As a child observing her mother’s role as an LMFT, Dr. Le Ondra Clark Harvey swore she would not pursue a career in the mental health field. However, now she has a doctorate in Counseling Psychology, is the director of Policy and Legislative Affairs at California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies (CBHA), and was recently elected to the APA’s Board of Directors.
Reflecting on her career path, Dr. Clark Harvey said, “none of it was anticipated and prescribed- it all fell into place serendipitously. My ability to accept that change has been an important part of the journey.” She credits several critical incidents in leading her to her current career in metal health policy. Ranging from her first research assistantship – as a high school student helping her mother complete her dissertation- to deciding to take a Psychology class in college, many events influenced her decision to pursue a master’s degree then continuing with a PhD in counseling psychology. Participating in APA’s Minority Fellowship Program Summer Institute in D.C. was the pivotal moment that propelled her towards pursuing policy work. During the summer of 2006, Dr. Clark Harvey met with state representatives, and shared the stories of her clients with low resources and high needs. She felt that she could be a voice for her clients, and advocate for much-needed resources. During her doctoral internship at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA’s Mattel Hospital, Dr. Clark Harvey continued to be frustrated by the systemic barriers that her clients were facing. For example, Dr. Clark Harvey shared that although she was doing trauma work with her clients, they frequently had to return to trauma-infested neighborhoods.
One day, Dr. Clark Harvey googled “policy work” and found the California Council on Science and Technology fellowship, focusing on how science and technology can inform policy. She was excited by the possibility of becoming more involved with mental health policy, and helping legislators evaluate bills that will impact millions of people in the state. However, when she researched former fellows, they were all natural scientists, so Dr. Clark Harvey thought it was not for her. She hesitantly emailed the link to a mentor, who strongly encouraged her to apply. She did, and then forgot about it. Six months later, in the middle of negotiating for another position, she was interviewed and received the fellowship. Six years later, she is still in Sacramento and is now the director of Policy and Legislative Affairs at California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies.
Dr. Clark Harvey emphasized that her training in counseling psychology has prepared her well for work in policy. She joked that she does ‘group therapy’ with lobbyists, as she must bring people with opposing positions together to facilitate dialogue and understanding. In addition to the group therapy skills, Dr. Clark Harvey noted that the critical thinking, analysis, and writing skills she developed in graduate school have been instrumental in her current role. When Dr. Clark Harvey was asked what advice she would have for students interested in perhaps a career in addition to clinical work and academia, she urged students to think beyond science and practice, be open to trying new experiences and paths, leave as many open doors as possible, look for mentors, and seek for ways to change the world around you. Dr. Clark Harvey advised students to create their own mission statement and use it to align their work and path. Above all, she urged students to find ways to change the world around them.
Mercedes Fernández Oromendia, MA
Counseling Psychology Doctoral Candidate
University of California, Santa Barbara
Tags: Early Career Professionals