Meeting the growing need for mental health professionals

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Thanks in part to COVID-19, the demand for mental health and drug addiction treatment has increased dramatically, according to the National Council for Mental Wellness. Fifty-two percent of behavioral health organizations saw an increase in the need for services. Almost half of all Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and LGBTQ + people have reported an increase in mental health issues in the past year, but few have received treatment. The Council also cited a decrease in care capacity due to the pandemic and that 54% of treatment facilities have had to close programs.

These losses have created opportunities for more mental health professionals. The need for culturally competent counselors continues to become more evident when we see health disparities across the country, says Pat Russell, Psy.D., dean of the School of Health and Social Services at City University of Seattle.

“To prepare to become a practitioner, you first need to have commitment and motivation. When you do, becoming a consultant is one of the most rewarding things you can do, ”says Russell.

If you are interested, you must identify an accredited school for your core courses. The accreditation body, in this case, is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs. Necessary courses may include advanced counseling theory and practice, pedagogical theories, ethics, and evaluation. You may also need to write a thesis, dissertation, or complete a final project, which may coincide with the next stage – the internship or internship phase. Then, when you have completed your internship hours, you can apply for a state license. Meeting these requirements can lead to becoming an educator or researcher in the field of mental health.

“To become an educator or researcher, you must first have practical experience working with individuals, families and communities,” explains Russell. “We need educators and researchers who are or have been in the field.


How do you decide which role to focus on?

You can choose to be a practitioner in counseling education and supervision, a professional position in academia, or to do research in the field of counseling. Russell says that once an individual has been an active clinician, they begin to see what issues need to be addressed. It can lead to teaching or research. With a doctorate you have more mobility and more options, she says.

If you focus on becoming a school guidance counselor or counselor, those roles are expected to increase by 8% by 2029 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As a practitioner, you can work in a mental health clinic or open your own private practice, explains Russell. Academia offers both teaching and research opportunities.

“Research is very important in the field,” she says. “For example, the relationship between mental health counseling and intersectionality is extremely important right now. Other areas of research include counseling and culture, social justice and trauma.

The importance of understanding different cultures

CityU’s own doctorate. in the counselor training and supervision program contains a multicultural and social justice context. This is important because our society is increasingly diverse and because it is more globally connected than ever before, social justice issues continue to arise, Russell says.

Mental Health America has compiled statistics explaining the need for culturally knowledgeable mental health professionals:

  • Black adults are 20% more likely to report significant psychological problems than white adults.
  • Hispanics and blacks suffer more from continuous depression than whites.
  • Native Americans and Native Americans have higher incidences of post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol dependence than any other racial group.
  • BIPOC populations may have an excessively high incidence of disability due to mental disorders.
  • When healthcare providers suffer from cultural incompetence, they are more likely to underdiagnose or misdiagnose mental illness in the BIPOC community.

“As you can see, social justice issues are impossible to ignore,” says Russell.

If you want to help ease America’s mental health crisis, a PH.D. at CES could be your next move.

“We are looking for students with a Masters in Counseling who are passionate about providing culturally appropriate education and supervision, and who are interested in making a positive impact in the field of counseling,” says Russell.

Seattle City University is a private, non-profit accredited doctoral-level university. It has been ranked by US News & World Report as one of the nation’s top 50 for its online bachelor’s degree programs for eight consecutive years.


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