Alumnae/i Feature

A True Community: Paola Chapa Cerviatti '18MSW on Casa Esperanza

What does your job entail?

I'm a bilingual dual-diagnosis clinician at Casa Esperanza, an outpatient mental health clinic serving Latino adults diagnosed with a substance use disorder, mental illness, or co-occurring disorder. I provide one-on-one counseling and run three recovery groups, applying motivational interviewing, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and other evidence-based approaches to help prevent relapse. In addition, I work closely with case managers and clinical staff from Boston Healthcare for the Homeless to develop and implement treatment plans. As a native of Mexico, I'd describe Casa Esperanza—the only bilingual program of its kind in Boston—as a true community.

What brought you to Simmons?

After working for several years as an advocate for people with disabilities and severe mental illness, I decided to pursue my MSW to build a foundation in practice theory and social policy and to develop advanced clinical skills. As a part-time student, I chose Simmons for its comprehensive clinical focus and its flexible enrollment options.

How did Simmons prepare you?

I'm constantly putting into practice all of the theories I learned at Simmons. Coursework in diagnosis and assessment, evidence-based treatment modalities, and group therapy are particularly relevant to this role. I am now doing in real life what I role-played in the class, "Understanding Suicide."

Challenging field placements opened up opportunities to work in Spanish and English with clients of diverse backgrounds. In my first placement, I interned at the Harvard Law Immigrant and Refugee Clinic, where I provided case management to immigrants and refugees with histories of trauma. For my second year, I worked alongside psychologists and psychiatrists at MGH Chelsea Outpatient Behavioral Health, where I gained extensive experience in assessment, treatment, and goal-planning with clients.

Why is your job rewarding?

Many of the people who come to us have just finished detox or crisis stabilization. We’re meeting with them two weeks into their recovery. To see that they’re maintaining their sobriety two or three months later, and improving their quality of life, is very meaningful.

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