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 and counselor supervisors. 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 what’s the problem?
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. This makes the criminal justice system in Texas our most reliable mental health provider.
Potential mental health providers enter universities with dreams of solving problems like these, 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 in agencies are often overworked, underpaid, forced to do paperwork on their own unpaid time, 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 can do better.
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 because we don’t want to lose you because you worked yourself to death.
We need you.