A day in the life of a psychologist
In this interview, we spoke to Nella Ciciulla, a mental health advisor, about her daily role and responsibilities, as well as her career highlights.
What inspired your mental health career?
I knew I wanted to get into this field when I started a bachelor’s research project in forensic mental health. I had the opportunity to do an internship with the public prosecutor to learn and research about mentally ill offenders. This gave me a different take on mental health, where the stigma behind those behaving outside of “typical social norms” was frowned upon.
When I saw that many criminal acts were trauma-related, I wanted to help people with mental health problems.
What are the main tasks in your current job?
I currently have a private practice in Rockledge, Florida. I started the practice at the beginning of the pandemic so I was just alone when I first started in May 2020. After seeing the great need for therapy in my county for just a few months, I knew I wanted to expand.
Since then I have hired 7 contract therapists with the intention of expanding further in response to the great need in my community. I am currently running the practice together with a wonderful team. I continue to see customers on a daily basis, with an emphasis on court-ordered reviews and tests.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day begins by focusing on my self-care – going to the gym and having a big cup of coffee. Then I go to the office and do therapies with planned clients, write forensic reports and do appraisals for the mental health court here in Brevard.
What is the best thing about your job?
Discharge patient! I know this may sound strange, but I enjoy seeing a client get to the point where they no longer have to rely on me for treatment. They have learned the skills to deal with struggles and work, and are confident that they can achieve their goals.
I enjoy seeing progress in every session with clients and when they feel empowered.
What is the greatest challenge for you in working in psychiatry?
There are many challenges associated with working in this area. One of the first challenges a therapist must overcome is compassion fatigue. Not letting every client’s stressors go home every night. It can get difficult at times, but we need to maintain our own mental health to help others.
When we start this negative cycle, it will continue and spiral where we can either get burned out or affect our families. Because of this, self-care as a therapist is essential.
What has been your proudest achievement in your entire career?
Definitely open the Bella Mental Health Services. This was my 10 year goal after graduating from high school, but I was able to achieve it within 5 years.
I feel good at helping the community and raising awareness about mental health.
What was the most exciting project you worked on?
I would say Bella Mental Health’s first fundraiser. In May 2021, we celebrated Mental Health Awareness Month and raised over $ 1,000 for Family Promise of Brevard, an organization that supports families with homelessness.
What would you recommend to people pursuing careers in mental health?
Don’t get into this field without a passion for helping others. If you come into this field for anything other than helping those in need, you are wasting your time. It’s obvious when a therapist just wants a paycheck and has picked the wrong field.
You must have a passion for mental health and a desire for change. I hate to hear or see how psychologists don’t take pride in their work as it directly affects every client we see. It can be an amazing profession when you work hard and have a desire to always be better than you were yesterday.
Is there anything else about your career that you would like to share with our readers?
Be aware that you may have to start from below. Don’t expect to graduate with your master’s degree and do 6 digits. As I said before, when you get into this mindset it will be obvious. The more experienced you are in mental health, the better you will become as a clinician.
I started out in social work and childcare and while it was extremely exhausting and hard work, I am so grateful that I did this for a few years before delving further into the field. There is an old saying: “First you have to get your hands dirty”. This is absolutely true in this area, but it is worth it in the end.
Where can readers find more information?
About Nella Ciciulla
Nella Ciciulla-Albrecht is a licensed mental health consultant and is currently doing her PhD. in Clinical Psychology from NorthCentral University. She received her Masters in Psychology Counseling from Capella University in 2015 and her Bachelor in Psychology from the Florida Institute of Technology in 2011.
Nella is also a qualified mental health counselor supervisor with the Florida Department of Health. She has extensive experience in the forensic field and working with people with severe, persistent mental illness. As director of forensic mental health at a nonprofit agency, she proved to be an outstanding performer in acute care and forensic psychology in the mental health field.
Nella has proven successful in leadership, operational excellence, and organizational development with a strong understanding of the elements of community needs. Recognized for inspiring management team members to excel and foster creative work environments, she was nominated as a top 12 finalist for LEAD Brevard in 2020.
A multi-talented, passionate, licensed therapist and certified forensic mental health evaluator, child custody evaluator and court-appointed juvenile competence evaluator who is consistently rewarded for success in planning and operational improvement. She continues to want to influence her community as a forensic scientist for the 18th District Court in Brevard County and has also served individuals in neighboring counties. In addition to her private practice, Nella is an Associate Professor at the Florida Institute of Technology