Texas, we have a problem.
Our state has over 15 universities with CACREP accredited counselor education programs. There are almost twenty thousand licensed professional counselors at this writing and almost four thousand counselor interns. Counselor supervisors are ready to offer consultation and supervision. We have active state organizations, a legislature that is open to hearing us if we choose to speak, and one of the hottest business demographics in the United States.
So why is the Texas prison system our biggest mental health provider? According to NAMI 2010 statistics Texas spent just $35 per capita on mental health agency services in 2006. This was just 1.1 percent of total state spending that year in the state of Texas. Nationally, approximately 70 percent of youth in juvenile justice systems experience mental health disorders and in 2008, approximately 37,700 adults with mental illnesses were incarcerated in prisons in Texas.
It’s not easy being a counselor.
Potential counselors enter universities with dreams of helping, but the reality is, the job market doesn’t offer much. LPC Interns, after having completed a sixty-hour master’s degree program, still cannot bill insurance for their time. As a result, they compete for lower paying bachelor’s level Qualified Mental Health Provider positions, gain low quality hours in hospital settings, or volunteer. That is tough to do when you are paying a supervisor and student loans every month.
When fully licensed counselors get a job, the situation is less than ideal. Counselors who seek me out for consultation tell me they are overworked, underpaid, and forced to do paperwork on their own unpaid time. Not only that, they are often placed in dangerous situations, and required by third-party payers to apply ineffective treatment modalities that are inconsistent with their training. Counselors in private practice face the daunting task of running a business, a skill that was missing from their counseling.
We need counselors and supervisors.
We need passionate people who will advocate in the legislature and supervise the interns. We need generous people who will give time because not every client has the means to get the help they need. We need balanced people who will focus on their own attitude and mental health so we don’t lose them to burnout. Good training, consultation, and opportunities to grow will help counselors keep the passion that got them started. Counselors who train to become supervisors can expand their knowledge, grow their practice, and impact the next generation.
So consider supervising. Remember, we need you.