Cazenovia College is in the process of filling the fourth cohort of its Clinical Mental Health Counseling master’s degree program, a two-year course of study that leads to a master’s degree in the clinical medical specialty.
The program was started in 2019 as the first graduate-level degree offering in the College’s 197-year history. The popular program, designed to respond to a demand in the profession, has enrolled the full 15-student capacity in each of its prior years. Recognizing an emerging need for mental health counseling professionals several years ago, Associate Professor Christina Bobesky, M.S., Ph.D., and Professor Mary Handley, PhD, LMHC, CRC, acted to develop the fully accredited program.
Since then, the need for mental health counselors has only increased, and it appears that trend will continue. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 25 percent growth in employment for substance use disorder, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors by 2029. New York is one of the states with the highest level of need for licensed mental health counselors.
The College has been able to place students in clinical settings for field internships, even during the COVID pandemic. In the last two years, students have trained to do telehealth appointments during severe COVID restrictions, but also have been placed for in-person internships in group counseling, crisis intervention, and other mental health counseling roles.
Full Cohorts, Wide Perspectives
The backgrounds of students entering the program has been diverse in age, time out of college, and experience in the work world, and that brings an exciting mix of talents, perspectives, and experience to the classroom, says Associate Professor Bobesky. Current students include an English teacher, a basketball coach, and a nurse, who are all planning to change careers. Others are Human Service professionals seeking higher credentialing. “The varied experience in the field makes for dynamic class discussion and natural pairs or groups for vicarious learning,” Dr. Bobesky adds.
A student exit survey showed that 67 percent were working full time, and 22 percent were working part time while completing their degree. It also showed:
- 80 percent of graduates cohort reported receiving an offer of employment in the counseling field
- 20 percent are planning to pursue a doctoral degree
- 100 percent are pursuing a limited permit and full licensure
- 100 percent are very likely to recommend this program to others
A Supportive Community
Two recent graduates who are satisfied with their course of study and its outcomes are August 2021 graduates Gail Boone, of Cazenovia, and Shiloh Wood, of Baldwinsville.
Boone worked as a certified teaching assistant in the Cazenovia Central School District for 10 years and has just begun a new career as a mental health counselor at CirCare in Syracuse. She was pleasantly surprised to find she could pursue a graduate counseling degree in her hometown. “It was really the perfect thing for me, though I would have driven much farther to get into this program. I never expected this level of excellence from a graduate program or for everyone involved to be so invested in the students,” she says.
Boone is continuing her College affiliation as an adjunct instructor. She’ll be teaching an undergraduate group counseling course this spring and plans to provide students with the same kind of nurturing she encountered. “The first-year graduate students became very close, all of us working toward making all of us successful. There was always somebody there to lend a helping hand or explain an assignment. Everybody was there 100 percent for everyone else, and I think that comes from the level of support and positivity of the professors. When that becomes the norm, it’s something you want to do too, to help other people.”
Achieving ‘Dream Job’
Shiloh Wood recently took a job with the Oswego Health hospital network. She’s a school-based mental health counselor, working with students at two Oswego City elementary schools. It’s the “dream job” she decided to pursue after completing Cazenovia’s undergraduate Human Services program. She is also now pursuing licensure.
Wood believes the graduate program’s adherence to accreditation standards, assurance of internship placements, and the faculty’s continual support were instrumental to helping her fulfill her goals.
“Faculty were there for you if you needed anything, at all hours, to help you keep pushing through,” she adds.
What is distinguishing about Cazenovia’s human services and counseling academic programs is that a student can enroll for study at all levels, for programs that lead to either a certificate, associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree.
The graduate program prepares students for the requirements for New York State Licensure for Clinical Mental Health Counselors. Courses focus on human growth and development, counseling theories, group dynamics, cultural foundations, assessment and appraisal, couples and families, substance abuse, clinical instruction, and internships. Students can complete 60 credit hours of coursework within two years. More details on the program can be found at: www.cazenovia.edu/gradprograms.