Degrees, credentials and experience for career change togeriatric mental health

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by timjohnsonsf, Apr 30, 2012.

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  1. timjohnsonsf


    Apr 30, 2012
    I am very interested in making a career change out of an unrelated profession (operations manager for a large corporate retailer) into mental health, with a focus on geriatric populations. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and am hoping to be able to go to a school in the area.

    Would love to get some insight into these questions so I can better map out the path to doing this:

    1. Degree/Credential: My inclination is that an MSW will be a more useful degree, because there seem to be more opportunities for a gerontology focus vs. MFT. Also, I am interested in having at least a part-time private practice, which is doable with an LCSW credential. Have I got all that right? Are there MFT programs that specialize in issues with older adults? Are there MSW programs that have a mental health focus and are also strong in gerontology? Even more specifically, I'm very interested in working with older gay people.

    Of the options in the Bay Area, which are best for the above goals?

    2. Prep for transition: I have done some volunteering over the years (crisis line, Shanti volunteer, briefly as a hospice volunteer), but nothing particularly recent; I've been gone from these agencies so long, I can't even remember who worked there, and am guessing they cannot remember me either. I'm thinking about letters of rec, but also general preparation to be a strong candidate for a good school. What kinds of volunteer gigs would give me a better foundation, and what's the amount of experience that selective schools are looking for? I would love to be able to apply to start in Fall 2013, and I'm wondering what other useful work I can do in the meantime.

    I'm excited to make this change, and would love some guidance on how to start. Thanks in advance!
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  3. Vasa Lisa

    Vasa Lisa 2+ Year Member

    Dec 8, 2010
    Can't help with the SW aspect - but I too was a career switcher and it was a transformative experience.

    My experience is that we specialize post masters - the grad school experience is just an intro to so many different ways of working and so many different populations.

    I have a couple of friends with the BSW who work in "nursing" homes / assisted living homes and they ADORE their work and find it very satisfying.

    As far as getting some current volunteer hours in - if your interest is geriatrics - it should be easy to get some volunteer time in at a senior center, meals on wheels, assisted living etc. Offer to lead a group, facilitate an activity, teach a skill, or just be a listener to someone who is alone.

    With you interest in working with older gay folks - I would start out with making connections with your AIDS/HIV support groups/agencies and branch out from there.

    There is plenty of room in the field of mental health for career switchers. Welcome.
  4. BeanDip4All

    BeanDip4All emt-abcdefgh 7+ Year Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Palo Alto, CA
    Hi Tim,

    You might want to check out the masters in gerontology offered at SF State. I trained as an Ombudsman for the city for a clinical EC, and several of the other Ombudsmai-(sp?? lol)-in-training were masters students in this program. They had GREAT things to say about it, seems like a cool program.

    Good luck in your career change, btw! Cheers.
  5. timjohnsonsf


    Apr 30, 2012
    Thanks for that info and the kind words! I noticed that program on the SFSU web site, but my concern was that I couldn't pursue an LCSW license with that degree. That especially seemed the case, given that the Gerontology MA program is shorter (in terms of total units) than the MSW. Is there a path to a LCSW that can come from the Gerontology MA?
    Last edited: May 1, 2012

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