When Eileen Brown takes over as the newly elected Hayes County Court Judge, she will be armed with a combined knowledge of law and counseling, as a result of her years in law and professional counseling.
“I felt I could bring both areas of expertise to the position to make sure we had a viable mental health court,” she said.
Brown graduated in 2011 from the University of Houston Victoria’s Graduate Program in Counseling Psychology. She received her Juris Doctor from Texas Tech University School of Law in 1991 and practiced law for several years before earning a degree in Counseling Psychology. She has been an attorney for over 30 years and has practiced for 10 years as a career counsel while practicing law. Brown, a resident of Hays County near Dripping Springs, was sworn in as the judge of Hays County, District Court in Law No. 3 on January 1. A mental health court program was created over the summer.
“We are very proud of the good work done by our alumni, who exemplify what it means to be driven,” said Kyoko Amano, dean of UHV’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. “Mental health is an important aspect of our society that intersects with many other areas, and Ellen is equipped to serve her community well. We wish her all the best as she embarks on this journey.”
Brown decided to obtain a degree in Counseling Psychology so that she could gain a better understanding of the psychological, mental, and emotional aspects of the cases she saw as an attorney in family law and criminal law. During her time as a graduate student at UHV, she learned new skills that were useful to her as a counselor and attorney, such as motivational interviewing, which is useful in situations such as interviewing someone with substance abuse problems. Something I found helpful was practicing hypothetical situations with other students and getting feedback from professors on areas where you could improve. She also appreciated the help she received for her practicum from Paul Hamilton, a now-retired UHV Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology.
The skills and methods she learned through the counseling psychology program have proven to help not only her clients, but also when she worked cases as a collaborative attorney with other attorneys.
“The law is very analytical and advice-oriented, but when you move to the mental health counseling side, your role is not to give advice but to help the individual come up with their own answers,” Brown said. “I feel like I’ve been successful doing this for my clients. I’ve received positive feedback in my mediation work and collaboration with other attorneys.”
said Katherine Beers, professor of psychology and director of UHV, as a graduate student in UHV’s Counseling Psychology program.
Mental health courts are a relatively new development, Beers said, and these courts are looking at innovative ways to treat offenders with mental health issues. In many places, prisons have far too many people with mental disorders and challenges of all kinds, and yet there are usually very few services available to them while incarcerated. This increases recidivism and reduces the chance of rehabilitation.
“She was an exceptional psychologist and had empathy for clients of all kinds,” said Beers. “Eileen is ideally prepared to lead a mental health court. Her training and long experience in the practice of law, combined with her solid training and long experience as a mental health professional, gives her an outstanding understanding of the complexities of both worlds and allows her to balance justice with the needs of those struggling with mental health challenges.”
In her new role, Brown will serve as Mental Health Court Program Supervisor. Her other duties include providing guardianship and overseeing criminal misdemeanor cases as well as some civil cases.
People with mental health issues are required to apply for the mental health court program and follow certain steps. Brown will monitor them to ensure that individuals are making progress with the program. The mental health court is a positive movement in the state, and Brown is motivated to help make the program a success. Often, she said, there are people in the criminal justice system who are there because of a mental health crisis and could be better served by receiving mental health treatment. A program like the Mental Health Court helps the community as a whole, providing protection to the public and reducing the number of offenders as well.
“I look forward to making positive changes to improve the functionality of our courts and to help individuals who participate in our mental health court find a healthier path in life,” Brown said.
To learn more about the UHV Counseling Psychology program, go to www.uhv.edu/liberal-arts-social-sciences/graduate-degrees.