doctorate program approved


Jose VegaContributor

The newly approved doctoral program in counselor education is aiming to cultivate the next generation of counselors and aid in the development of more graduate programs available to students.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for trained mental health professionals,” said Associate Professor of Counseling and Psychology Laurie Bonjo . “People are experiencing higher degrees of stress and counselors can help. Our doctoral program is designed to meet the needs of a post-pandemic reality.”

This program comes as students and their surrounding community attempt to find healthy methods to deal with COVID-19 related stress and anxieties.

“The need for well-trained mental health clinicians is likely to increase,” Associate Director of Counseling Services Ellen Allen said, “and this program could help Connecticut increase its capacity to train the next generation of counseling students and professionals, since doctoral students often become university professors, counselor supervisors, and leaders and policy-makers in behavioral health care systems.”

The university already offers two separate Master’s programs within the Department of Counseling and Education; M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and M.S. in School Counseling. The Board of Regents Academic and Student Affairs committee during the process asked Bonjo and her colleague Stephen Hegedus. “What is the standard enrollment for a Doctorate in Counselor Education and Supervision?”

According to approved meeting minutes, they responded, “the standard enrollment is 6-8 students per cycle. We’ve already had interest in the proposed program from four potential students.”

This doctorate program would indeed aim to attract those who are outside New England, while also keeping our students at their alma mater, while they achieve higher scholastic achievements.

Psychology major Joaquin Selmeski, a senior, said even though he was planning on attending graduate studies outside of Southern, the new doctorate program is intriguing.

“I definitely say it piques my interest because it sounds like it was built in a way that you can take it in different directions. I think it was really smart for the university to implement this program with the current climate,” said Selmeski.

Psychology major Cara Richardson, a senior, who is planning on applying to and attending the M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program said she finds the doctorate program to be a relief.

“I did want to do my doctorate in psychology or some form of mental health counseling at some point. A program like this would tie together everything that I’ve been working towards my entire undergraduate studies into one degree and I see as benefiting me moving forward,” said Richardson.

University of Kansas , Oregon State University, and University of Northern Colorado are said to have some of the best doctorate programs in counseling in the United States.

The university hopes to etch its prominence in the field of counselor education with this new doctorate program set to begin in fall of 2021.

“Each time the university implements a terminal degree program, we reinforce our status as an institution of distinction,” Bonjo said. “We are willing, able, and prepared to educate students to work to their highest potential in their professions. Offering a doctoral program at Southern is about creating space for students to self-empower by providing the opportunity to earn a highly sought after doctorate. We are making it affordable, manageable, and efficient for working students. I am proud to be filling that need.”

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