Name: Cynthia Lemus
Job Title: Associate Clinical Social Worker – Outpatient Mental Health
Years In The Industry: 10 years
Home City: San Fernando Valley
Rose: What is it about the mental health therapy field that first captured you?
Cynthia: Mental health has always been such a taboo topic, especially in my family as a Latina. I remember growing up not really being able to express my thoughts and feelings especially about trauma. Mental health awareness is so important as well as trauma to really understand children and even adult behaviors. I loved knowing that even with trauma and mental health issues the families and kids I worked with show so much resilience in their life. All they needed was someone to be there to listen and remind them that they are not alone…that is why I wanted to be a therapist.
Rose: What was the first step you took in pursuing a career in the mental health therapy field?
Cynthia: My first step was going back to school, I was pregnant at 19 with no idea what I wanted as far as a career goes. I have always loved working with children, so I decided to get my Bachelors in Child Development. During that time I taught and coached at L.A.’s Best, an after school program;for five years. Soon after, I became the Director for STAR Education, another after school program; for another five years.
After being in school I realized I wanted to become a Therapist, so I decided to complete my Masters in Social Work. During grad-school I interned at LAUSD Mental Health for one year and then moved onto another internship at the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter for families, as a Case Manager.
Majoring in Social Work was great for me because it was a broad enough field to become a Therapist, as well as learn about advocacy and creating programs. To date, I’ve been working with children and families for over 10 years.
Rose: How many children/families did you help before feeling confident in your role?
Cynthia: That’s a tough question. I’m confident in my skills because of the training, education, and experience I have acquired, but I continue to learn everyday from the children and families that I assist. The mental health field is always changing and new challenges occur everyday, so you always have to read, train, and ask questions to continue improving your skills.
Rose: What improvements have you made as an Associate Clinical Social Worker since your first case?
Cynthia: I love this, so when I was at LAUSD I was so nervous to ask children about suicide and about their trauma. I was scared, but I had a great supervisor who was able to push me out of my comfort zone. So, since my first case I have learned the power of building a therapeutic relationship with my clients in order for them to really open up and trust me. I would say my biggest improvement has been being able to create a safe environment where my clients can be open and trusting.
Rose: If you could go back, is there anything you would tell your younger self to do differently?
Cynthia: I really do believe timing is everything so I think everything I did was suppose to be this way. But I would say to my younger and current self to practice more self-care. To invest in self-love and to be proud of yourself.
Rose: What advice do you have for younger people who are considering a career as a Clinical Social Worker?
Invest in self-love and be proud of yourself.Cynthia Lemua
Cynthia: My advice is we NEED you. The need for Therapists in our communities is real. There are so many families and children who are in need of services, in need of someone who is patient, loving and believes in them. This career can be emotionally draining but it’s worth it and remember to always practice self-care!
Rose: Anything you’d like to add?
Cynthia: My hope is that this article will help destigmatize social work and raise awareness about mental health. Social Workers can be Therapists, Case Managers, but our main job is to advocate for the vulnerable populations.
I was nervous about writing this because my job may not be the “coolest”, but my fiance and best friend consistently remind me that I’m helping families and children everyday, so I’d say its a pretty awesome career.