Kimberly Russell BSW/RSW
FASD Mental Health Therapist
Do you self-identify as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit? If yes, with what community do you affiliate?
I am a member of Nunatukavut (the former Labrador Métis Nation). I was born and raised on the southeast coast of Labrador in the town of Mary’s Harbour. I currently live in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
What is a typical day like for you?
It is difficult to say what a typical day is like for me since I do many different things on a daily basis. Each day at work for me is different from the next. As a FASD Mental Health Therapist I work with people who have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FASD is a disability caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. In other words, I work with people who have disabilities because they were affected by alcohol before they were born due to alcohol that their mothers drank. These mothers usually did not know they were pregnant or were addicted to alcohol when they drank during pregnancy. My clients also have a variety of mental health illnesses as well such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, ADHA, Obsessive Compulsive disorder, etc. Mental health illnesses are illnesses of the brain that affect our emotions and the way we act. I work with these individuals to treat their mental illnesses and to help them have a better quality of life. One of the main parts of my job is counselling. Counselling is usually a one hour meeting once every week or every two weeks with someone where we talk about problems that they are having and their emotions. During counselling we then try to come up with ways to help them feel better. Some of the other things I do include meeting with other professionals such as doctors & teachers, other community agencies such as children services and employment Services, and family members to collect information about my clients or to give them information about my client in order to help them with issues they are experiencing. This is always done with the client’s consent. I need to document my interactions with my clients as well so I spend a lot of time writing notes and reports which are kept confidential. I also assess people to see what type of mental illnesses they have and create treatment plans.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
There are three aspects of my job that I really enjoy. The first is the time that I spend with my clients. I really like working with people. Secondly, I like that I get to create my own schedule everyday and thirdly, I like that I get to help people and make a difference in their lives.
What is the least enjoyable part of your job?
The least enjoyable part of my work is paperwork and report writing. Also, I sometimes work with people who have been abused or have very sad stories and it affects me emotionally.
Explain the path you took to get to this job (education, internships, etc.).
I began my journey to becoming a Therapist by going to university and completing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Psychology is the study of the human mind and its function. After that I completed another degree in Social Work. Social Work is a profession aimed at alleviating the conditions of those in need of help or welfare. Apart from my university education I also volunteered in various settings to gain experience in the field. I volunteered as a tutor, at a food bank, as a youth group coordinator and as a crisis line worker, and spent three months volunteering in Southern Africa. In Africa I volunteered for an agency that supported people living with HIV/Aids.
Did you experience any obstacles or challenges on your path? How did you overcome these obstacles or challenges?
I experienced many challenges along the way but was able to overcome them by asking and receiving help from others.
Who or what was the greatest influence that set you on this path?
I always wanted to have a career where I could help others because that was what I enjoyed. When I was in my final year of high school I fell while playing sports and acquired a head injury. It was difficult for me to concentrate and do my school work, I had a lot of headaches and was very emotional. I was referred to a Therapist for counselling to help with my emotions. My therapist really helped me and I decided that I wanted to help others the way my Therapist had helped me.
What advice would you give others seeking a similar job?
Study hard but have lots of fun too. This line of work can be stressful so doing things to relax outside of work is important. Also, learn how to ask and accept help from others because you can’t do this work alone. Don’t be afraid to try new things and volunteer in different settings to get a feel for what type of work you enjoy doing. There are many paths one can take with a degree in psychology or social work. The more exposure you have to different community services the greater the chance you will find something you love to do.
How does your job make a difference?
I make a difference by supporting people through challenging times in their lives. I encourage them, guide them, and provide them with hope for the future. I focus on finding people’s strengths and finding other resources for clients to help them in the struggles that they face. I also educate others service providers and parents to help them understand mental illness and FASD in order for them to be able to provide my clients with appropriate support and care.
How do you use science, math and technology in your job?
I use my knowledge of psychology in my work with clients every day. When I see clients and begin therapy I rely on my knowledge of the causes of mental illness and psychological treatment therapies to guide my treatment plans. Treatment therapies are often developed based on scientific research of the brain and its functions. I then use this research to guide my practice on what has been proven to effectively treating my clients.
Is there one course you wish you had taken in high school but didn’t? Why?
Introduction to psychology. It wasn’t offered at my school.
What makes this job right for you?
I get to use my skills and talents to help make a difference in the lives of others.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
I like going for walks in the park, swimming, going to the movies, and spending quality time with friends and family.
You just won $10 million! What’s the first thing you’d do?
Go on Vacation!