Melissa Dagher '14SW Works as an Integrated Behavioral Health Therapist

December 19, 2016

Melissa Dagher '14SW

Melissa filled us in on the importance of integrating counseling into health care.

What is your day-to-day experience working in a health care setting?

As an integrated behavioral health therapist at the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, I often don't know what the next hour will bring. The medical staff may call me into an exam room to meet with a child exhibiting anxiety or an adult who is abusing alcohol. In keeping with the center’s integrated-care model, I provide on-the-spot counseling and recommends a plan for treatment. No two appointments are the same. It keeps me on my toes.

Why is this integrated health care model important?

The clinic’s integrated, patient-centered model makes mental healthcare more accessible and less intimidating. Many patients have never had therapy. When I can speak to someone in the privacy of an exam room, it helps to normalize mental health concerns and cut off any barriers to care. It makes it easier for patients to come back for a second or third time and get the help they need.

How did Simmons prepare you for this position?

I completed my second-year placement at the Codman Square Health Center and was hired shortly before graduation. My clients, who range in age from six to 60, typically come in with a physical complaint but may show symptoms of depression, substance abuse, trauma, or stress. Most often, I conduct short-term therapy over the course of two to four follow-up visits. My highly varied experience at Simmons prepared me for such a diverse and unpredictable array of clients and diagnoses.

As a graduate of the Urban Leadership Certificate Program, I inform the medical team of the macro systems that may be affecting a patient’s health. I’m able to look beyond a particular physical symptom to see if a problem like poverty or discrimination is contributing. In such instances, I offer case management services to help patients connect to social services.