In this interview, we spoke to Nella Ciciulla, a mental health counselor about her day-to-day role and responsibilities as well as her career highlights.
What inspired your career into mental health?
I knew I wanted to get into this field when I began an undergraduate research project in forensic mental health. I had the opportunity to intern at the State Attorney’s office, learning about and researching mentally ill offenders. This gave me a different view of mental health where the stigma behind those with behaviors out of the “typical social norms” were frowned upon.
When I was able to see that a lot of criminal behavior stemmed from trauma, this gave me the desire to help those experiencing mental health issues.
What are the main responsibilities in your current job?
I currently own a private practice in Rockledge, Florida. I began the practice at the beginning of the pandemic so I was just solo when I first started in May of 2020. After just a couple of months of seeing the great need in my county for therapy, I knew I wanted to expand.
Since then, I have hired 7 contracted therapists with intentions of expanding further due to the great need in my community. I currently run the practice, along with a wonderful staff. I continue to see clients daily, with a focus on court-ordered assessments and testing.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day begins focusing on my self-care- going to the gym and having a big cup of coffee. I then head to the office and conduct therapy with scheduled clients, along with writing forensic reports and completing assessments for mental health court here in Brevard.
What is the most rewarding part about your job?
Discharging patients! I know that may sound odd, but I enjoy that a client gets to the point that they are not depending on me anymore for treatment. They have learned the skills to cope and work through struggles, and feel confident they can succeed with their goals.
I enjoy seeing progress each session with clients and when they feel empowered.
What do you find most challenging about working in mental health?
There are many challenging things about working in this field. One challenge that a therapist has to initially overcome is compassion fatigue. Not allowing the stressors of each client go home with them every night. It can become difficult at times, but we have to maintain our own mental health in order to help others.
If we begin this negative cycle, it will continue and spiral where we can either become burned out or affect our family. This is why self-care as therapists is essential.
Throughout your career, what has been your proudest achievement?
Definitely opening up Bella Mental Health Services. This was my 10-year goal upon graduation from grad school, however, I was able to do it within 5 years.
I feel good about helping the community and spreading more awareness about mental health.
What has been the most exciting project that you have worked on?
I would say Bella Mental Health first fundraiser. We celebrated Mental Health Awareness month in May 2021, and we were able to raise over $1000 for Family Promise of Brevard which is an organization that assists families suffering from homelessness.
What advice would you give to people who want to pursue a career in mental health?
Do not get into this field without a passion for helping others. If you get into this field for anything other than wanting to help those in need, you are wasting your time. It is evident when a therapist is only desiring a paycheck and chose the wrong field.
You have to have a passion for mental health and a desire for change. I hate to hear or see mental health professionals not taking pride in their work as it is directly impacting each client we see. It can be an amazing profession if you are putting in the hard work and desire to always be better than yesterday.
Is there anything else about your career that you would like to share with our readers?
Know that you may have to start from the bottom. Do not expect to graduate with your Masters and make 6 figures. As I said before, if you get into this mindset it will be evident. The more seasoned you are in the mental health field, the better you will be as a clinician.
I started out in social work and child welfare, and although it was extremely draining and hard work, I am so thankful I did this for a few years before delving further into the field. It is that old saying, “you have to get your hands dirty first.” This is absolutely true in this field, but it is worth it in the end.
Where can readers find more information?
About Nella Ciciulla
Nella Ciciulla-Albrecht is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and is currently obtaining her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at NorthCentral University. She received her Masters Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Capella University in 2015 and her Bachelors Degree in Psychology from the Florida Institute of Technology in 2011.
Nella is also a Qualified Supervisor for mental health counselors with the Florida Department of Health. She has extensive experience in the Forensic field and working with those suffering with severe, persistent mental illness. As a Forensic Mental Health Director for a non-profit agency, she proved to be an outstanding performer in acute care and forensic psychology within the mental health field.
Nella has proven success in leadership, operational excellence, and organizational development with keen understanding of elements of community needs. She was recognized for inspiring management team members to excel and encouraging creative work environments and nominated as a Top 12 Finalist for LEAD Brevard in 2020.
A Multi-talented, passionate, licensed therapist and Certified Forensic Mental Health Evaluator, Child Custody Evaluator and Court Appointed Juvenile Competency Evaluator consistently rewarded for success in planning and operational improvement. She desires to continue making an impact on her community as a Forensic Expert for the 18th Judicial Circuit located in Brevard County and has also served individuals in neighboring counties. Along with her private practice, Nella is an Adjunct Professor at the Florida Institute of Technology