by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism
Dr. Knight: Would you please share with us your early Catholic formation and your interest in mental health.
Caitlin Knight: I grew up in a Catholic family where going to church and attending religious education was a weekly occurrence. My parents taught my sisters and I about the importance of prayer, treating others with kindness, love and compassion.
I became interested in mental health while completing my undergraduate internship experience at Sertoma Centre. I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree in psychology and was not quite sure what my next steps would be following graduation. During my internship at Sertoma Centre I had the privilege of learning from and working with their wonderful clients. The clients I primarily worked with were diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar disordered). I was touched by their individual stories. Hearing about their lives prior to the onset of illness and the following the onset was life changing for me. Their stories never included complaints, anger, sorrow or questioning of “why me.” I was in awe of their strength, courage and resilience to what most people would find as a hear-breaking and sorrow filled story. From there I knew the path I wanted my professional life to take.
Dr. Knight: You went to college and started your work as a professional worker as well as being married. How did you make those decisions?
Caitlin Knight: My professional work has been a passion of mine ever since my undergraduate internship experience. Luckily, my husband shares the same passion for his work in higher education and now social work. My husband has always been incredibly supportive of my work and career goals. He too shares much of the same values when it comes to helping and teaching others.
Dr. Knight: The decision to work full-time as a mental health professional is an important one. What led you to make this choice?
Caitlin Knight: After I graduated high school, I was unsure what I wanted to major in or pursue professionally. I remember grappling with the idea of becoming a teacher and wanting to teach history at the college level; none of those ever fit. My internship experience at Sertoma Centre had such a profound experience on me that I decided to continue my work in the field. I moved from working with clients with severe and persistent mental illness to community-based therapy with at risk children and adolescents on the Southeast side of Chicago to now working in a private practice setting for the last 10 years. Working as a licensed clinician has provided
Dr. Knight: Your work in mental health is certainly important in this climate. Do you believe that the pandemic increased the need for mental health services?
Caitlin Knight: Absolutely. We were seeing a rather large demand in mental health services for children and adolescents specifically well before the pandemic. When the pandemic began it brought with it such a sense of uncertainty, fear, isolation and disconnect from our social worlds that it increased the demand far greater than anything I have witnessed in my 18 years in the field.
Dr. Knight: Why is the attention to mental health so important today?
Caitlin Knight: I think that mental health is and has become increasingly more prevalent, especially with children and adolescents. I feel they are faced with much more stress and anxiety when it comes to school, future plans post high school, navigating the complexities of friendships/romantic relationships, and forming a sense of understanding of who they are and where they fit in the world, as well as having a broader awareness of what is happening in the world. Young people oftentimes are not equipped with the tools or skills to manage the intense feelings that can accompany these stresses. There
Dr. Knight: What are some of the challenges of working in the area of mental health?
Caitlin Knight: One of the current challenges working in mental health has been trying to meet the increased need. Since the pandemic began there has been an incredible increase in need for those seeking out mental health services. Clinicians have increased their client caseload in an attempt to meet this demand while working to avoid burn out.
Dr. Knight: What are some of the joys you’ve experienced as Caitlin Knight, in the area of mental health?
Caitlin Knight: Where do I begin to answer this? One of the many joys I have had over the last 18 years of being a therapist has been having the opportunity to work with so many wonderful clients. I have been honored and privileged to have their stories, struggles, and successes shared with me. It is a joy for me to watch my clients grow, achieve their goals, and celebrate their successes. I experience joy each day that I walk into a session and a client shares that they’ve had success with a skill or coping strategy we’ve been working on or when a child tells me they like coming to therapy. I feel joy when a parent thanks me for helping their child or thanks me for providing the parent support in their parenting journey. When I end each work day and I reflect on the sessions I’ve had, I feel grateful.
Dr. Knight: Caitlin Knight what are some of the duties that you perform in mental health? How does your Christian faith support your work?
Caitlin Knight: As a licensed therapist I work individually with children/adolescents and their families, as well as adults. I work with clients to develop ways to cope/manage their feelings, problem solve situations, communicate and connect more effectively with others, provide support and encouragement for the child/adolescent, as well as their parents. Many of the clients and families I work with are also part of the Christian faith. My faith has allowed me to support my clients and families in times of crisis, whether it be a mental health or medical crisis. My work allows me an intimate glimpse into the struggles and challenges that others have; in this way my faith has helped me to feel like I am doing the work that I was meant to do.
Dr. Knight: Thank you so much for offering us this interview and letting us see all the good works that you do for us all and your work as a mental health professional.