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Provider Spotlight: Melissa Mitchell

Transforming through telepractice

How school psychologist Dr. Melissa Mitchell went from bogged down to balanced

Melissa Mitchell, PsyD, EdS, knew she wanted to be a psychologist from the get-go, and it wasn’t long into her undergraduate studies that her passion for serving students emerged. From there, each academic milestone–classes, practicums, and internships– brought her closer to her goal until she excitedly accepted her first school psychology position as an on-site clinician. The school-based setting seemed like a perfect fit…until the effects of burnout began to set in.

The reality of onsite school counseling

After five years in a school setting, it became clear to Melissa that the day-to-day stress of her career had become unsustainable. Overwhelming caseloads, lack of clinical support, and working out of a janitor’s closet-turned-office left virtually no space for professional development, self-care, or work-life balance.

“I was at a crossroads, wondering if this was something I still wanted to do,” recalled Melissa.

Finding resources, support, and self-care through teletherapy

Melissa says she didn’t have to look too long before finding a virtual clinical network that piqued her interest.

“By far, Presence offered the most robust capabilities in terms of virtual activities,” she said, citing access to the largest digital library of assessments as a plus. “But what really drew me in is the sheer number of clinical supports. I went from feeling alone on a sinking ship in the brick-and-mortar setting to feeling so supported, so welcomed, and having somewhere to turn for any question that I had.”

In addition to receiving dedicated support, Presence clinicians work remotely based on their own preferred scheduling, a perk Melissa says has helped her integrate much-needed self-care into her work day. A little bit of yoga in between sessions, or a moment to step outside for some fresh air, she says, goes a long way towards burnout prevention and replenishing her emotional bandwidth.

When you’re working to support the well-being of others, you want to be readily able to tap into compassion, empathy, and patience. And anyone who’s stretched thin and running against the clock knows those emotions and constructs are not as readily available. Teletherapy enabled me to commit to taking on as much work as I could while being able to designate the proper amount of time to care for myself.

Taking on new tech: a pleasant surprise

Some clinicians may worry whether their tech ability is up to par when considering teletherapy, but in Melissa’s experience, adapting to a few new systems was smooth sailing.

“One of the biggest misapprehensions that I had during my interview was thinking that I was going to be asked all of these tech-savvy questions,” she explained. “But the tech side comes. There are all sorts of resources and support. It’s really about being able to be a clinician. If you can be a clinician, then you can transfer your skills to a virtual platform.”

Melissa says that the Presence Platform’s seamlessly integrated learning activities help maintain student focus and promote a more interactive experience overall. Working with a remote clinician also provides students with an added layer of discretion, which Melissa suspects is a crucial contributor to their increased willingness to self-disclose.

“There’s something about the screen that offers a veil of comfort and reduces stigma,” Melissa said. “I would say it potentially enhances connection–it certainly doesn’t hinder it.”

Room to flourish

Investing in her own well-being has given Melissa the space to explore professional development and meaningful personal endeavors, too.

“Since becoming a telepractioner, I’ve published and illustrated three children’s books, and I pursued my doctorate,” Melissa said. “So I went from thinking, ‘I might not be able to stay in this field,’ to finding telepractice and deciding I wanted to stay and learn even more.”

Melissa was so inspired by the benefits of telepractice, in fact, that she published her experience in her 2023 book, From Survival to Service: the life-altering impact of telepractice, as a resource for educating clinicians, schools, and families on the benefits of teletherapy. The guide features an in-depth review of self-care for clinicians and how transitioning to teletherapy can help mitigate clinical burnout, plus insights from over 20 special educators, including some of Melissa’s Presence peers.

“…As you’ll read from the accounts of other clinicians and educators,” Melissa writes, ”Telepractice offers a viable, ethically sound, and reliable service modality for carrying out the roles of school-based psychologists, speech-language pathologists,

occupational therapists, and mental health counselors. I want clinicians who are overworked or who are considering leaving the field altogether to know that there are options that offer greater flexibility and professional autonomy while still allowing them to serve students.”

Dr. Melissa Mitchell is an educational psychologist, wife, mother, author, and illustrator. She has worked concurrently as a school psychologist and freelance writer for more than ten years. Author of the telepractice blueprint, From Survival to Service: the life-altering impact of telepractice, and editor-in-chief of the newsletter, It All Adds Up: Telepractice in Schools, Melissa is passionate about encouraging educators and students to be kind to themselves so they can be kind to others.

Melissa Mitchell
PsyD, EdS

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