With this year marking 5 years of the Mental Health Professionals of North Alabama's existence, Christina and I wanted to take some time to share with you what we truly enjoy, what challenges us, what we find "fun" and any future plans for this collective. We were also able to reach out to a couple of our "OG" members to get some of their thoughts on what bought them to our group initially! It was a really interesting to hear what made them say "yeah!! I am going to go to this group and check it out!" Read on to learn how we made it to 5 years!
What do you think helps keep the group concept of MHPNA going after 5 years?
Christina: I think that now, more than ever, people are starving for connection. In its own, small way I think that’s what MHPNA provides. The last few years have been challenging for everyone, and mental health professionals are no exception. I think just knowing that there’s an active organization of local professionals that all clinicians have easy access to whenever they might need it provides an element of security and comfort.
Pam: I feel that the concept of community keeps MHPNA going. I strongly feel that our group helps practitioners, especially those in private practice, feel supported. Not only that, the ease and simplicity that practitioners can get the support keeps the group relevant and viable. The fact that MHPNA is relatively user friendly and that we are local has been important to this group’s continued growth.
Where do you see the group in the future?
Pam: I really don’t know!! I feel like Christina. I never even envisioned the group being at the point it is now (300+ members and counting!) My hope for the future is that we can begin to create a bridge a between private practice, community mental health, and college. I feel that if we work together, we could possibly create more and improved continuity of care for our community as well as continue to foster the up-and-coming practitioners of tomorrow.
Christina: This is always a hard question for me to answer because I never saw it becoming what it is now! My original idea was to start a small-ish clinical peer support group. I never could have foreseen that this would turn into a 325+ (and growing!) member group that focused more on networking and advocacy. I’m thrilled, of course! So we’ve tried to let the group lead us - we stay open to feedback and try to meet the needs of our community and I see us continuing to let that be our guide.
What has been the most…
Rewarding thing about MHPNA?
Christina: The most rewarding moments for me are when someone lets me know that they got a robust response to their question. That’s the whole point of this group and why I think it’s successful, and it makes me so happy to see people coming together to help each other out! The other thing I find so rewarding is knowing that we are helping to facilitate a win-win in our community - helping therapists make connections so that their practices can be successful which in turn provides more treatment options and access to quality care for people in North Alabama.
Pam: For me, the holiday networking event and just networking in general. Times when we can meet in person and have the holiday networking party where we can gather, meet new people and/or catch up with old friends, exchange ideas, and talk about new issues, are the best moments for me. OH! I cannot forget the ability to advocate for our profession!! Advocacy has been one of the major highlights that I have experienced being a part of this network. I was so proud that our members rallied together to create some change for LPC’s and ALC’s in our state. That. Was. Epic!! I think its safe to say that both Christina and I agree that this is one of the reasons why having a group like MHPNA motivates us to keep going. Alone none of these things happen.
What has been the most…
Challenging thing about MHPNA?
Christina: Technology! It has always been my answer to this question and probably always will be. I wish I was savvier and could figure out a way to make technology work for us to help us be more efficient. It’s the struggle to figure out how to get the answers to the most commonly asked questions out to the whole group more consistently.
Pam: I got you Christina! Technology IS my jam! For me, staying abreast of what is going in in our community concerning mental health is the challenging thing for me. Being a small, private practice owner can be isolating at times. Those of you who run your own solo and group practices know, that as rewarding as it can be to own your business, it takes a lot of work and does not always leave room for other endeavors. I do wish I could be more in the community, staying on top of the needs and having MHPNA be a resource to fulfill the needs of our community
What has been the most…
Fun thing about MHPNA
Christina: For me it’s just chatting with people who email us even if it’s just a brief ‘hello.’ I enjoy learning about what areas clinicians are specializing in and what kind of progressive services are being provided in our community.
Pam: I agree with Christina. She is the lucky one who gets to be the “welcome wagon” for MHPNA! I truly enjoy meeting all the new folks who find and join our collective! But again, one of the most fun parts of MHPNA is the Holiday “cookie/swag” Swap networking event…along with working with Christina! She makes facilitating this group easy!
With this being our 5th year anniversary, we decided to reach out to a few of our “OG” members. Those practitioners that have been with us since day one! It was cool to chat about those memories of the early days of our group when there were only 4-5 people. WOW! With that in mind I asked them a few questions about why they joined our “little” group. Here is what they had to say:
“Reflecting on 5 years of growth for the Mental Health Professionals of North Alabama (MHPNA), I feel grateful for and inspired by the founders, Pamela Tippit and Christina Pannell. What started as an idea to connect on a small collegial informal professional basis has grown into a tight community of Mental Health Practitioners (300+) of many stripes and colors who encourage, support, and share resources with one another. This would not have happened without Pam and Christina’s commitment to an idea that we really were in this business of helping together, and that we can lift one another up. Pam and Christina were driven by the need to connect with other professionals to go beyond discussions of therapy or treatment to the nuts and bolts of services as well, and to generate new ideas for connecting and delivering our services to one another and the community. How refreshing it was to ask questions, share and laugh about insurance, policies, community resources and laws without feeling that somehow you were already supposed to know the answers or that you might be giving away a business insider secret.
For myself, at the official second meeting in Dr Dhaliwal’s Office waiting area, it was such a relief to find other likeminded professionals. A desire to connect with other Mental Health Providers in a less competitive and more engaging way motivated me to participate. Pam and Christina were welcoming, genuine and positive. These traits continue to be foundational to their work at keeping MHPNA going - all are welcome - anyone that would like to share contact/resource information is listed and included in MHPNA’s distribution list. Putting questions out to the community of professionals via e-mail makes obtaining information quick and easy, and forwarded messages help us all keep up with significant events within our varied professions. Out of all the volunteered services Pam and Christina keep up to date, I cannot say thank you enough for the Availability List. The past 2 years to date have required tremendous energy and resources to meet the increased mental health needs of our community dealing with issues of race, politics, stay at home orders and disease. Having a resource of knowing who and what is available and when services become available is a valuable tool.
Connecting with other professionals the MHPNA way, however, is what is most rewarding for me personally. Seeing other professionals’ spaces and services at the monthly Host Organizations lunch hour is enlightening. Shop talk, re-connecting, meeting new providers and putting faces with names in a low-key relaxed environment is an enjoyable way to network. Even the offered Zoom meetings keep us connected and supported. And of course, the Annual Christmas Gathering caps off the year. The platform Pam and Christina created allows for networking in a simplified and easily accessible manner. I hope that as we engage in Pam and Christina’s creative project, sharing via e-mail, networking, and positive professionalism, it is a visible reward for their dedication, effort, and hard work.
I was asked to sum up my experience in one word - I think it is Gratitude. Thank you, Pam and Christina, and to all my mental health peeps of North Alabama.”
Jane Sweeney, LPC-S, NCC
Owner and Counselor
Sojourner Counseling Center, LLC
As therapists in private practice, one of the issues we deal with is a sense of isolation, at least it was for me in the beginning. I was fairly new to the private practice world when the MHPNA group started up. I think I was in year 1 or 2 of going solo and was at a training when I first heard about 2 therapists interested in starting a peer/networking/casual/possibly case consultation type group for therapists- at least that was my interpretation of what it was!
It just sounded like the group that Pam and Christina were starting would be a great way for me to connect with others in my field.
What I got was so much more!
I was also at that second meeting (my first) at Dr. Dhaliwal’s office, and I remember feeling so at home and immediately comfortable around Pam and the other therapists. I confess, I don’t remember exactly what we spoke about (I can’t believe it’s been 5 years!!) but I left feeling a sense of community, camaraderie and kinship. These people got me! They had similar questions and struggles and joys about what they were doing. It was really wonderful to share that with others.
Since being part of the group my practice has been full for the last 2 years, I have a wonderful group of people I can call on for referrals and consultation, and I have made some fantastic friends.
The word I would choose to describe the group is: community.
I hope to see y’all at the next meeting!!!
Shani Levy McBay, LMFT
Owner/Therapist of Mosaic Treatment