Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

Research Priorities for Mental Health Counseling with Youth: Implications for Counselor Preparation, Professional Development, and Research

Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

Research Priorities for Mental Health Counseling with Youth: Implications for Counselor Preparation, Professional Development, and Research

Article excerpt

Estimates suggest that 1 in 10 youth experience acute mental health concerns and that emotional and behavioral problems are observed in 1 in 5 young people (Knoph, Park, & Mulye, 2008). Left untreated, mental health concerns can have a considerable influence on the ability of youth to succeed at home, school, or in the community. Youth with emotional and behavioral disorders experience significant deficits in academic achievement across content areas (Nelson, Benner, Lane, & Smith, 2004}, and researchers have indicated that nearly 44% of youth will drop out of school (Wagner, Newman, Cameto, & Levine, 2005). Mental health concerns are also observed in approximately 70% of young people in the juvenile justice system (Skowyra & Cocozza, 2006) and in up to 80% in the child welfare system (Shin, 2005). Despite the mental health needs of youth, the research base continues to lag significantly behind the available knowledge for intervening with adults (Ringeisen & Hoagwood, 2002). The lack of preparation, professional development, and research specific to mental health counseling with youth likely contributes to problems in mental health services for children and adolescents.

Counselor Preparation and Professional Development for Mental Health Counseling With Youth

Shortages of helping professionals in the youth mental health system (Huang, Macbeth, Dodge, & Jacobstein, 2004) have resulted in employment increases of people without specialty training for work with children and adolescents (Koppelman, 2004). As a result of the increasing numbers of helping professionals who are unprepared to help, experts have called for significant changes in how counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other helping professionals are trained to work with youth (Huang et al., 2004). In-home counseling, the inclusion of families as partners in treatment, school-based mental health, and evidence-based practices have resulted in rapid changes in services for youth (Meyers, Kaufman, & Goldman, 1999). Across disciplines, however, those changes are not often reflected in graduate training that meets the standards of professional accreditation bodies (Hoge, Huey, & O'Connell, 2004). As Hansen (2002) noted, the increasing needs of youth with mental health concerns, and the lack of sufficient preparation of helping professionals, is a national crisis. In recognition the severity of this problem, the Child Health Care Crisis Relief Act of 2009 was introduced in the U.S. Senate and has been referred to committee. The primary purpose of this act is to increase the number of trained professionals providing clinical mental health care to youth; approximately 845,000,000 per fiscal year would be earmarked for loan repayment and funds to support improvements in graduate training programs including counseling.

Specific to the counseling profession, we reviewed the 2009 Standards of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2008) and found that school counseling programs are designed to prepare counselors to work with youth who do not have acute mental health needs, whereas the clinical mental health counseling option generally prepares graduates for work with adults. Our review found that youth (or children and adolescents) is not found in the CACREP standards for clinical mental health counseling and mental health is not found in the school counseling standards. Although counselors encounter the unique needs of youth with mental health concerns in a variety of settings, as Mellin and Sommers-Flanagan (2008) have indicated, the counseling field has a lack of professional organization that is centered on mental health counseling with youth outside of the role of school counselor. No journal, official journal section, or division supported by the American Counseling Association specific to counseling youth exists. Although related helping professions (e.g. …

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