my masters degree. I am working with people who want to make a change in their lives and are motivated to learn and try new things. It is so exciting to see the strength and resilience that my clients have and I am honored that they allow me to be a part of this positive change in their lives. Plus, I wind up learning so much from each of them!
Best of luck to everyone. One of my mottos comes from Marsha Linehan, PhD, creator of DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), we are all “doing the best that we can.” Each of us is the sum of all of our life experiences and genetics. This is what we bring into each moment of our lives and it makes us who we are right now at this moment in time. Nobody wants to struggle and experience pain. If we knew a better way to do things…if we were capable of a better way to do things in this moment, certainly we would do it! Accept yourself for who you are right now, for all of your strengths AND your challenges, because YOU are doing the best that you can. At the same time, doing the best that we can in this moment also means acknowledging that there’s always room to grow and learn and do things better. So, best of luck in your journey of life-long learning!
Andrea Morganstein, MS, LPC