October 5, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
St. John Fisher College
Penn State College of Medicine
University of Indianapolis
Washington State University
Frostburg State University
Ohio State University
Point Loma Nazarene University
University of Utah
St. John Fisher College
Wegmans School of Nursing
John Kiweewa Ph.D.: There is widespread consensus within the mental health counseling field that counseling is much about the skills and techniques as it is about the dispositions or qualities that enable counselors to provide meaningful and effective services to clients. Therefore, responding to the question of what skills stand out on Mental Health Counselors' resumes requires an articulation of attributes, characteristics, variables, or qualities that an ideal mental health counselor would possess. Indeed, there is a copious body of counseling literature describing effective counselor variables. I have highlighted some of the most salient of these variables.
1. Respectfulness of & Responsiveness to Others, Including Diverse Populations: The ability of mental health professionals to provide effective and meaningful services to individuals from diverse backgrounds is of vital importance. More culturally responsive mental health providers tend to produce better outcomes with their clients. Such cultural competence of responsiveness is most evident when a practitioner consistently conveys an attitude of respect, in both verbal and non-verbal communication, for the capability and worth of others and seeks to understand them in terms of what makes them different. It means honoring individual differences such as culture, race, ethnicity, family structure, gender, age, socioeconomic status, and other individual differences without needing to always agree with what others do or say based on these differences.
2. Ability to Balance Multiple Life Expectations and Commitment to Wellness: Mental health professionals work in an environment that demands the ability to balance multiple responsibilities and life expectations. This work-life balance is often most challenging for new professionals, often leading to high rates of burnout. Agencies or organizations will look for a mental health counselor who is able to recognize and accept their capacity to handle multiple life responsibilities such as family, school, work, and avocational pursuits. This includes being realistic in setting limits on time spent in various roles, adjusting schedules to accommodate changes in responsibilities, eating healthily, and getting adequate sleep and exercise in order to function effectively.
3. Empathy, Genuineness, Warmth, and Caring: Empathy can be described as the ability to consistently communicate, in words and actions, an accurate understanding of what others feeling or thinking; when a professional counselor is truly "in tune" with others through verbal and nonverbal actions and reactions, and try to know what it is like to be in the other person's shoes. It includes the ability to consistently convey warmth, caring, and concern for others in interactions with them. Empathy, genuineness, and caring (unconditional regard) are considered the foundational skills and orientations in mental health counseling. In fact, these have long been described as a trio of qualities that are necessary, though insufficient, for positive therapeutic outcomes.
4. Effective Interpersonal Communication: There is broad consensus within the counseling field that effective communication is the cornerstone of successful client/counselor relationships. Broadly defined, interpersonal communication involves the ability for the mental health professional to elicit and appreciate client concerns, to provide a rationale for treatment decisions, and engage the client in the process of shared decision-making and goal setting. Such skills may be both verbal and non-verbal and include micro-level skills (active listening, paraphrasing, questioning, summarizing) and macro-level skills (crisis intervention, assessment, documentation, case conceptualization, use of self, immediacy, etc.). Employers are constantly looking for mental health counselors with the ability to maximize their communication skills and knowledge of human development to enhance their clients' growth and development.
5. Professional Integrity: This quality is most evident when a mental health professional is consistently honest and trustworthy in dealing with others and admits to shortcomings and limitations in knowledge and skills. More importantly, professional integrity requires that a mental health counselor abides faithfully by established professional codes of conduct, as well as agency policies and practices. Such professionalism manifests itself in the ability to set healthy boundaries with clients, as well as communicate clearly the nature and limits of the counseling relationship.
6. Capacity for Organization: The world within which a mental health professional operates has become more complex, and such increasing complexity has necessitated demonstrated capacity for organization. This skill is most evident when a mental health counseling professional is consistently planful and orderly in thinking about and performing tasks. They can prioritize efficiently and are disciplined and task-oriented. They impose the right kind of structure on themselves to be productive without being unreasonably obsessive about things.
7. Commitment to Excellence: Growing both personally and professionally requires openness to new learning and examining one's beliefs, values, assumptions, and effectiveness. When a gap in knowledge is discovered, or a deficit in a personal quality is uncovered, a mental health professional will take the initiative to acquire new information, improve and change. To be committed to excellence requires, in part, a great deal of self-reflection, an awareness that they are one of the primary instruments/tools in counseling.
8. Trauma-informed Care: The ability to appreciate the widespread and complex impact of trauma on clients' lives and develop and integrate trauma-responsive skills, knowledge, and awareness into one's practice has become essential to providing effective counseling services. Employers are, thus, keen on mental health counseling graduates with crisis and trauma intervention skills such as mindfulness techniques, breathing techniques, relaxation methods, grounding strategies, and other knowledge of trauma-specific treatment approaches (e.g., EMDR TF-CBT, animal-assisted therapy, etc.).
9. Assessment and Diagnostic skills: The ability to work collaboratively with a client to determine presenting concerns, desired goals and objectives, and therapy process is a core component of what mental health counselors do. To do so requires skills in selecting and administering assessment tools, formulating diagnostic/clinical impressions, and developing treatment plans/or strategies. Prospective employers, therefore, usually look for candidates with strong assessment and diagnostic skills, particularly knowledge of the DSM-V and/or ICD-CM and use of primary assessment instruments (e.g., Mental Status Exam, PHQ-9).
10. Technology Skills: Digital media and resources (e.g., email, smartphone apps, online forums, Web sites, DVDs, computer software, online social networks, telephone and televideo communication, and mobile devices are fast becoming essential to the work of mental health counseling. The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the need for competence in virtual communication or the ability to provide telehealth, in addition to familiarity with Electronic Medical/Health Records systems.
11. Bilingual: The growing diversity of the United States population means that mental health counselors live and work in a multicultural world. The reality is that mental health practitioners are now more and more likely to encounter clients from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. While the counseling profession has long emphasized cultural competence as a necessary component of ethical and effective service delivery, there is evidence to suggest that the mental health field as a whole has not kept up with the demand for bilingual and multiculturally oriented counselors.
John Kiweewa Ph.D.: Receptivity to Feedback: Openness to consistently accept feedback in a respectful way is a vital quality, especially for new graduates. Such openness is important not only to feedback from supervisors but from colleagues and clients. Agreeing to or feeling bound to act on the feedback received is not as important as communicating appreciation for the effort of others in giving feedback. In this case, display of behaviors such as anger, annoyance, frustration, defensiveness, excessive/exaggerated self-criticism, or withdrawal gets in the way of learning and/or being a member of a team.
Appropriate Self-Disclosure: The ability for mental health practitioners to 'use' themselves for the benefit of their clients is one of the cornerstones of effective counseling. Such a quality is most evident when one only shares information about themselves that fits the nature and purpose of the interaction with a particular client. When personal information is revealed, it is tasteful, relevant, and is not upsetting, distracting, or confusing to others. Prospective employers are keenly aware of the ways self-serving or self-aggrandizing disclosure of personal information can negatively impact the ability to provide meaningful services to clients.
Reliability and Follow Through: Mental health professionals work in a helping profession that requires the professional to be consistently dependable, reliable, and able to follow through with tasks and assignments in a timely and thorough manner. This includes meeting deadlines, being punctual to sessions with clients and for agency meetings, being prepared, and having a reputation as one who can be counted on to do their part when functioning as a team or project member.
Flexibility and Adaptability: This quality is most evident when a mental health counseling professional consistently demonstrates a willingness to change or compromise in the face of new information, circumstances, and contexts. Situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, require mental health practitioners to have an openness to solutions that match the needs of their service recipients and organizations.
Sense of Humor: There is little to cheer about in the professional life of mental health professionals. We spend the majority of our working time listening to the most painful and vulnerable aspects of people's lives. This quality is most evident when a mental health counselor assumes an orientation to life that acknowledges to self and others the value of looking at the "lighter side" of life to maintain a balance; when they find enjoyment in laughing with others and recognize laughter as a way of reducing tension and as an important aspect of social discourse.
Confidence Balanced with Humility: Confidence in one's abilities (self-efficacy) is a general challenge for beginning mental health counselors. Some may appear over-confident as a way to compensate for lack of experience in the field and to project an image of competence. It is, therefore, important that new graduate is able to act with self-assurance by consistently expressing themselves in a clear, deliberate, and unassuming manner. It is not helpful to "put on airs" or flaunt knowledge or skills in order to bring attention to oneself. What is important is to convey appreciation for the privilege to partake in other people's life journeys and struggles.
Penn State College of Medicine
Adolescent Medicine, Psychiatry
Martha Peaslee Levine M.D.: Certainly, experience is one thing that we look for, which can be a challenge when applying for their first position. Other ways to get experience are through volunteer work or demonstrating a passion for a certain mental health issue, and being involved in advocacy. Looking for and participating in research opportunities while in college or post-graduate work. Within the field of counseling, it is important to demonstrate a passion for the work. Other skills would be any additional training. Individuals can sometimes pursue workshops or other training that builds on some of their skills or interests. Some organizations target certain interests or specialties. It can be important to get involved in these to get more education and skills and make connections within the field.
Martha Peaslee Levine M.D.: Good communication skills are important. Working as a therapist involves interacting with someone. It will be important to demonstrate being able to listen effectively and being able to communicate clearly. Active listening is important in therapy and in an interview. Be engaged; listen to the interviewer so that you are clearly providing the information that they need. For example, I often ask interviewees to tell me about a case that they found rewarding or challenging. From this, I want to know how someone thinks through a clinical situation. I want to hear how they describe their client (anonymously, of course) and how they put together the important parts of the story. If it was challenging and they now recognize ways to handle it differently, that lets me know that they have thought about this. It also shows that they are willing to reflect on difficult situations and learn from them. If someone cannot relate a story or discuss a client with me, that makes me wonder about their skills as a therapist and their interest in their patients. These clinical interactions can come from your work in school, shadowing someone in training, or internships. It is recognizing and describing the important elements of the case. Another important skill is good written communication. Check your resumes for spelling mistakes. Reread any emails to make certain they are clear. Send thank-you notes. Keep things professional--use the interviewer's professional title when you write. Be on time and have a question or two to ask about the position or place of employment. Examples can be, what are they looking for in a counselor? What have they found the most rewarding working in this office? Find your own go-to question, but interviewers what to know that you are interested.
Martha Peaslee Levine M.D.: Certainly, these days, individuals will need to know who to use electronic medical records. With the pandemic, understanding telehealth options are important. Outside of that, demonstrating skills in evidence-based techniques will be helpful. Training in CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), or MBSR (mindfulness-based stress relief) can be some important skills. Think about the population you will be working with and consider if there are techniques that have been shown to be especially helpful. Then try to develop skills and strengths in that area. Mindfulness and stress reduction techniques can be very helpful with many groups of clients.
Martha Peaslee Levine M.D.: If someone demonstrates compassion, great interpersonal skills, self-reflection, and a willingness to grow in their profession, that will benefit them tremendously. If clients feel understood and helped and want to keep working with you, your team will also recognize your skills.
Department of Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology
Treniece Lewis Harris Ph.D.: The skills that likely stand out the most on psychologists' resumes include empathy, critical thinking, knowledge of mental health and illness determinants, psychological assessment, evidence-based psychotherapy skills, and research design and implementation.
Treniece Lewis Harris Ph.D.: -compassion
-open-mindedness and respect for differences
-curiosity and critical observation
-problem recognition and analytical thinking
-creativity and flexibility
Treniece Lewis Harris Ph.D.: -Differential diagnosis to determine whether a person is experiencing an adjustment problem related to everyday life stressors or mental illness
-Knowledge and application of developmental and personality theory to human behavior.
-Experience in using multiple evidence-based psychotherapy models
-Psychological assessment, especially in neuropsychological testing
-Research design and implementation to study
-Curriculum design and teaching skills
Treniece Lewis Harris Ph.D.: -psychotherapy skills
-neuropsychological assessment skills
-research design and program development skills
Alan Cavaiola Ph.D.: Skills that stand out on a resume: What mental health counselors need to emphasize on their resume/CV would be any additional training, certificates, and conferences to help make their resume stand out. For example, some of our students take workshops and training to become certified Disaster Response Crisis Counselors in New Jersey. Others take workshops or trainings in DBT, or they'll take EMDR training or telehealth training. These are definitely the skills employers would see as important and would help put the applicant's resume at the top of the pile. Also, students in our graduate program can specialize in addiction counseling which then helps to make them eligible for both the LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) and the LCADC (Licensed Clinical Alcohol & Drug Counselor). Having both licenses will increase job possibilities exponentially.
Alan Cavaiola Ph.D.: The type of things to emphasize would be similar to those described above in terms of soft skills. Also, applicants may want to stress if they've worked with any special populations during their Practicum or Internships (e.g., children, adolescents, people with co-occurring disorders, people with substance use disorders, veterans, first responders, people with disabilities, people of various racial or ethnic groups, homeless people, etc.) Also, any counselor working in a Joint Commission or CARF program will be required to know how to write treatment plans, so those skills are also helpful to emphasize. One student was hired because she knew how to administer and score the SASSI-3 (Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory).
Alan Cavaiola Ph.D.: There have been profound changes in mental health counseling services since the onset of COVID-19. Many clients prefer the convenience and the privacy afforded by telehealth sessions. Therefore, Zoom, FaceTime, and encryption will also help put applicants at the top of the resume pile. I don't know if this falls under technical skills, but I know of counselors whose primary job involves dealing with Medicaid reviewers and managed care reviewers to justify continued treatment. Unfortunately, the "tail is wagging the dog," and rather than continued treatment decisions being made by mental health counselors, insurance carriers are often making continued treatment decisions based on treatment plans and treatment progress. Counselors who can communicate effectively with these gatekeepers become invaluable for many treatment programs.
Alan Cavaiola Ph.D.: Most Clinical Mental Health Counselors who take the time to earn clinical supervision credentials (e.g., the ACS or CCS) to supervise counselors-in-training also become invaluable to treatment programs. Often these clinical supervisors are offered higher salaries and are also more likely to move into administrative positions (e.g., CEOs). Most graduate counseling programs do not offer courses in mental health administration, and many mental health counselors do not see themselves doing administrative work; however, these positions pay more than rank-and-file counselors, especially those working in mental health agencies. If that's an area of interest, it's important to find a mentor who has administrative experience and is willing to share that information.
Dr. Benjamin Jeppsen: In Mental Health Counseling, the ability to work with people from various cultural backgrounds is paramount. Training in multicultural psychology, diversity, and inclusion are all essential in our pluralistic society. I would also emphasize training in empirically supported treatments and a clear theoretical orientation grounded in scientific literature. Finally, the recent pandemic has accelerated the use of teletherapy and remote counseling--effectiveness in connecting with people through technology and making the most of an adapted model for therapy will be very important.
Dr. Benjamin Jeppsen: Cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills are important, including openness to work with people with varying religious views. The ability to easily connect with others and put people at ease in your presence is valuable in working with clients and collaborating with a treatment team. As more and more agencies interact with the medical field, spiritual leaders, and other holistic approaches to health, counselors need to see their role in an interdisciplinary approach to healing and work effectively with other departments. With teletherapy/virtual therapy, just the simple difficulty of creating eye contact when one's camera is not directly aligned with their viewscreen can complicate important connections in the therapeutic relationship. Learning to effectively connect through screens is essential.
Dr. Benjamin Jeppsen: Obviously, mastering the technology used in teletherapy and virtual counseling is essential. Further, the use of computer programs for therapy notes, documentation, and diagnosis is also important. Assessment and psychometric abilities are also important as psychotherapy research has been very clear about the important role of outcome measurement and objective assessment in psychotherapy. When prospective clinicians demonstrate the ability to work with numbers (and the software needed to make them useful), they show an openness to the objective assessment of their work.
Dr. Benjamin Jeppsen: It depends on the population they want to work with and the clinical setting they are comfortable in. But one thing that I wish I had learned more about was how to run a health service business. Though this won't be an eye-catcher on your resume when applying for counselor positions, if you want to work at a private practice (even if you won't be the owner), an understanding of basic business principles--especially how to work with insurance companies--will help you earn more money. I worked in private practice for a little over a year. I was very frustrated about differing reimbursement processes from one insurance company to the next. Sometimes it was 6 months before I was paid for sessions I completed with clients due to difficult insurance policies. Suppose you're not comfortable contacting your clients directly to collect co-insurance, copayments, etc. In that case, private practice may not be for you. I ended up doing quite a bit of unintended pro-bono work because the insurance company refused payment (due to unmet deductibles, or the client had used all of their "approved" sessions) because I was uncomfortable going to collections with clients who couldn't pay and were unaware of their insurance limits before starting. So in terms of earning potential, learn about how third-party payer systems work, and develop a good prior authorization protocol with documentation of exactly what services you can provide that will get you paid. Then, if your business is healthy enough, hire someone else to do the job of collecting payments, working with insurance companies, and contacting clients who owe to avoid those ruptures and complications in the therapeutic relationship.
University of Indianapolis
College of Applied Behavioral Sciences
Dr. Rachel P. Feldwisch Ph.D.: In many ways, counseling program graduates will need to have the same skills that they traditionally would need in order to become effective counselors. In addition to basic counseling skills, they will need to know how to apply ethical codes, how to assess client needs, how to use evidence-based practices, and how to use client data to inform a treatment plan. Students who graduate in 2021 will have the benefit of gaining clinical experience during one of the toughest times in modern history. I view 2020 as a unique educational experience because students have had to learn how to be extremely flexible, how to meet client needs under extraordinary circumstances, and how to apply skills that they learned in-person in the classroom to virtual environments (or vice versa). I believe the next generation of counselors may collectively be the most versatile and resilient group to enter the workforce in our field because of the unique circumstances surrounding their training.
Dr. Rachel P. Feldwisch Ph.D.: While mental health counseling has been a growing profession over the past several decades, the need for counselors has skyrocketed during the past year across the United States. Mental health crisis lines have been overwhelmed, and the desire for ongoing mental health treatment is evident. While the greatest need during the past several years has been in underserved communities, such as rural areas and low-income urban areas, I foresee that the need for mental health counselors will continue to be great across our country for many years to come. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities between 2019 and 2029 are expected to grow by 25%.
Dr. Rachel P. Feldwisch Ph.D.: Technology is impacting the field of counseling in several ways. First, the internet allows community members to gain access to information and services in order to find a counselor who is a good fit for them. For example, Psychology Today offers a Therapist Finder, and the American Art Therapy Association offers an Art Therapist Locator. Second, technology increases the accessibility of mental health counseling for those who do not have access to professional counselors in their geographical area. Third, the ability to connect with a counselor through virtual means allows for treatment to occur when social distancing is necessary. Lastly, technology has opened doors in the area of counselor education that will help us to continue to produce graduates who have experience with both virtual counseling and in-person counseling.
Joanne Jodry: For new graduates, the reputation of the Professional Counseling program you graduate from and the networking you do help in job searches. It is also essential on your resume to convey that you understand the counseling profession and bring empathy and compassion along with your professional theoretical skills.
Joanne Jodry: Now that most of the counseling profession was forced into telehealth due to the pandemic, people find it a good option for some clients. Although it will probably not replace in-person therapy, we may discover more clients preferring it. Therefore, it will behoove professional counselors to become familiar and comfortable with technology.
Joanne Jodry: After any disaster, there is a mental health and addiction aftermath that can go on for years. People all react to crises in different fashions and depending on what their coping skills are going into the situation. This pandemic is a prolonged crisis, and that often has more prolonged impacts on clients. Unfortunately, this pandemic, and all of the broad sweeping consequences, will create a greater demand for counseling professionals to work with people who are suffering and those who are experiencing the long-range impact on their quality of life.
Carrie Cuttler Ph.D.: I believe there will be enduring impacts of the coronavirus on graduates. Given the economic burden that many institutions and businesses are facing, and lay offs, they have had to make it may be more difficult for graduates to find employment opportunities after graduating. At the same time, I have heard of several universities that are ramping up hiring in an attempt to attract high-quality candidates that they may have had more trouble attracting under more typical circumstances.
Carrie Cuttler Ph.D.: Now that we are all getting used to remote teaching and distance learning, more universities may ramp up their distance learning and global campus offerings. I anticipate more companies, like Zoom, creating safe, secure, online environments for learning and for meetings.
Melina McConatha Ph.D.: While Covid-19 has created challenges to traditional learning in higher education, and opportunities for direct community practice, it has also encouraged the learning community to become more innovative, flexible, and technologically savvy. Our students are graduating this year with significant training in community care and technological resource support - two significant and growing fields in human service
Melina McConatha Ph.D.: Yes - everywhere! With many communities, unfortunately, suffering from intersections of race, gender, economic, and medical inequities, human service workers are jumping in and working to create change globally.
Melina McConatha Ph.D.: Technology is woven in all parts of our lives - especially today. Human services can be strengthened by technology through accessibility and efficiency; however, it must be driven by human service ethics that can only be delivered by people.
Dr. Jennifer Flinn Ph.D.: It is far too early to determine this, but it is reasonable to assume that the pandemic will have an impact on students graduating this year and next. Some graduates will have little trouble finding jobs, while others may feel the impact of an economy where budget cuts have limited available jobs.
Dr. Jennifer Flinn Ph.D.: I am not aware of any places that are specifically good or bad. I know there will likely be an increased need for certain types of jobs (i.e., drug/addiction counselors) in many locations.
Dr. Jennifer Flinn Ph.D.: One thing that has been in place and will continue to influence the counseling field is telehealth. When the shut-down hit in the spring, many counselors had to switch to telehealth to see their clients. Meeting in person is still ideal and preferred, but I think we will continue to see a demand for services via technology.
Erika Bagley Ph.D.: There is certain to be a lasting impact of the coronavirus pandemic on all people, which naturally includes recent graduates. Many of those impacts are yet to be seen, but in the short term, for graduates in psychology, it is likely that the pandemic will shape what opportunities are present and which of those opportunities are appealing. First, things are on hold for many work settings, including research assistants and jobs with companies who might seek psychology graduates for their skills in market research and human resources.
That said, organizations that offer mental health services may see increased demand over the next few months, and there are also going to be new opportunities for individuals who can find ways to support learning for youth who are taking their classes outside of schools. It is also the case that on the individual level, the pandemic has changed how some will feel about certain job settings common to psychology graduates-schools, prisons, hospitals, and cities, in general, have become more risky workspaces. The pandemic has highlighted some of the disparities in well-being that exist in our society, and careers that seek to address systemic challenges to well-being may be particularly sought after by recent graduates.
Erika Bagley Ph.D.: The pandemic has really led to a boom in online therapy, teaching, and recreation. So, where a job opportunity is located may be wherever graduates find themselves. Moving to a particular city or geographic area for career opportunities is likely not going to be as important as having skills to facilitate remote interactions. Even if an effective vaccine comes through, there are many people who have found that receiving services and learning online to be a better fit for them, so I don't see the need for this skill set going away in the future.
Erika Bagley Ph.D.: As I mentioned in the prior answer, technology will impact the field in terms of what we can accomplish remotely and the skill sets that will be sought after. It is also worth mentioning that as much as technology will impact the field, the opposite is true. Psychologists have an important role to play as we make decisions about how humans interact with each other through a variety of online tools. Psychology can be used to inform decisions about the user interface of an application or website... much of that will require testing and experimentation focused on human behavior.
Ali Cunningham Abbott Ph.D.: Yes. Students who graduate with counseling degrees require telehealth skills that weren't always a mandatory or even expected part of the work before the pandemic. Training and certifications in telemental health and distance counseling have been in existence for many years but were never part of the standard milieu of training nor work requirements.
The need to be telehealth trained and experienced for graduates looking for employment will be one of the most significant enduring impacts on our graduates. New telehealth guidelines at the federal and state levels also provide different opportunities for mental health practitioners to practice with fewer barriers (i.e., more accessible technology, in different areas of the world) because of this crisis.
Only time will tell how enduring policies like these will be, but a demand for more flexibility for counseling to be more accessible to a broader range of clients is not likely to go away any time in the foreseeable future.
Ali Cunningham Abbott Ph.D.: The expected growth for mental health professionals (of all kinds) is promising in the United States. As national certifications and licensing rules continue to expand, with more legislative support and movement, one of the hopes of this profession is that counseling will no longer be location bound. Therefore, no matter where you are in the country, there will likely be good work opportunities upon graduation. Historically, of course, those living in more metropolitan or urban areas have more opportunities for employment in this field.
But many people who choose or must work in rural areas can be offered positions that sometimes involve stipends or higher salaries to help recruit and retain people in areas where counseling resources are less available. Another consideration, outside of population density, for future counselors to consider, is which state(s) they plan to seek licensure in. Some states have stronger licensing laws that make them better to practice in over others, including legislation that protects professional rights and client access to services.
Our program encourages counselors to do in-depth research on the places they intend to seek licensure to ensure a smooth transition to prosperous work opportunities in the field.
Ali Cunningham Abbott Ph.D.: As mentioned above, the innovation of telehealth technology has and will continue to impact our field in the next five years. There's a lot of exciting growth there that makes counseling more widely available to those who need it. Beyond that, there is incredible AI technology already in use and continuing to be developed for training future counselors. Some of this technology utilizes a hybrid of human and AI interactions to prepare students for challenging clinical scenarios and allows for a diverse training experience.
Jon Sperry Ph.D.: COVID-19 has created a number of obstacles for our current students and graduates - including their ability to get clinical experiences, through their required practicum experiences in our CMHC program, and in obtaining their post-masters clinical hours required for state licensure. Some mental health services are allowing our students and graduates to offer virtual (telehealth) counseling services. Some local mental health counseling organizations have reduced their mental health staff, while other organizations are actively looking for new staff counselors, based on the high demand for counseling services. While some counseling clinics remain open with regular, face-to-face, options still being available, we anticipate telehealth therapy platforms to be a major source of employment for our graduates. Our graduates are very likely going to be working in settings that exclusively offer mental health services through video chat, texting, and phone calls.
Jon Sperry Ph.D.: The next five years will include a major increase in counseling services being offered virtually. Some mental health-related app developers are currently scrambling to develop apps to increase the accessibility of counseling services to individuals from the comfort of their own homes. These apps allow individuals to access mental health counseling services through video chatting, texting, or phone.
Daniel Cruikshanks Ph.D.: Yes, absolutely, but it's hard to say exactly what that will look like or how long that will last. Obviously, there are a lot of employers that have stopped hiring (and furloughed employees). That said, some areas are seeing growth. The demand for mental health services is way up, and so are the jobs in mental health. This is a really good time to pursue graduate education. Graduate school will continue to be available in some form, so if jobs are scarce, going to graduate school will increase skills and credentials while we wait for the job market to recover, which eventually, it will.
Daniel Cruikshanks Ph.D.: As mentioned, the demand for mental health services is up, and so are jobs in mental health and human services. While high population areas are going to have the most jobs, there are serious shortages of mental health and human services in rural areas. In general, people who live in rural areas are able to find jobs.
Daniel Cruikshanks Ph.D.: One of the biggest impacts of COVID-19 on the field has been in the explosion of telehealth for the delivery of mental health services. As health care services have had to adjust to the safety protocols, we've had to work with technology to be able to deliver services when offices have had to close or limit access to in-person services. Now, for better or worse, the telehealth genie is out of the bottle. Once COVID has resolved and is no longer a crisis, we will continue to see the widespread use of telehealth as a means of providing mental health services. Whole new platforms have been created to provide HIPAA compliant systems for seeing patients remotely, and the insurance industry has had to adjust to accommodate this. This will have real long-term benefits for people who live in remote areas and have had difficulty accessing services in the past.
Ohio State University
Department of Psychology
Nikole Patson Ph.D.: When much of the country went into lockdown in April due to COVID, many students saw their research and service-learning projects, internships, and jobs end. As this pandemic has continued, many of these important experience-building opportunities have not come back.
Students are now finding it difficult to gain professionalizing experience. Furthermore, students often must work to fund their education. Because so many employers have cut down on their hours, students find it necessary to work during hours they would have dedicated to these professionalizing activities. All of this means that students will graduate with less experience than students who graduated before the pandemic.
Nikole Patson Ph.D.: Technology continues to play an increasing role in mental healthcare. There are now apps that allow people to cope with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and addiction. These apps not only help patients but can send useful data to health care providers. As telehealth continues to grow, this has the potential to improve access to mental health care. Video conferencing helps people who are unable or unwilling to see a mental health professional in person. It also reduces the cost of accessing care, which is a major barrier to many seeking mental health care.
Technology is also dramatically changing the area of human resource management. HR departments now use technology exclusively to recruit and manage workers. There is now some excitement over the use of virtual reality in training and onboarding employees.
Max Butterfield Ph.D.: I think the pandemic will have an enduring impact on everyone, not just graduates. People everywhere are sick and dying. Others are facing job cuts, housing insecurity, and economic instability. The western U.S. is literally on fire. The climate is changing. Political rhetoric and infighting are rampant. Racism continues to rear its ugly head. Folks aren't just going to wake up one day and forget this all happened, and new graduates are entering a scary world. However, Americans have faced grave challenges and risen up to defeat them many times. I believe we can do it again, if only we can find some common ground, and I hope the pandemic will be the turning point for us all.
Max Butterfield Ph.D.: I'm no economist, so I try to keep myself informed by using public data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their Occupational Outlook Handbook is particularly useful for finding trends. For example, they project high job growth among wind turbine service technicians and solar photovoltaic installers, so I guess that means windy and/or sunny regions could have a lot of new jobs, haha! In all seriousness, you'll see that a lot of the fastest-growing jobs can be done anywhere. For psychology graduates, you'll see jobs in mental healthcare, allied healthcare (e.g., occupational therapy and speech-language pathology), and data analytics, data science, and statistics. The increasing preference for remote work is also likely to reshape the landscape of the location of new jobs for everyone, not just psychology majors. Again, though, I'm no economist!
Max Butterfield Ph.D.: Technology is a tool. It will never replace human interaction, but it will continue to shape the way we relate to one another. My hope for technology is that we'll figure out how to use it to make society a better place for everyone. Too often, technology facilitates our worst tendencies. Social media, for instance, could be an amazing tool for good, but we're using it to sell ads to the highest bidder, to divide ourselves into increasingly isolated groups, and to spread misinformation like wildfire. It's a shame, and I hope we can do better soon!
Amanda Bakian: My impression is that the job market for graduates with a degree in statistics is still likely to be strong in 2020 - demand for quantitative skills remain high, and work can be done remotely. In an academic setting, individuals with this skill set are in short supply.