Gone are the days of Freudian couches and shrinking heads. While there is still substantial psychoanalytic practice in the mental health community, in more recent years, there’s been a shift from traditional analysis and interpretation towards more holistic wellness and treatment of the mind, body and spirit. In addition to these influences, the mental health field is also incorporating more evidenced-based treatments that can be considered a more cost-effective treatment model. If you’re looking to make your foray into the field of psychology, you may want to consider a specialty field that is on the rise.
Mental Health Counseling [MHC]
The MHC degree started to gain in popularity as an alternative to an MSW as the roles for social workers began to shift away from individual therapy and private practice and more towards agency-based employment. Those seeking to establish their own practice and have individual clients were opting to pursue the lesser known MHC degree given that the curriculum was more focused on clinical diagnosis and treatment. Now, however, MHC’s are in high-demand in response to industry changes that came about from the Affordable Care Act which resulted in more insured patients. More coverage translated to psychologists in private practice raising their rates, effectively leaving a dearth of affordable mental health treatment. Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) are a more affordable alternative for both the insured and uninsured which means LMHCs are less costly for insurance companies, as well, and are therefore a preferable option. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS], this trend is projected to lead to a 28.5 percent growth in Mental Health Counselors for the period of 2012-2022 as compared to approximately 11 percent average labor market growth.
The industry has seen an overwhelming rise in the specialized field of organizational psychology. A niche specialty with wide application and opportunity for lucrative results, this field is attracting many students and current professionals. At the core of any psychological study or practice is an understanding of human behavior and motivation. Harnessing this knowledge in the workplace and applying the principals of psychology to marketing outcomes, human resources, management and employee performance improvement initiatives can have profound effects on a company’s results. BLS reports that Organizational Psychologists are the number one fastest growing occupation for the projected period of 2012 – 2022 with a 53% growth rate. Combining psychology with increasing profit margins can be a highly valuable skill set and corporations have caught on to this idea leading to a significant demand for these professionals.
Primarily art therapy and music therapy (can also include dance, writing, drama and horticulture therapy), this specialized field has maintained consistent growth in recent years. Traditionally, expressive therapists would aid the creative process for their patients; however, more recently there has been a shift in their methods and function. No longer just for the creatively blocked, the focus in this specialty is on the process of creation and how that supports mental health. The end game is not necessarily the finished piece, but rather the healing that takes place through the creative, expressive process that brings what’s inside out.
The progressive idea of whole-body psychology leads the demand for the last two growing fields for therapists. With the vilification of processed food and the onset of sustainable living and organic eating, food has taken on a primary role in mental illness when addressing ‘overall wellness,’ which inarguably influences mental health. Robert Hedaya, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center asserts that nutrition is an “incredibly effective way to manage mental illness.” There is a cross-section of modalities trending now that are dual licensures for MHCs/MSWs with RDs and Certified Nutritionists.
Studies have shown that the mind-body connection is a powerful one and Western medicine is starting to embrace this as more standard practice. Yoga and meditation are being prescribed by mental health and medical professionals to serve as alternative or complementary treatments for various afflictions including but not limited to: chronic illness or pain, depression, anxiety, respiratory illness, stress, trauma, digestive disorders and autoimmune disease. With the rise in scholarly support of its effectiveness, more therapists are taking advantage of specialized yoga certification trainings in order to incorporate yoga into their therapeutic treatment. Others are pursuing training as a Mindfulness Coach, offering another integrative niche where they practice mindfulness during therapy sessions with their patients.