Compassion Calling: Preparing More Workers for the Field of Mental Health Care
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Pray for more Christian professionals in the field of mental health care.
Recommend someone to us for recruitment and training in this
One in five Americans has sought mental health treatment in the past two years, according to data collected in a National Health Interview Survey. Undoubtedly, Americans have faced extraordinary challenges personally and relationally – young and old alike – as isolation, fears, and anxiety took hold during the pandemic.
The upside of this escalating mental health crisis is that more people are actually talking about their concerns and seeking the help they need, breaking down the stigma that is often associated with mental illness.
While this urgent need for mental health services has skyrocketed, the availability of mental health care providers has not kept up with demand. Once individuals take the step to call for help or seek a referral online, many must wait until there is a provider available. Currently, the average wait time nationwide to receive mental health care is three to six months.
Christian Family Solutions is working to meet the urgent need for compassionate care – especially care that is distinctly Christian. This doesn’t happen overnight. It happens when we take a strategic look at how to recruit and train more professional soul care providers.
A DOOR OF OPPORTUNITY AT BETHANY LUTHERAN COLLEGE
Just over a year ago, God opened a door to address the need for more workers in the field of mental health care. Bethany Lutheran College (BLC) in Mankato, Minnesota launched its first ever graduate program – in clinical mental health counseling (CMHC). This two- to three-year graduate degree will prepare ethical and highly competent professional counselors to serve their communities, churches, and future clients.
Dr. Ben Kohls, Director of Graduate Studies in Clinical Mental Health Counseling for BLC, ensures the program provides the knowledge, skills, and clinical experiences to prepare counselors to serve in a variety of settings. The program also includes courses that help counselors understand how the Christian worldview can be ethically and appropriately integrated with mental health care. Online courses, three on-campus residencies, and clinical internships in the students’ home area make the educational experience in Bethany’s counseling program flexible and personal.
Dan Nommensen, Director of Community and Congregational Services at CFS, says this program at Bethany Lutheran College will help provide an essential pipeline to bring quality Christian counselors into the field.
“Bethany’s program was intentionally designed to ground students in a confessional Lutheran worldview along with clinical mental health,” he says. “It is the only program of its kind to focus on faith integration techniques that are both effective and ethical, with the expectation of improved outcomes.” This summer, interns from Bethany’s CMHC program will fill five or six internship positions at Christian Family Solutions as a part of their clinical preparation in the graduate program. The internships with CFS provide an opportunity for these counselors-in-training to make a positive impact in their communities and gain valuable experience and supervision in the field.
HOPE WALKS IN
Hope Loersch is one of 25 students in the first cohort in the CMHC program at Bethany and plans to serve in an internship with CFS this summer. Hope served as a teacher in a Christian elementary school for two years before making the decision to get her masters in clinical mental health counseling.
“I recognized the emotional needs of the students, and that they needed more attention for those needs than what I could give them throughout the school day. I found the most joy when I could work with students one on one. That was a big reason for me to make the switch to pursue counseling. I did not want to give up being able to share Christ’s love, so the Christian integration of the Bethany program, and the opportunity to work for Christian Family Solutions, are huge blessings.”
The pipeline into a master’s level program like Bethany’s starts with undergraduate programs in psychology or social work. Bethany as well as other Christian colleges such as Wisconsin Lutheran College and Concordia University have been long-standing partners with CFS to bring more students – particularly Christian students – into the field of clinical psychology.
“We are grateful for those partnerships,” Nommensen says. “Now more than ever, the world needs what we have to offer, both clinically and spiritually.
MEET KRISTEN EKISS,CFS Clinician-in-Training
“This is what I want for my career: The psychological, the medical, and the Gospel all woven together. I found that at CFS.” Kristen is attending University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) for her master’s in psychology. She is interning with Christian Family Solutions to complete her program’s requirements for training in the field. Kristen values her time at CFS because she is learning how faith principles can be properly integrated into treatment – something that is not valued or taught at most secular schools.
“For many people, faith is a big part of who they are. So when a counselor understands and can refer to a client’s belief system during treatment, the client receives the best possible care.” That’s what Kristen wants to do – blend evidence-based psychology with principles of faith. She wasn’t sure what that meant until she experienced it at CFS, under the supervision of Dr. Ashley Schoof. “I brought all my questions to Dr. Schoof, and she is helping me answer them during my internship experience.”