South Florida Hospital News
Sunday April 5, 2020

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March 2020 - Volume 16 - Issue 9




South University Answers Growing Demand for Clinical Mental Health Counseling Professionals

Every day, the need for mental health professionals grows. With increases in gun violence, school shootings, the opiate crisis, domestic violence, PTSD and more, it is imperative to have a well-trained workforce in place to help people deal with the issues affecting their wellness and personal growth.

As a way to provide more accessible and effective behavioral health services across the country, the Clinical Mental Health Department at South University offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program, which is designed to provide graduates with the skills necessary to effectively assess and treat patients. The program, which has a special emphasis on school-based counseling models and trauma and resiliency treatment approaches, works across all ages, from infant mental health to geriatric care.
“Our focus is on giving clinicians the skills to help people recover and work through issues including PTSD, childhood trauma, or being the victim of crime or domestic violence,” explained Tom Christiansen, interim program director, Clinical Mental Health Department, South University. “They may also work with patients on substance abuse issues, or on promoting physical health through lifestyle changes such as reducing risk factors for cardiac issues or diabetes.”
As the need for these services grows, so does the necessity for more experts in the field. Last year, for example, the Florida Legislature allocated funding for school-based behavioral health services for every school district in the state with the goal of having at least one mental health professional for every school.
“Florida is investing in mental health counselors; in Palm Beach County alone, more than 100 of these employees were hired in the last year,” said Christiansen.
Even before this hiring surge, South University’s master’s program, which is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), boasted a very high placement rate for graduating professionals. “Last year, 90 percent of our students had job offers upon graduation,” said Christiansen.
One of the fastest growing areas in healthcare, Christiansen added that the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics estimates a 28 percent growth in job opportunities for mental health counselors in the state of Florida in the next five years.
South University offers the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at six campuses across the country, including at West Palm Beach, where it has been in place for the past 14 years. Approximately 40 students each year take part in the two-year program, with cohorts ranging from six to 12 students. Classes are offered on evenings and weekends so that students can still work while earning their degrees.
“Right now, all of the work is ‘on-ground,’ but we are exploring the idea of providing some blended curriculum items in the future,” said Christiansen.
The program, which is focused on the latest evidence-based treatment approaches, is both individualized and hands-on. Second-year students are also required to participate in an internship, spending 800 hours working in the field.
“We take students’ professional interests into account, whether that’s working with children, or in recovery or forensics,” said Christiansen. “We also have community ties with numerous providers in the area who take part in our internship programs. This gives students a leg up when they graduate, increasing the probability of job offers.”

To learn more about South University’s Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program, visit or call (561) 273-6500.

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