New CHSS psychology, counseling programs reflect workforce demand

September 25, 2015 / by / 1 Comment

By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau

Dr. Sherman Elliott

Dr. Sherman Elliott

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences  (CHSS) at Grand Canyon University will add eight more graduate-level psychology and counseling programs to its expanding catalog this winter in subject areas including trauma therapy, the interaction between humans and technology, and the study of aging.

The new offerings include five Master of Science and graduate certificate programs in Psychology and three Master of Science and graduate certificate programs in Professional Counseling, said Dr. Nóe Vargas, CHSS assistant dean. They will begin in December and January. More information is available by calling (602) 639-7500.


Dr. Noé Vargas

The programs reflect a rising demand in the workplace for professionals to address an evolving landscape of needs ranging from the aging of society to the rise in use of technology.

CHSS also is designing other new programs, including a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science, a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with emphases in criminal justice and sports psychology, and a Master of Science in Mental Health with various emphases, that may be rolled out next year.

Vargas and a group of CHSS instructors met Thursday to discuss the new programs and the growing workforce demand for psychologists and counselors.

“Careers in psychology are thriving as workplaces are realizing that psychological interventions are central to their overall functioning and, essentially, their profit margin,” said Dr. Elizabeth Valenti, a psychology instructor. “Human emotion, behavior and thought drive every organization.”

Increasingly, technology companies, government agencies, hospitals, jails, the judicial system, the military and other organizations are seeking therapists, said Dr. Sherman Elliott, CHSS dean.

“There’s a huge demand across the country as more and more people are interested in careers in these areas,’’ Elliott said.

Dr. Julia Langdal

Dr. Julia Langdal

For example, the graduate certificate in GeroPsychology is a response to a call for more professional help dealing with aging baby boomers, said Dr. Julia Langdal, a psychology instructor. Learning topics include helping aging adults cope with anxiety, depression and physical debilities in addition to dementia and loss of cognitive ability.

“Not only are older adults in need of psychological intervention, they’re becoming more receptive to mental health services, which lends more jobs for geropsychologists,” Valenti said.

Professionals also are needed to help family members handle the change in their aging loved ones, said instructor Dr. Melanie Bierenbaum, a counseling professor who specializes in children, adolescents and families.

“We need people who can help with the transition to the loss of independence, such as losing the ability to drive,” Bierenbaum said.

Another big problem is a rising prescription drug addiction among the elderly, said instructor Denise Krupp. Additionally, one of the highest rates of suicide in Arizona is among white men over the age of 65, Krupp said.

Two new programs that will specialize in studying trauma stem from a rising demand to treat veterans, immigrants, refugees, sexual assault and childhood abuse victims, among others.

Many veterans are afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and, therefore, are more susceptible to suicide, Krupp said. Statistics she has compiled indicate that, in 2013, “the United States Department of Veterans Affairs released a study … which showed that roughly 22 veterans were committing suicide per day, or one every 65 minutes.”

The graduate certificate in Human Factors is the merging of psychology and engineering, focusing on interactions among humans and machines. By focusing on such factors as human-computer interaction and product design,  professionals in this area can assist in making machinery and technology more user friendly.

The military uses this expertise to make military vehicles and other systems safer by understanding how soldiers use them and what mistakes could occur, said Dr. Laura Chesniak-Phipps, an instructor.

“It helps make technology more intuitive,” she said.

The new programs are:

  • Post-master in Trauma certificate, designed for professionals who already have master’s degrees in counseling and other clinical fields, offers students an exhaustive study of human behavior and trauma-informed care.
  • Post-master in Marriage and Family Therapy certificate, a program that provides skills in communication issues, the parent-child relationship, family system dynamics, couples’ issues and more
  • Post-master in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders certificate, providing skills and knowledge in developmental issues, child-parent-related issues, school and family life, mental health issues and more
  • Graduate certificate in Forensic Psychology, designed for those who desire promotion and/or continued academic exposure in the field of psychology. Students undertake an in-depth analysis of crime and society’s responses to it.
  • Graduate certificate in Geropsychology, a specialized field focusing on psychological and neurological aspects of aging
  • Graduate certificate in Health Psychology, which focuses on psychological, biological and social factors influencing health and illness, examines the link between the body and mind and more.
  • Graduate certificate in Human Factors is the merging of the fields of psychology and engineering, a scientific discipline concerned with understanding interactions among humans and other elements of a system, including computers, and more.
  • Graduate certificate in Life Coaching, an emerging field that integrates areas of sociology, psychology and counseling. Topics include advanced rapport-building and communication strategies, identifying maladaptive cognitions and more.
  • Master of Science in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy, providing students with knowledge and skills to identify, assess and address marriage and family-related issues
  • Master of Science in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Trauma, which prepares students to treat developmental childhood and adulthood trauma-related disorders
  • Master of Science in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescent Disorders, helping students treat childhood- and adolescence-related disorders, developmental issues, child-parent issues and more

Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected]

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One Response
  1. Magdalena Lopez

    This is all great progress. I can’t wait to see what else becomes available for counsellors. I personally, am interested in multicultural counseling. With a lot of refugees and immigrants coming to the U.S., there is a need in adjusting to a different culture and receiving help for issues they may be presented with.

    Oct.22.2015 at 8:04 pm
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