The opioid crisis hit Patrick Mullen (MS/MHC '18) hard, both from his own experiences with addiction, and from witnessing the experiences
of others in his community.
“I’ve been to way too many funerals,” says Mr. Mullen, who has himself been in recovery
for several years. “I knew I wanted to do something to help, to be part of the fight
against this preventable and treatable disease.”
Mr. Mullen, who earned his undergraduate degree in psychology from Penn State University,
got a job in 2015 at Brooke Glen Behavioral Hospital in Ft. Washington, PA, as a mental
health technician, providing assistance to patients in a variety of ways.
“I immediately fell in love with the work,” he says.
Now, Mr. Mullen is a group therapist at the hospital, and he calls his work “a privilege.”
He also works as a counselor at Self-Help Movement, a residential treatment facility
in Northeast Philadelphia.
“It’s incredibly beneficial, both in terms of helping others and also helping ourselves,”
he said. “I really enjoy the hands-on approach, connecting with patients at that level.
There are times when I will disclose my own history with addiction in an effort to
reduce the shame and stigma surrounding it. My hope is that they will find it helpful
in their own experience.”
After graduation, Mr. Mullen will begin the PsyD program in clinical psychology, and
is already starting to think about his area of focus.
“I believe there’s a real gap in treatment between addiction and mental health,” he
said. “Addiction is more than just substance abuse; there’s often some type of underlying
mental health issue and lack in connection, purpose, or meaning that is not always
addressed. There needs to be a more holistic and comprehensive approach to treatment.
I’ve seen this gap in care while working in both sectors of behavioral health, and
it needs to be more unified.”
After he receives his PsyD, Mr. Mullen says he hopes to go on to become a person of
influence within his field, to show the need for people to do the work of helping
those struggling with addiction and co-occurring issues, but also to help break down
the negative perceptions that still persist around the disease.
“We’ve definitely come a long way in terms of how we think of people who are dealing
with addiction, but there is still a stigma surrounding that, and also surrounding
those who are living with mental health issues,” he said. “If we can’t break those
stigmas, it’s only going to continue to hurt those who are trying to get treatment.”
Above all, Mr. Mullen says his mission is to “instill hope in his clients in their
process of building a valued and meaningful life. We do recover.”