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SFSU MFT? Disclosing personal history and work experience


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Hi! I'm a first generation college student so I'm not sure if what I'm asking is readily apparent to everyone! I'm applying to the MFT program at San Francisco State University this winter and I'm not really sure of what to include in my personal statement. My goal is to become a Linehan DBT certified LMFT who specializes in the treatment of borderline personality disorder. I did my UG degree in gender studies and my capstone project was on the oral histories of individuals who meet criteria for BPD. My interest in the subject is shaped by my own recovery from the disorder, and knowing many people with the disorder. I am reticent to mention the desire to specialize in this condition because it is among the most stigmatized mental health conditions and I've heard numerous people say that it either was not covered in their MFT/MSW/PsyD programs or they were advised by their professors to never treat somebody with the condition. I am also unsure of whether to include my own experience with the diagnosis as there are many people who believe it is something that cannot be recovered from. I'm also unsure of how to spin my limited experience working in mental health related fields-- I briefly (3 months) worked at a residential treatment facility for women with BPD and was (ironically) subjected to an abusive and disorganized work environment and I had to leave the job for my own well being. The experience was valuable in that it affirmed my desire to work with this population as the clients were not the problem at all, the workplace culture that normalized illegal and noncompliant practices was why I had to leave. Outside of that, I don't have experience working in the field and I'm back to the service industry for the time being.


Anyways, I'm not sure what's expected as far as disclosing your own history in general or whether it is advisable in my case and I'm unsure of how to address my limited experience. Any insight is welcome.

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Congratulations on the recovery! I think conventionally self-disclosure in the personal statement is frowned upon. Recent movement has encouraged individuals in the mental health field to leverage their lived experiences with mental health issues as strength and motivation. In turn, some advocates self-disclosure as an effort to destigmatize mental health issues. As an applicant, I worry such self-disclosure may raise questions, especially for those with more stigmatizing lenses as you have pointed out in your post, on whether you can successfully complete the program. I think you have a great frame for this self-disclosure and that is to really highlight how this experience makes you perhaps more motivated and committed than others. Another thing is consider is whether they offer opportunities for training in DBT. If they don't, I would certainly not mention this because you want DBT training and they don't have it, implying an ill fit. 

I think you should nevertheless mention your experiences at the residential treatment facility. I am sorry to learn that the environment was abusive and disorganized. But I wonder if there are still things that you learned from the experiences, being it clinical skills or simply interacting with these women offers you another reason for pursuing this program. I would omit mentioning negative aspects of the experience. The reason is that past history often predicts future behaviors and you don't want to be misperceived as too critical.  

Lastly, I think your capstone project is super interesting and can't be more relevant for the kind of work you want to do! It really shows how you value these individuals as human beings and how you care about their voices. You probably are already doing this but I think that elaboration on this and its connection to what you want to do in future would be very convincing.

Anyways, just some of my personal opinions. Please feel free to ignore them. 

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