March 17, 2015

2014 MCFT Alumni Updates

The MCFT program gets an update from two of our alumni about where they are now and what they are doing.

Sonali Patel is from the graduating class of August 2014.  Patel joined Pacific Premier Group, a mental health agency founded by psychiatrist, Dr. Paul Conti, in September 2014 as their resident Marriage and Family therapist. 

At Pacific Premier Group, Patel sees a variety of clientele to include severe suicidal ideation to families struggling with addiction. Patel also has experience working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and has a special interest in working with individuals affected by grief and trauma. Patel focus is on restoring balance and building communication within families as they are integral in increasing the overall well-being of individuals, couples and families. Patel is currently working towards her licensure.  

“Life after graduation has presented me with some amazing opportunities. I remember telling my professors that I will never go into private practice until at least a few years of agency work. Lesson learned…never say never. I cannot fully express my happiness and gratitude for my position as a private practitioner at PPG. I’ll be honest, the ebb and flow of private practice is challenging at best. You are a one man band from accounting to marketing to being the therapist. If you are not self- motivated and an entrepreneur, think twice before you take the leap. It’s all hard work and so incredibly fulfilling. My best advice for the next generation of MFTs is listen deeply to the veterans of our industry, be curious about everything, go with your gut, and see your own therapist regularly. Oh and take your licensure exams as soon as you can! Life gets busy and you don’t have the luxury of studying or leaving the office. And that’s a good thing! ”


Heidi Barnwell, also an August 2014 graduate, has returned home to Anchorage, Alaska working as a therapist at Anchorage Community Mental Health Services (ACMHS). Barnwell works in Child and Family Services where they provide a wide range of therapeutic services to children, adolescents, and families where the majority of clients have experienced complex trauma. Barnwell works with ages ranges from 5 to 21 years old with a mix of individual and family therapy. About 75% of the individuals she works with are Alaska Native and are either currently or have previously been in the foster care system for a large part of their lives. In Alaska, 60% of the children in foster care are Alaska Native.

Barnwell states that, “I can confidently say that feel that my education at Lewis & Clark and my internship experience at Catholic Community Services prepared me very well for the work that I am doing now. I am very grateful for that. I also recently just began working as a contract therapist with The Couples Center of Alaska.” Barnell is looking forward to starting her work with the Couples Center one day a week and gaining experience with doing couples therapy and working closely with one of the most experienced couples therapists in Anchorage. Between these two jobs, Barnwell is hoping to obtain licensure within the next year and a half. 

“Life after graduation has been a whirlwind. In Alaska, there are very few MFTs so I really miss the community of MFTs in Portland. I am trying to be positive and see it as an opportunity to be unique and share knowledge with others. Overall, working in a community mental health agency is very challenging but rewarding. There are some really hard days and some great days. It is important for me to hold onto the good moments and successes as a therapist. Self-care has also been a crucial aspect to this work. I am lucky to have a community of friends and family who support me and encourage me to be active and get outside in the Alaska wilderness. Again, I feel very fortunate to have had the education, training, and community of faculty and students whom I learned so much from at Lewis & Clark.”