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In the mental health field, professionals' paths are often as diverse as those they aim to help. Every therapist has a unique story to share, fueled by personal experiences and a deep passion for positively impacting the lives of others.
In this month’s Provider Spotlight, Brooke Malensek, a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with Spring Health, is sharing her story. From her initial steps in the field to her specialization in working with adults with ADHD, depression, and anxiety, Brooke’s path has been complex, and Spring Health played a pivotal role in shaping her career.
Can you tell us how you ended up pursuing a career in therapy?
After being out of college for 14 years, I returned to school intending to be a nurse. However, I ended up on a waiting list for two years and felt like I was just spinning my wheels.
I visited the college's career counselor for guidance, and was asked, "Have you ever thought about being a therapist?" I've always been passionate about helping others and empowering them to reach their full potential. The idea resonated with me, and I began researching what it would take to become a therapist.
Considering my age (33 at the time) and the desire to complete my education by the time I turned 40 while still working in a helping profession, I needed to plan my academic journey carefully.
Could you share your professional experience in the therapy field?
After earning my master’s degree, I needed 3,000 supervised hours to advance my therapy career. Fortunately, I connected with a supervisor from my interim program who agreed to oversee my progress. My initial role involved working with children on probation and conducting individual and family therapy sessions in their homes.
Interestingly, in most cases, the underlying issues stemmed from dysfunctional family dynamics rather than the children themselves. I focused on teaching parents essential parenting skills and equipping them with strategies to manage resistance from their children.
This was my first experience in the therapy field, and I dedicated around five years to this job.
How did you transition to working with adults?
After my experience working with children and families in probation settings, I transitioned to a hospital's intensive outpatient facility at a place called Senior Life Solutions. There, I focused on providing therapy to individuals who were 60 and older and struggling with depression, anxiety, and various life challenges.
Some of my clients also had ADHD, and my goal was to help them regain resilience, reintegrate into the community, and enhance their social connections.
However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic presented new obstacles. I had to adapt quickly and learn how to conduct sessions via Zoom, introducing online therapy to seniors who were both uncomfortable and unfamiliar with it.
Despite the challenges, I ran in-person group and individual therapy sessions effectively. In February 2020, I joined Better Help, where I continued providing therapy through telehealth services.
Tell us about your specialties and what led you to focus on these areas.
My specialties include ADHD, anxiety, and depression. I decided to focus on these areas because of my personal experiences, including raising a child with ADHD.
Additionally, I've witnessed family members, coworkers, and friends navigating behavioral health issues. Observing my own son's journey with ADHD, along with my own experiences of anxiety, depression, and ADHD throughout different stages of my life, has given me a deep understanding of these challenges and what can help.
While I don't share personal stories during therapy sessions, I prioritize creating a strong rapport with my clients so they feel comfortable sharing their challenges and goals.
When someone comes to me for therapy, I emphasize that their session is their dedicated time, and it is crucial for me to support them in utilizing that time effectively. Building trust and creating a safe space for open communication are key elements in the therapeutic process.
What brought you to Spring Health?
While receiving therapy myself, I reconnected with a former colleague from my master's program who happened to work at Spring Health. Intrigued by her experience, I decided to explore Spring Health further. Their philosophy, mission statement, and operational processes resonated with me, making it an appealing company to join.
In January 2022, I started working with Spring Health as a contractor, and for the next 10 months, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. The team was responsive and supportive, promptly addressing my concerns or questions. The care team, billing department, and the entire company fosters a conducive and fulfilling work environment.
What was your experience like starting as a contractor and transitioning to full-time at Spring Health?
In October 2022, I reached a point where I wanted to be part of a team and make changes in my career. I noticed Spring Health had full-time positions available. Since I had recently obtained my Washington license, which was a requirement for the role, it felt like a great opportunity.
Transitioning to a full-time role was a natural step to grow with the company and be part of a team. Remote work can sometimes feel isolating, so collaborating with others and learning from their expertise was important to me.
Being part of a team has been fulfilling, and my supervisor has been incredibly open-minded and supportive. Collaborating with other clinicians allows us to share insights and strategies for client care. The support from the care team and provider operations has been invaluable.
Looking back, transitioning to a full-time position at Spring Health was one of my best career decisions.
What are the benefits and challenges of a full-time therapy career?
First, having a set number of clients each week provides stability and allows for better planning and scheduling. Working full-time offers a support system that can be crucial in critical situations.
At Spring Health, I have the ability to reach out to my supervisor or the provider operations and care team for assistance when needed, which wasn't available in my private practice.
Being a full-time provider also allows me to interact with colleagues from different departments, fostering a sense of community within the organization. Meeting unique individuals and gaining insights into their roles and contributions at Spring Health has been rewarding.
However, one challenge I've faced is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. As someone who tends to overwork, I've learned to prioritize downtime and respect boundaries.
My supervisor noticed that I was working during my scheduled time off and encouraged me to establish a better balance between work and personal life. Adjusting to this new mindset was initially challenging, especially when seeing more clients. But creating a healthy balance between work and personal well-being is essential.
What makes a workday feel good? What leaves you feeling accomplished?
For me, a feeling of accomplishment comes from witnessing the progress my clients make. Seeing them actively engaging in therapy and utilizing the coping skills I provide is truly fulfilling.
It's like offering them directions on a map to reach their desired destination, but it's up to them to use those directions effectively. I often give them a toolbox of coping skills, and it's empowering when they choose to implement those strategies.
One particular challenge I often encounter is helping individuals with depression recognize the benefits of behavioral activation. Even engaging in small activities can have a positive impact on their mood. However, when someone is depressed, it can be difficult to realize this.
That's why I emphasize the importance of taking small steps and encourage them to utilize behavioral activation to manage their depression effectively. Witnessing their progress and growth leaves me with a sense of accomplishment and reinforces the value of therapy.
What are your personal and professional goals?
My goal is to visit all 50 states in the United States by 2025. I've already been to 47 states, and interestingly, one of the states I have yet to visit is Maine, despite being licensed to practice there. I also have a strong desire to explore Hawaii and Alaska—the remaining states on my list. Traveling and experiencing different parts of the country has always fascinated me.
Professionally, I strive to continually expand my knowledge and skills in therapy. I aspire to stay updated with the latest research and therapeutic techniques to provide the best possible care to my clients.
I also have a passion for mentoring and teaching others. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with aspiring therapists or psychology students. I was an adjunct professor in the past, and that was a fulfilling experience. I hope to have similar opportunities in the future.
How do you take care of your own mental health?
I prioritize self-care practices. I focus on regular exercise, as physical activity helps my well-being. I find solace in walking, hiking, kayaking, and bike riding. I prioritize getting sufficient sleep and eating healthily.
Socializing is also an important aspect of my mental health care. I cherish spending time with my family, including my husband, daughter in law, 26-year-old son, 19-year-old son, and two-and-a-half-year-old grandson. I find joy in watching my grandson grow, and we have a special bonding time every Wednesday when I accompany him to his speech therapy sessions.
I also engage in activities that bring me pleasure and relaxation. For instance, my youngest son's karate involvement has led us to travel across the United States for his tournaments. It's been exciting to visit places like Las Vegas and Fort Lauderdale.
Lastly, I recognize the value of seeking support from a therapist. Just as I believe in the power of therapy for others, I also benefit from having a therapist who helps me navigate my personal growth and emotional well-being.
Interested in becoming a Spring Health Provider?