Why a Long and Slow Process Can Yield a Lifetime of Rewards

mh_article6Serafina Moushel earned her master’s degree in business administration at National University and worked in the mortgage banking industry for a number of years. Yet, she felt a heartfelt calling to work with people and help them. “I know it sounds very cliché. Yet I’m interested in our brain and how we behave, why we do the things we do, and how we can change behaviors,” she said. Serafina went back to school and earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy from the University of Pepperdine. Thereafter she applied for a job at El Centro de Amistad and discovered a strong community of mental health professionals who believe in empowering lives today for a better tomorrow. Her time at El Centro de Amistad has been “a great growing experience.” “We have our doors open for everybody,” Serafina said, who has been working at the agency for six years and recently became licensed in marriage and family therapy through the California Board of Behavioral Science. She sees a diverse population of clients through the CalWORKS program. The welfare program gives cash aid and services to eligible California families who are in need. Clients get referred through their county social worker employed by the Department of Public Social Services. For many El Centro de Amistad clients who receive services at the agency, they encounter life struggles, financial problems exasperating their depression or anxiety, and barriers to achieve gainful employment. Serafina helps them learn how to cope with their stressors to manage their disorders, gain employment, and be self-sufficient. One client left an impression on her. Experiencing major depressive disorder and body dysmorphic disorder, this CalWORKS participant isolated herself while having to care for a young daughter. She exhibited negative feelings about herself and thought her face was deformed so she covered it with her hair and would not make eye contact. Serafina worked with her for over a year, trying to make small steps toward helping her feel better. Eventually, she cut her hair, exposed her face, and volunteered. She became employed and made significant progress towards becoming more independent. The client could now go and perform daily tasks like going to the grocery store. “She started to feel good about herself, engaging with neighbors, friends, and going out with others,” recalled Serafina. “She established a social network for herself. That was rewarding for me, seeing someone who was so challenging to work with would finally be able to enjoy life and be self-sufficient.” The long and slow process of challenging distorted thoughts and negative thoughts proved for Serafina to be a gratifying approach to making gains for this client. The goal for El Centro de Amistad is to empower lives, and Serafina truly demonstrated why she, herself, took the long road to a fulfilling career. Serafina’s heartfelt calling has touched the lives of many clients like this young mother.