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Friday, September 1, 2017

Labor of Love

The most common question I get these days is, "When do you think your book will be published?" I have surpassed the halfway mark, and expect to have the first round of professional editing done by May of 2018. This is my first experience with writing a book. I have no past professional writing experience. I've never written an article for a newspaper, journal, or magazine. I've never blogged before these blogs. Deciding to write a book came about suddenly and unexpectedly.

After reading countless scholarly articles and non-fiction books relating to psychology and psychiatry as a hobby, I applied last year to a Doctorate of Psychology program in Massachusetts. My goal was to become a forensic psychologist. After the "enjoyment" (yes, that's sarcastic) of relearning algebra and geometry in preparation for the Graduate Record Examinations, I got as far as the interview. Then, I got rejected.

To the relief of many advocates for the population with serious mental illness, including myself, the federal 21st Century Cures Act passed toward the end of 2016. This monumental law restructures the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and vastly promotes Assisted Outpatient Treatment, along with many other great provisions that are way beyond the scope of this post. I will go into great detail about Assisted Outpatient Treatment in my book. At a glance, this helps a subset of the population with serious mental illness who are not adhering to their recommended outpatient treatment plans. It involves court ordered adherence to outpatient treatment plans, without forcing medication upon anyone. Although the 21st Century Cures Act helps to normalize Assisted Outpatient Treatment and alleviate its controversy, Massachusetts is way behind the times. Refusing to embrace the massive research supporting its effectiveness, it is one of only four states in the United States that doesn't have a law supporting this life-saving treatment.

I realized that five full-time years of further graduate school would have been extraordinarily lengthy and unnecessary, considering the extent of professional experience that I have. Meanwhile, I was struggling to shake off the sense that something was missing within me professionally. We completed the advocacy work that supported the 21st Century Cures Act. Rather than finding another television series to follow, I completed an online writing course. I researched the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing. I purchased writing software. I learned how to cite research, which was also "enjoyable." I began researching marketing techniques for books.

I've never wanted to become an administrator because of how much I've liked clinical work. But with this, it's nearly impossible to change the mental health system from within my place of employment. Writing a book about my professional experience satisfies my desire to influence change beyond my place of employment. With every session involving work on my book, this void gradually lessens. It's a labor of love.