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Taking a Career Turn into Mental Health

Danielle Berkow-Schwartz standing in front of a maroon block M

Danielle Berkow-Schwartz

MPS in Addictions Counseling (ADDC) student Danielle Berkow-Schwartz didn’t approach the field of mental health from a professional angle at first. She remembers reading a book called Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy by Dr. David D. Burns that ignited her curiosity about the field as a career. “I had taken psychology but for some reason it just didn't click,” she says. “It just seemed more of an academic world to me than an actual interpersonal job option.”

“When I read that book I started utilizing the strategies for myself, and it just really opened my eyes to being interested in learning more until I realized that this was actually something I wanted to do… and I think I have the skills to do it.”

Finding the Right Path

Danielle Berkow-Schwartz outside Ruttan Hall

But first, Danielle took a few years off to work as a middle school teacher after graduating with an undergraduate degree in English and sociology. “I wanted to wait until I knew what I was passionate about,” she says. “And I found the (ADDC) program and it seemed like a really good fit. I took a couple of classes to try it out first and then really liked the materials and the way it was taught.”

This spring she will start her internship at NUWAY where she’ll be leading groups, performing intake screenings, and shadowing other counselors. Her full-time job in the University of Minnesota Extension office is actually somewhat related. She works in the family development arena, focusing on opioid use intervention and prevention and the stress and mental health of farmers.

“I’ve worked full-time the entire time that I've been a student... and that's obviously something I love about the ADDC program is that it’s very flexible.”

After she graduates Danielle will be prepared for alcohol and drug licensure, and she will likely pursue an additional license. She may also consider obtaining another degree, but she is open to career opportunities.

“There's always more training to do. I love learning. If it was up to me, I would just be studying forever, which is why I went to grad school.”

Memorable Course

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Jennifer Weigelt

“It just taught me so many skills that I didn't have. It took the program from theory to practice. It was interesting, engaging, exciting, super educational—everything you want in a class, and I really like Professor Weigelt’s teaching style.”

Major Takeaways

“On a personal level, I learned that perfectionism is detrimental and that it was very linked to my procrastination. I went from sometimes turning things in late and getting docked points to finally turning things in early because I wasn't so paralyzed by trying to do everything perfectly.”

“The hands-on classes, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing, are where I think a lot of the real learning takes place, the real skills that we're going to be using with clients. I set up practice sessions on Zoom with classmates to practice the actual skills, which is what the professor asked us to do. I did it more than we were required to, and the more I did it, the more I got out of it.”

Danielle’s Pro Tips

  • Talk to people in the field and ask what it's really like so you know what you’re getting into.
  • Take care of yourself. It's really important to be doing your own personal work while you're learning. If you're not doing your own work, I think you're missing a huge opportunity.
  • Get to know the professors. Meet during office hours and ask them questions and just talk to them about their careers. They're very nice and not scary!
  • Try to read everything you can. It's hard, it takes a long time, especially if you work and have a family, but I got so much out of all the readings. I think what they assign is very applicable and I'm sure I'll be using the books forever.