The pandemic was taxing for everyone and ever since it spurred so many stressors in daily life, mental health has been at the forefront.

Now, as Connecticut faces a shortage of mental healthcare professionals, UConn is working to fill the void, offering a pilot program to prepare students to become licensed professional counselors.

The first cohort of seven students took part in the new Licensed Professional Counselor (LCP) Certificate program this summer. Kimberly Richmond was one of two students to fully complete it.

I think already started seeing it with like opportunities, internship and practicum opportunities, and just kind of like small, little, just one-on-one interactions can really make a big difference, especially with children​,” Richmond, a UConn counselor education graduate student, said.

Caring for others’ wellbeing is her passion, and now Richards is developing the skills and getting the certification to do that through the program at the UConn Neag School of Education.

“This is a very accessible way for amazing, brilliant, empathetic, kind students like Kim to go out and meet the needs and serve the population in Connecticut,” Dr. Sara Renzulli, UConn assistant professor in residence in counselor education, said.

Renzulli is the director of the fully online summer program, that delves into mental health counseling, addiction and substance misuse, trauma and crisis counseling, and diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders.

Students also bridge what they have learned in the classroom with clinical work during a 600-hour internship.

“It really kicked in with the seeing the needs that our population really needs, especially underserved communities,” Richards said.

Students lead the program as a Licensed Professional Counselor-Associate (LCP-A). After doing 3,000 hours of supervised post-graduate counseling work, they can apply for full licensure, empowering them to then work in mental health fields or start a private practice.

Renzulli said this meets a major need and addresses a mental healthcare worker shortage.​

“The pandemic caused unprecedented amounts of anxiety, depression and made any other mental existing mental health issues really kind of come to rise or come to light. And this put a really big strain on the already taxed behavioral health-mental health system,” Renzulli said. “Specifically also in Connecticut, we don’t have enough counselors to meet the demands.

Now that she has completed the program, Richmond already has a roadmap for how she will use counseling in her future to care for her community.

“My ideal goal is to be working with underserved communities in urban cities in Connecticut,” Richmond said. “I want to go beyond just the school setting. So I want to go ahead and continue to do so even after school hours, and have like my own personal set of clients that I can go ahead and work with based on needs.”

The LCP Certificate program is designed for students who have already completed, or are in the process of completing, a Master’s degree in school counseling or psychology.

It will be offered again next summer. UConn is accepting applications right now through Dec. 1.


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