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Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, Concentration in Community Mental Health

The opportunities in public and community mental health are enormous, and the need for excellent therapists is great. The public mental health system in California is in the midst of a transformative change and CIIS has boldly stepped into this reality by creating the Community Mental Health (CMH) program.

Since 1973, CIIS has trained MFTs and has enabled graduates to successfully pass the licensure exam and launch successful and fulfilling careers. CIIS students have one of the highest pass rates on the MFT exam, with a 96% pass rate.

Our emphasis on both professional psychology and the mind-body-spirit connection provides a unique and appropriate emphasis for therapists who are interested in entering the profession as it is evolving.

The curriculum has been designed to meet all California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) licensure requirements and to provide knowledge and skills specifically required for community mental health. In addition to having core psychological knowledge and advanced therapeutic skills, public and community therapists must often act as advocates, systems navigators, and change agents.

The CMH program has a CAB (community advisory board) made up of MFTs, health policy leaders, consumers of mental health services, students, and faculty. The CAB ensures that we prepare students with the didactic and experiential learning they need to enter their profession fully equipped to succeed.

The ability to perform these complex and diverse duties while maintaining a strong commitment to clients, their families, and their communities is a critical factor in building and maintaining a satisfying career.

Program Statement

The field of professional psychology is undergoing exciting changes on clinical, system, and policy levels. Now is a perfect time to pursue a career that will provide you with opportunities to work directly with people to improve their lives, to contribute to your community, and to become a creative leader in your profession.

The Community Mental Health program is designed to allow working and experienced students to complete full time graduate studies and continue their involvement in community and public mental health and related work.

The emergence of the recovery model of mental health enhances the range of options we have to provide excellent therapy to diverse populations. The recovery model of mental health is a key component of California’s landmark Mental Health Services Act (2004). This act was designed to radically improve the delivery system for mental health services in the state.

There is a major and much-needed emphasis on diversifying the work force. There is need for more therapists, and specifically, more therapists who represent California’s population—rich with ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity.

In addition, there is a clear mandate to change the training that Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) receive so that they will be better equipped to provide services to these diverse populations.

Many therapists work for some time in public and community mental health settings. Professional preparation can and must prepare therapists to excel in these settings. With appropriate training, we believe these settings can attract the best therapists and provide them with rewarding careers.

For therapists interested in private practice, education, and experience, can serve as motivators for their involvement in public mental health as a complement to their private practice.

Concentration in Community Mental Health

The CIIS CMH program has been designed to help build a culturally competent and diverse mental health care work force specifically trained to provide effective therapeutic services to populations in the public sector.

The program will provide academic excellence and professional skills from many recognized disciplines within professional psychology. In addition, the program will empower psychotherapists to provide counseling and mental health services that meet diverse clients’ needs and expectations, including those with severe mental illness.

The program represents an important collaboration between the academic and public mental health sectors. Community and public agencies have indicated their interest in working with CIIS to develop and implement the program.

An advisory council will help ensure that the program design continues to meet the needs of these agencies and will help strengthen the ties CIIS has to organizations that are the potential employers of our graduates.

The curriculum provides students with many opportunities to get to know community members and learn from and with them about Mental Health services and treatment opportunities.

Many consumers, students, and professionals were consulted during the planning stage of the community mental health initiative. They were asked for their input regarding the need for a community mental health program and the training it would require.

Clinics and treatment programs are now seeing clients who have severe psychopathology, dual and triple diagnosis, and substance abuse. In addition, clients may belong to a population (African-American, Native American, Asian, and Latino) whose community has been disproportionally impacted by poverty, stigma, discrimination, and a lack of access to services.

Many who seek services are homeless, and many are veterans seeking to rebuild their lives after injuries suffered during their service. Therefore, those who were interviewed expressed unanimous support for the new program based on their experience of the level and type of therapy now required to serve an increasingly diverse community of clients.

Directors and clinicians indicated that they look forward to working with CIIS graduates who will intern at their clinics or be hired as new staff. Having already received core course training in areas such as cultural competence and case management, graduates will eliminate the need for clinic staff to spend valuable time training them in essential areas of client need.

Graduates will also enter the field with a greater level of expertise and be able to offer quality treatment to clients.

Statement of Diversity:

Diversity and the recognition of multiple perspectives is a core value of the Community Mental Health Program at CIIS. We celebrate and embrace these diverse perspectives as a source of strength, creativity and relevance in our field. Our differences and how we each live those differences - be they of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, socioeconomic status, abilities, experiences and more - enhance our ability to achieve the Institute's core mission to embody spirit, intellect, and wisdom in service to individuals, communities and the Earth. We do this by framing our studies in the context of social justice, liberation psychologies and inclduing, respecting, and valuing the voices of the communities we serve in our students, staff, faculty and where we provide service.