By Chyresse Hill
With demand for mental health services reaching some of its highest levels to date, there is an increasing need for more mental health professionals. In fact, according to a recent study by the California Health Care Foundation, approximately 6 percent of both California and U.S. adults reported needing mental health treatment or counseling but not being able to get it.
To help address these challenges, Kaiser Permanente’s School of Allied Health Sciences (KPSAHS) is working to expand and train the next generation of licensed marriage and family therapists, including an increased focus on students representing diverse communities. The school is currently recruiting its next class of students for its two-year Master of Science in Counseling program, with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy. The program is open to individuals who have completed a bachelor’s degree and have an interest in pursuing a career as a mental health professional.
KPSAHS students take classes in a hybrid environment, which enables them to continue working while pursuing their degree. On-campus classes are held in Richmond, California, one day a week with the remaining classes held online. Students also receive supervised clinical training through Kaiser Permanente prior to graduation.
Kaiser Permanente is committed to expanding the mental health workforce and increasing its diversity and representation. Students who apply for the upcoming cohort will join a diverse group of 36 current students who bring a broad range of backgrounds and experiences to the program. More than four of 10 students speak a language other than English, and more than seven of 10 identify as people of color.
“There are just not enough therapists in the community, so we want to expand the number of mental health therapists by expanding the pipeline for this important field,” said Anthony Dragonette, founding director of the Master of Science in Counseling program at KPSAHS. “As people in our program learn the best practices in the delivery of mental health services, they are able to change the lives of those who come to see them.”
Michael Ramirez of Sacramento works in hospital staffing at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento while he is pursuing his Master of Science in Counseling. He is currently in his second year of the program.
“I have worked in mental health for most of my life. When I was 18, I worked in a foster home for children with autism. I have also worked in supportive living services for adults with disabilities, so it seemed like a natural fit to be in this program,” said Ramirez. “When I graduate, I would like to become a therapist at Kaiser Permanente, perhaps working with young adults, because that is a pivotal age where you can help them and make their lives better.”
Rose Baty has been with Kaiser Permanente for about 20 years and currently works as an administrative assistant in the surgery department in Oakland. She is also in her second year of the counseling program at KPSAHS.
Baty is a mother of three college students and says this was the right time to pursue a counseling career. It’s also personal.
“I have always loved talking with people, but I never saw it as something that I could do for a living until now,” Baty said. “I was once a little girl who needed therapy, and I want to gain the skills and expertise so I can provide that type of service for someone else.”
Annual tuition is extremely affordable thanks to financial support from the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and The Permanente Medical Group, which cover some of the school’s operating cost.
Applications close February 17, 2023, for the next class.
For more information, visit here.
This article was submitted for publication by Kaiser Permanente.