MFT stipend winner eager to give back to those in need
Crystal Amick, a student in the marriage and family therapy (MFT) master’s program at Brandman’s Victorville campus, is one of eight students in the Inland Empire to receive an $18,500 state stipend to be used toward education. She almost missed her chance.
When she first saw the information about the stipend in an email from Dr. Christopher Deulen, the MFT coordinator and an assistant professor of psychology at Brandman, she thought, “That’s nice,” but didn’t think she was a likely candidate.
Then the group supervisor at the Department of Behavioral Health placement center in Barstow where she was an intern provided more details and encouragement. “So I reread the information and saw it was a really good opportunity,” said Amick.
As daunting as the series of five concise essays was (150 words to sum up your life, your goals, etc., and the application is rejected if you go past 150 words) and as anxiety-producing as the dash across the Inland Empire to get Deulen’s signature in time to submit the application might have been, Amick’s persistence paid off.
It’s not the first time she’s overcome challenges.
Amick had a trauma-filled childhood that included family members with mental health issues. She became a foster child when she 12, until emancipated at 18. Sessions with a therapist when she was 13 put her on the path toward wanting a career as a therapist.
She graduated from UCLA with a degree in sociology and a minor in child developmental psychology and began working at the Desert Mountain Children’s Center where she’s a full-time trainee assigned to various schools in Big Bear and Victorville. She works with children with behavioral and emotional issues.
“I find that it’s (having been a foster child) very relatable to a lot of kids, especially teenagers. Even if they’re not in foster care, they often feel as if they’re alone in the world. It’s kind of nice to have that sense of a relationship with them. It’s a trust-building thing with foster kids, that I do know what it is they’ve gone through. It’s a different perspective than being on the outside looking in,” she said.
Her schooling and job confirmed her goal to be a therapist. Brandman’s blended class schedule of one 3-hour class a week followed by the flexibility of doing work online turned out to be a perfect fit.
“Brandman is really a great school, and I like the flexibility,” she said. “You have deadlines, but you have time to work it around your schedule. You don’t have to change everything in your life to go to school.”
Amick is on schedule to graduate in May. She plans to continue working at the Desert Mountain Children’s Center, pursue licensing and build up some work experience. “I think I will go on for a Ph.D. but not for a few years. I’m only 24,” she said.
Amick also appreciates the support she’s received over the years from her last set of foster parents with whom she has continued to live at times, and her biological mother, who has been a great influence and a source of emotional support.
And she’s thrilled to have the stipend to pay for her education.
“The MFT Stipend program is for students who are serious about public mental health, especially in counties of need,” said Deulen. “They are chosen by a panel of agencies who read their essays regarding public mental health and the recovery model. The agencies do not know the name of the school of the applicants. Crystal was chosen because of her experience and desire to work in public mental health.”
The ultimate objective, according to information provided on the coordinating agency’s website, is to advance public mental health as a career option and to reward students who serve client populations in diverse communities. Stipend winners are required to work for a year for a state or county agency.
Amick has advice for anyone else thinking of applying: “Take the time to do it because it’s totally worth it. Don’t overlook it. Don’t think ‘Oh, I’ll never get it,’ because you never know.”
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