The UVU Master of Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program addresses critical needs | News @ UVU | News @ UVU

In the face of a global pandemic, difficult economic conditions, and rising political tensions around the world, the need for mental health care was greater than ever. Still, according to national reportsit has never been so difficult to find a therapist.

A new program at Utah Valley University (UVU) is helping to fill this need. Twenty-one students in the first cohort of UVU’s Master of Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) program are providing thousands of hours of care for the UVU community and beyond.

“The need is there,” says Kiera Davis, associate director of the CMHC program. “People are just recognizing their own needs, and there isn’t as much of a stigma centered on mental health as there used to be.”

That Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2021, more than 11% of adults in the United States reported experiencing regular feelings of worry, nervousness, or anxiety. A 2018 survey found that more than 55% of all doctor’s office visits in the US were for mental health reasons.

“Mental health is important in today’s world because it’s important to recognize when you’ve reached your limits,” says CMHC graduate student Linda Good. “Today’s world is tough – people need to be able to take a break.”

According to Davis, UVU’s CMHC program was designed for non-traditional students. Classes for the two-year program are all evenings, and the majority of the 21 students in this first cohort are non-traditional.

“This program was designed to accommodate different schedules and different backgrounds of all kinds,” says Davis.

Davis says while a degree in clinical mental health counseling is similar to one in marital and family therapy or social work, CMHC focuses on diagnosing and treating individuals. In addition to rigorous training in Western mental health practices, the program includes a course in Eastern counseling techniques. “It’s a really good, eye-opening experience that there are other ways to approach therapy and counseling,” she says.

Each student will provide 5-15 hours of counseling per week to the UVU community and will work with organizations such as Discovery Day Treatment, Alliance Behavioral Health, Circle of Life Counseling Center, The Center for Couples and Families and Cedar Psychiatry.

CMHC student Rory Hileman says his classroom work prepared him to diagnose and plan treatments, but his hands-on work with clients taught him things he couldn’t have learned otherwise.

“I had to learn about the shame and negative emotions that patients have around a disorder,” says Hileman. “Basically, it is not only the problem that the client is confronted with, but also how he thinks about his problems that influences the counselling.”

Many of the clients that UVU students see come from underprivileged or marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ people. It is estimated that by the time the CMHC program is completed, UVU students will have worked with more than 7,000 individuals and families.

“I love helping people and this theme was the best way to do that,” says Good.

Upon completion of the CMHC program, UVU graduates are eligible for certification as clinical mental health counselors and may practice in the state of Utah either alone or as part of a practice or clinic.

“Mental health counseling isn’t just about diagnosing and ‘fixing’ disorders,” says Hileman. “It effectively processes the world around you. Mental health counseling is becoming increasingly important as the world becomes more divided. And when the division finally settles down a bit, mental health will still be necessary because people need to learn how to forgive.”

For more information on UVU’s Master of Clinical Mental Health program, visit the program’s website.

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