Many students graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology seek employment with local employers such as hospital inpatient psychiatric programs, group homes, shelters for victims of domestic violence, or within the criminal justice system. While area employers may appreciate the knowledge base psychology majors have developed in pursuing their degree, they are more focused on the issue of what practical skills a prospective employee will bring to the setting.
The Psychology Department has traditionally offered various courses aimed at developing the practical skills necessary for effective functioning in the clinical setting. However, there has not been any formal recognition for students who have developed these skills nor any organized way to encourage this in students. The Mental Health Certificate Program has been developed to rectify this. The student completing this certificate will have been exposed to the core applied clinical skills employers seek in entry level clinical positions. Moreover, through a combination of program description, the development of a portfolio, and a minimum grade requirement in the certificate courses, students will be able to demonstrate to prospective employers their competencies in these areas. The certificate program will, therefore, enhance the employment prospects of our students while helping area employers select employees who will be better prepared to work with their client populations.
The University of Wisconsin-Parkside is committed to the full development of its students to assume their role as contributing members of the local area, region, and world. This includes the ability to apply knowledge in ways that enhance one's occupational, civic, and cultural involvement. Psychology, with its focus on understanding behavior, can have a significant impact in achieving these goals. Specifically, this certificate focuses on developing assessment skills, interpersonal skills, and behavior change skills. While these skills are clearly related to success in the mental health field, they are also quite relevant to all efforts of one person to relate effectively to another.
In addition to having specific mental health skills, it is frequently necessary to tailor those skills to particular populations. That is, awareness of the diverse needs of different populations is seen as a critical skill. The Mental Health Certificate approaches the issue of diversity from three directions. First, effective mental health workers need to be sensitive to differences in cultural values, beliefs, and expectations. Issues related to race, gender, age, sexual orientation and other major subcultures contribute to the kinds of difficulties a given client might present. They may also create barriers to effective helping efforts. In addition to this "traditional" definition of diversity, mental health workers need to be sensitive to the unique issues presented by different mental health populations. For example, clients struggling with substance abuse problems require different assessment procedures and interventions than those diagnosed with schizophrenia. Finally, it is our belief that the more ways a student has to understand a client, the more effect the intervention will be. While psychology is a broad subject area, it primarily views problem behavior from the perspective of the individual. In the certificate program, we broaden the awareness of differences associated with subcultures and diagnostic categories by requiring that students sample the perspectives of other academic disciplines.