Graduate Psychology Tackles Impending Challenges

From: Public Affairs

Natural disasters, traumatic events, crises to families and terrorist threats are on the rise in the world. James Madison University's graduate psychology department is ready to respond.

Beginning January 2011, JMU will offer a Ph.D. in Counseling and Supervision. The innovative program will address urgent national needs to train and supervise more masterís-level counselors. Its emphasis on crisis counseling and emergency services is the first in Virginia.

Dr. Lennis G. Echterling, professor of graduate psychology, said JMU has been working for three years to build this program. They looked at national trends in counseling needs as well as feedback from an alumni survey.

In the proposal to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Echterling stated that, according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of counselors is expected to grow 18 percent through 2018. The expected demand for counselors is so great that it exceeds the capacity of current graduate counselor training programs.

In addition, there is a tremendous shortage of counselors with the specialized expertise to provide crisis counseling, trauma therapy and emergency services.

Licensed counselor Madeleine Dupre said, "The mental health field is facing a drastic shortage of trained professionals. There is an urgent need to prepare counselors to work in a variety of settings, particularly in the areas of crisis counseling, emergency services and disaster response."

The 48-hour curriculum will focus on counselor education, supervision strategies, leadership skills, counseling services and research methods. The students will include practicing counselors who have completed their master's degrees and wish to continue their professional development without resigning from their current positions.

In addition to the need for a doctoral-level counseling degree to qualify for positions in academia, it is also becoming more common to require a Ph.D. in counseling for positions in practice, especially for leadership and supervisory openings. Many practicing masterís-level counselors also see a need for doctoral-level training opportunities for professional development and career enhancement.

"Our goal is to graduate counselor educators who are scholars, leaders, researchers and who have developed greater counseling techniques," said Echterling. "Graduates of the program will be able to supervise other counselors, be the director of an agency, be a counselor educator or a scholar."

Dupre, for one, is ready to apply and is excited about continuing her education. "I have been taking doctoral courses in counseling for two years with a cohort of 'dreamers' at JMU. We have been working together with our amazing faculty to make this dream a reality. It is a privilege to be part of this process, particularly during the formative stages."

A small cohort of students will begin classes in January 2011, with a larger class beginning in fall 2011. For fall admissions, JMU's Graduate School will begin accepting applications for the Ph.D. in Counseling and Supervision on Nov. 1.

Department of Graduate Psychology: http://www.psyc.jmu.edu/counseling/
To apply: http://www.jmu.edu/grad/

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November 8, 2010