January 23, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Sociology Alum’s Career Treating Mental Health

Brent Phipps

Brent Phipps

Brent Phipps ‘89M began teaching sociology classes while finishing his master’s in Sociology in the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University, and he continued teaching after graduation at Chillicothe and Lancaster regional campuses.

From Teaching Sociology to Mental Health Agency

At the time, OHIO offered classes through a prison program. Phipps enjoyed teaching non-traditional age students in the prison population in that program in particular because of their life experiences and what they could relate in real life to the concepts and theories they studied in Introduction to Sociology and Social Problems classes.

He began doing intake assessments at a mental health agency and eventually became Crisis Coordinator for Washington County for a few years. Later he took a job with a mental health child and adolescent agency and became their director of operations.

They covered six counties in Ohio and operated 13 different sites, including three residential homes for youth. After about six years in that position Phipps began a small mental health agency in Marietta that was sort of a niche agency then.

The agency started with around five clients in 2007, which quickly grew to 50. When he sold the agency in 2013, it had approximately 1,900 clients and was certified for both drug and alcohol addiction and mental health.

What he enjoyed most about working with his agency’s clients was that they seemed to have the sense that he and his colleagues were genuinely interested in their recovery and treated them as individuals.

Why a Master’s in Sociology?

His encouragement to pursue a master’s degree came from Dave Boyer at Marietta College and even set up the interview with Dr. Marty Schwartz, then Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

Phipps says that at that time the two big pluses for going to OHIO for his Sociology masters was no foreign language requirement and the program’s willingness to let him do qualitative research over quantitative. He describes the graduate program experience as wonderful, with Dr. Chris Mattley, Dr. Orville Gursslin and the Social Movements class with Dr. Bruce Kuhre, but points out that everyone in the department had an open door so he learned a lot even from professors he didn’t have for a class, including Dr. Bob Shelly and Schwartz.

He explains that studying sociology opened a whole new way of seeing the world through different theoretical lenses, which led him to see the world and people in it not so much a black-and-white way but the shades of grey that we live with, and more – to embrace that, study it, think about it, and act towards it always knowing there is a deeper meaning and truth to what we experience around us.

“My continuation of study at OHIO deepened my understanding of the social forces that are at work in shaping who we are as individuals and helping clients reinterpret how they were affected by social institutions such as family and peers and helping them find more positive social forces in their lives to aid in their recovery.

“Ohio University’s graduate program certainly strengthened my self-confidence and the freedom to explore academic areas of interest to me, an exploration that was supported by the faculty in a very strong way.”

Retirement… and Grocery Shopping

After selling the agency Phipps bought an old Craftsmen house in eastern North Carolina, built in 1929. He now splits his time between Marietta, Ohio and Washington, North Carolina, and enjoys motorcycle riding, tinkering with his sports cars, bicycling, traveling and going to the gym. Things he says he never had enough time for all of those working years. He also comments that after almost 25 years of having not gone to a grocery store for regular grocery shopping, his domestic partner is pretty happy that he actually enjoys grocery shopping.

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