Alumnae/i Feature

Cristal Martin '19MSW Serves the Roxbury Community as a Behavioral Health Clinician

What the job entails

Cristal is a behavioral health clinician at the Whittier Street Health Center, a full-service primary and community care clinic in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. She provides individual and family therapy for patients of all ages and conducts same-day behavioral health screenings and consultations as needed.

A native Spanish speaker raised in Texas, Cristal says that many of her clients are members of the Latinx community. “Our work together may be their first time in treatment or therapy,” she says. “I do a lot of psycho-education on how mental health affects overall functioning and how treatment works.”

What brought her to Simmons

After graduating from Bates College in 2013 and working in community organizing and youth development, Cristal attended an MSW information session at Simmons. “The program really stood out for me,” she says. “It offered so many opportunities but also this feeling of warmth and support and connection. Listening to the current students talk about their great experiences, I thought, I want this training.”

How Simmons prepared her

Cristal describes her preparation as “fantastic.” Her first placement was at the Richard J. Murphy School in Dorchester, where she provided individual and group therapeutic support to students with emotional or special education needs.

In her second year, she received specialized training in integrated behavioral health through the Simmons Integrated Mental Health Primary Care and Clinical Training (SIMPACT) program. As part of this federally-funded initiative, she completed her second internship at the Center for Children with Special Needs at Tufts Medical Center. There, she collaborated with an interdisciplinary team to diagnose and treat children with learning and neurodevelopmental disabilities. She also helped conduct research on parental resilience.

“Simmons instilled in me the value of keeping an open mind and trusting that each experience builds upon itself,” says Cristal. “I’ve taken that perspective into the real world.”

Why it’s rewarding

“When you have a clinician who looks like you, speaks like you, and can talk about the issues you’re facing, it breaks down barriers and stigma,” says Cristal. “I see that in the patients’ faces and know this work is what I want to do.”

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