Children’s Home + Aid protects, educates and counsels over 40,000 children, youth and families to fight against poverty, abuse and neglect. The 130-year-old organization has over 70 programs, which include foster care, adoption services, early childhood education, family counseling and youth services in approximately 60 Illinois counties.

(Photo Courtesy of Sarah Vitzthum)

(Photo Courtesy of Sarah Vitzthum)

After a much-needed vacation to Australia, Sarah Vitzthum made the decision to start utilizing her education by joining their team.

“After I graduated, I moved out of the country,” said Vitzthum about her “fascination” with Australia. “Once I moved back to the U.S., I knew I wanted to use my psychology degree to work with those who are mentally ill.”

Vitzthum, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Science in Psychology from Loyola University in Chicago, is currently working on her master’s degree in Forensic Psychology.

“Right now psychology is a booming field,” she said. “What I’m finding is that anymore than a bachelor’s degree doesn’t get you very far. Even [with] advanced degrees, people need to take on an entry-level job to gain experience.”

For 1.5 years, she was the assistant director of psychosocial services at a long-term care facility for adults with chronic and severe mental illnesses.

Then, she moved on to Children’s Home + Aid as a full-time case manager in a severe residential treatment center for youth with behavior and mental health problems, who are overwhelmingly from Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) wards. She recently celebrated her seventh year with Children’s Home + Aid while working on her master’s.

One memorable course for her was Forensic Documentation Report Writing and Testifying. Attorneys and judges volunteered to perform mock trials in a Chicago courtroom so psychology students would understand how court examination, cross-examination and evaluations work. Writing was another important part of the course.

Writing is crucial in this field. You have to be able to articulate what your point of view is, your position and your assessment. Write so that people can understand it. I’ve heard a lot of my instructors say they’ve seen texting language used in writing. Write properly.”

And as much as she loves her career field, she is aware of how challenging it can be for new and veteran professionals.

“[Psychology] requires you to think critically in relation to very challenging situations regardless of what branch of psychology you’re in — forensic, clinical, business, industrial organizational. You’ve got to be able to keep up.”

Shamontiel L. Vaughn is a professional journalist who has work featured in AXS, Yahoo!, Chicago Defender and Chicago Tribune. She’s been an Examiner since 2009 and currently writes about 10 categories on Examiner.com.