A new bachelor’s degree in community counseling at Rogers State University is designed to increase the number of mental health professionals in northeast Oklahoma in an effort to decrease substance abuse, improve overall mental health and strengthen families in the region.
The bachelor of science (B.S.) in community counseling, which will be available this fall, was approved by the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents on Dec. 6 at a meeting in Norman.
The program also was created to address the rising levels of alcohol and drug abuse and compulsive gambling in Oklahoma, recently recorded by state mental health agencies.
“The new bachelor’s degree in community counseling, like all new four-year programs at RSU, was developed to meet the educational and career goals of area residents, as well as to address societal needs such as providing more and better treatment for substance abuse and other mental health issues,” said RSU President Dr. Joe Wiley.
The program will prepare students for entry-level positions in community mental health centers, youth and family service agencies, state health and human services departments, substance abuse treatment programs, correctional facilities and detention centers, Wiley said.
In addition, the degree is structured for students to continue their education in graduate programs in psychology, counseling and human services, leading to licensure as a licensed professional counselor, marriage and family therapist, behavioral practitioner or alcohol and drug abuse counselor, said Dr. Monica Varner, assistant professor in the RSU Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
“The program offers an opportunity for social and human service assistants and technicians who are already working in the field but who lack an academic degree and would like to prepare themselves for advancement,” said Varner.
“By sharing their career experiences during class discussion, these seasoned technicians will enrich the classroom experience by offering their real-world insights,” she added.
These students may prepare themselves to move into positions as addiction specialists, child and family caseworkers, director of residential programs and other public health positions, Varner said.
Students who enroll in the program also will gain the knowledge and skills to complete certification requirements of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, as well as other certification programs.
Labor statistics for Oklahoma compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor, as well as information provided by other state and federal employment agencies, indicate an increasing need for mental health professionals who have earned bachelor’s degrees in northeast Oklahoma through 2012.
For more information on the RSU community counseling program, call (918) 343-7956.