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.”