Preparing for a Lifelong Career in Behavioral HealthDiscover the many paths to a thriving career serving others

If you’re interested in making a significant impact on the wellbeing of others, a career focused on supporting people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or intellectual developmental disabilities (I/DDs) may be the perfect fit for you.

While certain skills and experiences are needed to work with this diverse group of individuals, there are many paths to a thriving career in behavioral health. In fact, serving people with ASD or I/DD requires a multi-disciplinary team of people with different backgrounds, interests and expertise.

Choosing a Degree that Aligns with Your Goals

To prepare for your future as a behavioral health professional, you will typically need to complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree. You may even want to pursue a doctoral degree – depending on your area of interest. Having a background in special education, psychology, social work, marriage and family therapy, speech-language therapy or occupational therapy can provide a solid foundation where you learn techniques and strategies to best support individuals with ASD and I/DD.

At Catalight, our Clinical team holds a variety of academic degrees. For example, Director, Clinical Strategy & Access Management, Tasnim Diaf Moulton, has a bachelor’s in sociology and a master’s in social work. Whereas Catalight’s Vice President, Remote Care and Program Design, Brianna Fitchett, has a master’s degree in special education, is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®) and is working on a masters of public health and healthcare administration degree. Even though their educational backgrounds are different, they both have the same passion for helping others. Another thing they have in common is their dedication to learning.

After earning your degree, you can continue to acquire new skills and knowledge by taking professional development and training courses. Similarly, you can earn industry certifications like the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®). And depending on where you live, you may need to get a state license to practice.

Getting Real-World Experience

In addition to having the right credentials, it’s important to be comfortable working with people with ASD and IDD. One way to get practical, hands-on experience is by completing an internship or fieldwork during college.

After earning her degree, Tasnim gained valuable experience by supporting foster youth with disabilities. She then went on to help college students with ASD and I/DD develop independent living and social skills. It was during this time that she fell in love with her work and the population she was serving.

All of Tasnim’s experiences working with people with ASD and I/DDs, led her to the role that she now has at Catalight where she recently launched a clinical case management program. And one of the reasons why she continues to enjoy working within this field is because she can actually see the progress her clients make.

Finding the Right Job

If you are clinically innovative, willing to challenge the status quo and have a passion to support people, there are many opportunities to work as a behavioral health professional. You can find roles in clinics, schools, community organizations and more. The other good news is that demand for this type of work has expanded greatly over the past decade and is expected to continue to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we should see a 22% increase in the number of substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselor positions between 2021-2031.1

If you would like to support people with ASD and I/DD to choose their own path to thrive, check out the open positions at Catalight today.

References:

[1]U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Outlook