Are you a social worker, psychologist, nurse (RN with two years of psychiatric experience), counselor, psychiatrist, or marriage & family therapist? Is your caseload (patient load) too high? Has managed care got you down? Fed up with treatment plans, progress notes, and forms of all sorts? Are you tired of the same old blend of bureaucracy, politics, paperwork, and pathology? If the magic has gone out of your career, then maybe it is time for a change. Become a volunteer with the American Red Cross (ARC). Licensed mental health professionals can serve in Disaster Mental Health (DMH), but there are many other roles for everyone else who wants to serve.
Once you have qualified and completed training (that is free), you will be able to travel to exotic and not-so-exotic places, meet people whose lives have been struck by disasters - and help them, with ARC covering all disaster related expenses. Participants in ARC training will learn all about the Red Cross DMH program's requirements and opportunities to serve (locally, nationally, and internationally).
WARNING: One brief tour of duty with ARC is usually enough to get someone hooked into a lifetime of volunteer service. The practice experiences are wonderfully rich and professionally rewarding. Relief work has rekindled the kind of helping spirit among many DMH workers that they have not felt since shortly after graduate school. Some describe their first experience as a calling to their DMH volunteer career.
My disaster experiences and teaching assignments provide me with some much needed respite from my regular duties as a mental health professional. No other moments in my career have come close to providing me the personal and professional rewards that I have experienced as a Red Cross volunteer. In fact, I am so impressed by the work ARC is doing that I am donating half of the royalties from my DMH book to ARC's National Disaster Relief Fund, and my publisher, Professional Resource Press, is matching my donation.
Contact ARC and see what it is all about. The best way to get started is to click this link: http://www.redcross.org/support/volunteer/opportunities#step1 To meet the minimum requirements for national assignments you should sign up to take the Intro to Disaster Mental Health and Disaster Mental Health Fundamentals (Parts 1 and 2) courses. You should also take several others including First Aid and CPR classes and other cross-training classes (e.g., mass care feeding/sheltering, client casework, etc.
ARC needs more people to help. In order to qualify for National ARC service, DMH volunteers must be either: (1) licensed or certified social workers, psychologists, counselors, nurses, or psychiatrists or (2) be someon from group 1 who has retired his or her license/certification within the past five years. Persons who are not yet licensed/certified can sometimes serve locally, as graduate students (if under the direct supervision of a fully qualified DMH worker) or community partners. Another popular option is to serve in another ARC specialty such as casework, mass care (for feeding and sheltering), health services, or many others. There is also a digital disaster volunteer program that provides information and support via social media (see 2012 article in TNSWO http://lnkd.in/N9g_KR). There are so many opportunities that there is an ARC position to fit just about anyone's interests. Please call your local chapter and volunteer.