Indiana University of Pennsylvania creates new program to train mental health professionals

So many people silently suffer from mental health problems, and professional help is something many shy away from. One reason is because it’s hard to find a psychiatrist or psychologist right now, even in urban areas. In rural areas, it can be nearly impossible.

Channel 11′s Amy Hudak went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania where university officials noticed the need and made changes to help those who need the help and those who are ready to offer it.

“Indiana is a small town in a rural county and there are many people around us who need access to great healthcare,” said IUP President Michael Driscoll. “Finding a psychiatrist or psychologist in a rural area is really challenging. There are very few folks who do that.”

Driscoll added that the university has an obligation to serve its community. That’s one reason why IUP has created a doctorate in psychology program, or PsyD, to meet that need.

In the program, PsyD students gain clinical experience under the supervision of licensed clinicians at Indiana Regional Medical Center, right in the heart of Indiana.

Karley Richard is a student in the program.

“With our student work and our clinical work in the community, we’re able to provide by therapy and assessment to the rural community,” Richard said.

Richard added that in her experience, the stigma related to mental illness is even more apparent in rural areas.

“I think that goes hand in hand with not having access to mental health care for generations, and that intergenerational trauma can build up,” Richard said. “Seeking mental health services can be a new experience. But I think through that new experience, you can foster trust and slowly over time, you can change a community’s attitude toward mental health.”

The local access to quality care also prevents people in crisis from having to drive nearly two hours to see someone in Pittsburgh.

“When you’re in trouble and you’re having a mental health crisis, we can help with each other to get you what need to put out the fire,” Driscoll said.

“I think, at the end of the day, what’s really powerful about this job is understand you have a unique skill set and you can contribute to positive change in a community,” Richard said.

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