Continuing education plays a vital role in equipping mental health professionals with the knowledge, skills, and ethical principles necessary to provide effective support to individuals in need. If you’re looking to add courses to your training roster this year, consider covering some of these current trends in continuing education.
More than ever, it’s imperative for mental health professionals to possess cultural competence. Understanding the influence of culture on an individual's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors allows psychologists to provide more accurate assessments and offer culturally sensitive treatment. A study by Sue et al. (2007) found that culturally competent psychologists had higher client satisfaction rates and improved treatment outcomes. Today's continuing education programs place a strong emphasis on cultural competence, incorporating coursework and training that promotes awareness of various cultural backgrounds, biases, and the impact of social determinants of health (APA, 2020).
Technology has rapidly transformed numerous aspects of our lives, and clinical behavioral health services are no exception. While many clinical practices have returned to in person services since COVID-19, studies show that telehealth remains an effective tool for increasing access to care (Hilty et al., 2013). Trials comparing PTSD interventions delivered in person versus videoconference show both methods are equally effective in most cases (Turgoose et al. 2018). Telehealth literacy, ethics, and practice continue to be an important trend for continuing education.
Behavioral health professionals often work as part of multidisciplinary teams, collaborating with professionals from various fields to address complex mental health issues. To prepare students for this reality, continuing education is increasingly focusing on fostering interdisciplinary collaboration. Incorporating coursework and experiential learning opportunities that promote teamwork, communication, and an understanding of other professions' roles cultivates the ability to work effectively in a team-based care environment. A study by Cubic et al. (2012) found that interprofessional education in psychology led to improved collaboration skills and enhanced patient care outcomes.
The demands of the mental health profession can take a toll on clinicians’ well-being if proper self-care practices are not emphasized. To prevent burnout and promote overall well-being, more and more continuing education includes training on self-care strategies, stress management techniques, and the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. A survey conducted by O'Connor et al. (2018) highlighted the particularly high risk of burnout for community health professionals. Continuing education about the significance of self-care equips clinicians with the tools to navigate the challenges of the profession and provide the best possible care for their clients.
With all the advances in recent years, stigma surrounding mental health still remains a significant barrier to seeking and receiving care. Continuing education is actively addressing this issue by educating students about the impact of stigma, challenging stereotypes, and promoting advocacy. Research conducted by Corrigan et al. (2012) highlights that mental health stigma is associated with delays in seeking treatment and lower quality of care. By equipping clinicians with the knowledge and skills to address stigma, they can contribute to reducing barriers to mental health services and fostering a more inclusive and accepting society.
Continuing education is always evolving to meet the changing needs of individuals and communities. By incorporating cultural competence, technology integration, interdisciplinary collaboration, self-care, and advocacy, educational programs are shaping the mental health professionals of tomorrow. The evidence-based approaches of clinical continuing education programming ensures that clinicians are well-prepared to address the complexities of mental health and make a positive impact in the lives of those they serve.
American Psychological Association. (2020). Guidelines on multicultural education, training, research, practice, and organizational change for psychologists. https://www.apa.org/about/policy/multicultural-guidelines
American Psychological Association. (2022). Graduate student survey: Technology in psychology education. https://www.apa.org/education/technology-survey
Corrigan, P. W., Morris, S. B., Michaels, P. J., Rafacz, J. D., & Rüsch, N. (2012). Challenging the public stigma of mental illness: a meta-analysis of outcome studies. Psychiatric services, 63(10), 963-973.
O’Connor, K., Neff, D. M., & Pitman, S. (2018). Burnout in mental health professionals: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prevalence and determinants. European Psychiatry, 53, 74-99.
Turgoose, D., Ashwick, R., & Murphy, D. (2018). Systematic review of lessons learned from delivering tele-therapy to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Journal of telemedicine and telecare, 24(9), 575-585.
Hilty, D. M., Ferrer, D. C., Parish, M. B., Johnston, B., Callahan, E. J., & Yellowlees, P. M. (2013). The effectiveness of telemental health: a 2013 review. Telemedicine and e-Health, 19(6), 444-454.
Cubic, B., Mance, J., Turgesen, J. N., & Lamanna, J. D. (2012). Interprofessional education: Preparing psychologists for success in integrated primary care. Journal of clinical psychology in medical settings, 19, 84-92.
Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: implications for clinical practice. American psychologist, 62(4), 271-286