The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it not only serious physical consequences for those who contracted the virus but also ongoing mental health repercussions. Between anxiety about the illness and caring for sick loved ones, job and financial insecurity and the effects of social isolation, the pandemic exacerbated existing mental health conditions and brought attention to the growing need for mental health counselors.
“The pandemic definitely heightened the need for access to mental health care,” said Christina Neider, EdD, Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at University of Phoenix. “Meanwhile, the stigma around mental health care is [declining]. You see athletes talking about it openly. A whole-person concept is becoming more of a topic with healthcare clinicians.”
Demand Is Growing for Mental Health Counselors
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which detailed findings from a survey in late June 2020, people reported significant increases in behavioral health symptoms. Of those surveyed, 31 percent reported symptoms of anxiety or depression and 13 percent reported that they had started or increased substance use. In addition, 26 percent reported experiencing stress and 11 percent reported suicidal thoughts. The numbers are double what CDC experts might have expected prior to the pandemic and were tied to worries about food insecurity, financial distress and loneliness.
The demand for mental health counselors has never been higher. One in five adults experiences mental illness each year in the U.S. Further, one in 20 experience serious mental illness, and 17 percent of youth experience a mental health disorder according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Not surprisingly, the career prospects for mental health counselors are promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for “mental health counselors is projected to grow 23 percent between 2020 and 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.”
Numerous Career Options with Counseling Degree from University of Phoenix
Becoming a certified mental health counselor begins with a master’s degree in counseling followed by a licensure exam in order to practice in a particular state. University of Phoenix offers a Master of Science in Counseling/Clinical Mental Health Counseling (MSC/CCMH) degree program that equips graduates to clinically assess and treat clients struggling with issues like anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
The 60-credit degree program can be completed in as little as 41 months and is designed to help prepare students for licensure as a professional counselor. Over the course of the program, students can learn to advocate for the counseling profession, navigate assessments and tests leading to practice, use research to enhance their practice and develop cultural diversity competencies. Other topics include gaining a deeper understanding of human growth and development, group counseling practices and career development theories.
The degree program meets the California Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) requirements for registration with the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) as an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor (APCC). Once graduates have completed their master’s degree program with University of Phoenix along with their postgraduate supervised clinical hours, they are eligible to sit for the LPCC exam in California and, once licensed, to practice in the state. They are also qualified to meet and pass the licensure requirements for many other states. The complete listing, which can be found on the University of Phoenix website, includes Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
With an MSC/CCMH degree from University of Phoenix, students can go on to a number of careers in mental health including a mental health counselor or case manager. These jobs can range from private practice, to positions within hospitals and healthcare facilities, to work with government agencies and schools.
License requirements vary by state. Students should ensure they stay up to date on the licensure requirements in any state in which they desire to practice. Review state licensure requirements at https://www.phoenix.edu/colleges/college-ofhumanities-and-sciences/state-requirements.html
Residencies Provide Hands-On Learning in University of Phoenix Counseling Degree Program
Along with core classes in subjects such as Personality Theories and Counseling Models; Legal, Ethical And Professional Issues in Counseling; and Multicultural Issues in Mental Health Counseling, students also attend three residencies with both virtual and in-person components to enhance their online learning and further develop the their identities as counselors. The residencies provide students with constructive feedback and help to ensure that they are progressing as needed through the degree program. Placement staff at University of Phoenix works with students to prepare them for in-person residencies and offer assistance in local lodging options.
In the final year of the program, students participate in a Practicum and Internship. These supervised clinical experiences allow students to begin counseling clients and take place at the Phoenix campus Counseling Skills Center which is equipped with private counseling rooms. After passing Residency III, students must then seek a clinical placement with an approved site. They receive support from a Field Placement Team at University of Phoenix as part of this process.
Neider wrote in the welcome materials that part of the program’s success lies in its low faculty-to-student ratio which “allows for engagement with you, our students, via ongoing dialogue for personal mentoring as well as for collaborative inquiry and practice.” She continued: “Our comprehensive, rigorous and research-based curriculum is designed to build your professional counselor identity and prepare you for state licensure.”
About University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix is committed to providing affordable and accessible higher education opportunities for working parents and adults. University of Phoenix degree programs are directly aligned with in-demand career paths including a Master of Science in Counseling that prepares students for licensure and practice as mental health professionals in healthcare settings and schools. The University provides flexible schedules, online learning options, financial support and scholarships, transfer credit opportunities and dedicated staff to help students complete their degrees and find career success. Visit www.phoenix.edu to learn more.