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California’s shortage of mental health professionals expected to continue

Allan Hancock College professor Sabrina Rock has been in the field of psychology for nearly two decades.

“I went to school starting in 1999 and I’ve been working in the field and going to school ever since,” Rock said.

Now that she’s teaching the next generation of psychology students, she says many people’s motivations for getting into the mental health field have changed; more students want to get into psychology for their personal connection as opposed to the monetary gain.

“Especially with addiction – [often] they are addicts themselves and they are looking to become counselors to help other people with addiction or they either suffer from mental illness or someone in their family or their friends have mental illness. So they have an understanding and compassion for people and they want to be able to help people with something they’ve gone through,” Rock explained.

Despite this however, there’s a serious shortage of mental health professionals in California, that’s expected to only go into a deeper decline in the next 10 years.

To make matters worse, the federal government doesn’t consider a community to be in a shortage unless there’s only one therapist for 30,000 people.

For Rock, those numbers don’t add up.

“I thought how many patients, clients could a psychiatrist see in a day, in a week, in a year, how many could they have ongoing treatment with? In a population of 30,000 what percentage would need treatment and do those numbers match up – they don’t. it isn’t possible to treat that population,” Rock said.

Rock says one way to help fix this problem is by increasing the amount of community outreach programs available.

“We need to focus on prevention and building support systems within our communities and our families. It’s a multi-generational problem, if you have parents who are distressed and in trauma, they are inflicting that on their children who are inflicting that on the next generation and it just gets worse. So we have to have more family based, community based, even spiritually based programs to help people before they need a psychiatrist, not after.”

For the 2017 to 2018 school year, Allan Hancock had 911 students declared with the major psychology and since students can transfer to any CSU, these students will potentially be able to help combat this decline.

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