EU Alumni Perspective: Dan Douglas
Name: Dan Douglas
Graduation Year: 2009
Current Position: Licensed MFT, Clinical Manager
City and State: Sacramento, California
Tell us about your career and what you do now.
After graduating from EU, I moved back out west and started graduate school. I attended Western Seminary and earned my master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2013. After finishing my graduate degree, I opened a small private practice and have been providing therapy part-time for the last seven years. I have been able to focus mostly on providing care to the local church community who desire therapy with a Christian therapist. It has been very rewarding being part of many individuals’ lives and providing guidance when they are feeling stuck or lost in their faith. The first full-time position I held was as a foster care & adoption social worker at one of the largest family service agencies in California. It was a great experience connecting abused and neglected children to a safe, loving family.
After four years in social work, I desired a new opportunity. I applied for a position with the local county mental health department and was hired as a crisis clinician working in the emergency department. My job was to complete assessments for people brought to the emergency department with mental health disorders who had attempted suicide, were actively psychotic, or presented a danger to others. This was an intense and amazing experience. I was able to take part in facilitating help for people at the lowest point in their lives. It was humbling and taught me so much about the healthcare system, mental health crisis, and factors that influence those extreme situations.
I left the fast pace of the ER after two years for the opportunity to be the head of service for a short-term residential therapeutic program (STRTP), which primarily served youth on probation with a history of felonious gang involvement. I loved working with these young men and having the opportunity to be a positive influence in their lives. It was rewarding when they succeeded and very sad when they failed. I witnessed first-hand the effects drugs, crime, and living in a violent environment can have on adolescents. The greatest insight I gained was my understanding of PTSD in teens. I can best summarize it like this: “The common ‘gang banger’ sees the world the same way a military combat soldier does when on active duty. Their minds are constantly wrestling over whether or not today is the day they will die.”
As of 2020, I continue to maintain my private practice and was recently hired as the clinical manager over the Sacramento region for Psynergy Programs, Inc. Psynergy provides housing and outpatient mental health services to adults diagnosed with severe mental illness. We have contracts with 36 counties in CA and nearly all of our clients are conserved and diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. We have two residential facilities with two adjoining clinics where clients receive individual/group therapy, psychiatry services, medication management, and rehabilitation services. I oversee the clinical milieu and supervise a team of nurses, therapists, and rehabilitation specialists at both clinics. A third residential facility and adjoining clinic is planned to open next year. By 2022, we hope to provide around 300 beds between all three facilities to clients in need of our level of care. Without our program, many of our clients would likely remain in locked state hospitals or end up homeless on the streets. I am blessed to have this opportunity and feel I have truly been given the chance to care for the “least of these” in our modern society.
Long term, I would like to eventually go back to school and get a Ph.D. with the goal of teaching. Until then, God has blessed my beautiful wife and me with four children and two fish to look after.
What is your favorite memory from Evangel?
Playing on the football team and living on campus in the dorms produced lots of amazing memories. One memory in particular was playing racquet ball with Dr. Smallwood and Dr. Sorbo. Those memories are fun to remember and truly a highlight of my time at EU (I definitely beat them, no doubt).
How did Evangel help you identify/develop your calling?
Evangel helped me early on to learn to defend my Christ-centered worldview in a vastly secular field, especially in the state I reside. I understand my limitations as a Christian working in the secular mental health field but also have become proficient at making the most of opportunities when I can “shine some light.” I gained a lot of insight and tools going to the Counseling Center on campus, which really sparked my calling into the field, as well as from my professors, who took personal interest in my development. I wanted to help others in the same way I was encouraged and helped by them. Those experiences shaped my identity and calling considerably.
How did your experience at Evangel prepare you for life after graduation?
All of my professors advised me that if I intended to continue in the field of psychology, I would need to get a master’s degree. It did not take long after beginning my graduate degree that I recognized my instruction at EU had prepared me well for master’s level work. I felt more than equipped, transitioning right into the master’s level course work and practicum. I am still using the practical information I learned in class at EU. I catch myself every once in while quoting Dr. Grant Jones on parenting, recalling an important detail from a lesson on diagnosing in Dr. Jean Orr’s Abnormal Psychology class, or realizing insights I gleaned from Dr. Christine Arnzen continue to influence my approach in working with couples in private practice. I also feel attending EU made me hold myself to a higher standard. During my time there, I was surrounded by brilliant people and it forced me to raise the bar for myself and strive beyond my own expectations.
What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?
Create good habits. Find out what no one else will do and do it for a while. Understand you need to build a career; you cannot have it all right away. Get the experience, do some dirty work, and the promotions will come. Don’t fake it; take the route that prepares you the best so your confidence is legitimate. Don’t ever be the ‘smartest’ at your job; find a place where you can learn around those who have more experience/skills than you do. Enhance your abilities by being around other people more talented than you.
What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from Evangel?
I am constantly reviewing resumes and hiring new staff. I look for candidates who are quick learners and show no fear trying to learn something completely new. I also look for good writers and those who communicate well. In my field almost everything you do needs to be documented, so great writing skills go a long way. Organizational skills and time management are also key abilities I look for in each candidate. Lastly, a good sense of humor is always refreshing.