Changing Lives Together

Employee Spotlight: Poonam Ethakotu, LCPC

Poonam Ethakotu, LCPC, Clinical Counselor at Sheppard Pratt, takes pride in the relationships she builds with the students she works with. 

Q: What does a typical day look like for you?

A: The Youth First Care Program services students ages 5 to 21 with multiple disabilities, including autism and developmental delays. As a clinical counselor, I work with my colleagues, students, and their families to ensure students receive the necessary services to meet and exceed developmental milestones. A typical day involves me being in a school setting, collaborating with school counselors and staff, completing assessment screenings for any students I receive referrals for, and having individual sessions with students I opened cases for. I spend the majority of my day collaborating with school staff and students, and about 30% of my day completing documentation, scoring assessments, updating client files, reading research, and creating mental health resources to help support the school with understanding my role, how to support students with mental health concerns, and how to identify and manage crises.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working at Sheppard Pratt?

A: I really enjoy the access Sheppard Pratt provides by connecting disadvantaged communities with mental health services. I grew up in PG County, and we never had resources and therapy within the school system. I get to be a part of a program that Sheppard Pratt initiated to bridge the gap for mental health in the county.

Q: What has been your proudest moment at work? 

A: I had a client experiencing suicidal thoughts and had a plan. I was able to help them use their safety plan to reduce anxiety, and I helped the counselors manage their anxiety while supporting my client through the crisis. In the end, my client thanked me for ensuring their safety, and the guidance counselors praised me for handling the crisis with grace and empathy. I was pleased that we resolved the situation peacefully and everyone was safe. 

Q: What do you like to do outside of work? 

A: Create art, work on puzzles, and take my dog to the park. Currently, my life outside of work also includes planning my wedding! 

Q: What advice do you have for patients you see every day? 

A: We are all having a human experience. Your feelings are valid, and you possess more adversity than you know yet.

Q: If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet and why? 

A: Tupac Shakur because he’s one of my idols. He was philosophical and his lyrics really spoke to my life as a kid. I would ask him so many questions about the life lessons he learned before he died and all the revelations he came to realize in his lifetime. 

Q: If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? 

A: Fly a jet.