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New License-Eligible Mental Health Counselor Program

PLATTSBURGH, NY __ The State University of New York College at Plattsburgh is the first SUNY college to receive approval from the New York State Education Department for the license-eligible status of a new mental health counseling master's degree program.

Mental health program alumni meet with Dr. Richard Schnell during a recent ceremony at SUNY Plattsburgh. Students in the program will be far ahead of the curve due to a recent state regulation on licensure. New York State law now requires that mental health practitioners be licensed to practice.

"Community and mental health counselors, and other counselors throughout New York, and their professional associations, have been intensely advocating and lobbying for this new licensing law for more than 15 years," said Dr. Richard Schnell, professor of counselor education at SUNY Plattsburgh.

In anticipation of this new licensure requirement, the Counselor Education Department, including past chair Dr. Donald Haight and current chair Dr. Beverly Burnell as well as Schnell, worked in close collaboration with Dr. Patricia Higgins, associate vice president for academic affairs, to put together a proposal for a master's degree program in mental health counseling that would have license-eligible status.

"When an institution trains individuals to be a nurse, physician or psychologist, it must have prior approval from the state education department to offer a licensable program," said Schnell. "Pat Higgins and I started working on a proposal a few years ago for a mental health counseling license-eligible program. We knew what the state would require, and Dr. Higgins was the liaison with SUNY Central."

The Counselor Education Department welcomed the first students in the new master's program in January. In addition to the new mental health counseling program, the department has three nationally accredited programs, including community counseling, school counseling and student affairs professional practice.

Community counseling, which will be phased out in the next couple of years, was the foundation and precursor to the new mental health counseling program. Several students in the community counseling program have made or will make the switch to the mental health counseling degree program.

"The new master's in mental health counseling is an important and necessary aspect to the Counselor Education Department at SUNY Plattsburgh," said Schnell.

New York State's first mental health licenses were issued in fall 2005 by the state. Several Plattsburgh State alumni completed the license and education requirements, took an examination and completed 3000 hours of supervised experience. They were recently awarded their mental health practitioner state license.

A ceremony was recently held to celebrate their achievement. "In achieving this professional milestone of licensure, you honor the counseling profession," said Schnell during the ceremony. "You honor your alma mater and the dedicated faculty who strove to provide you with a strong ethical and professional foundation for clinical practice."

Schnell said that the new program is of great benefit to both the College and the students.

"The College has a primary mission of addressing the needs of the community it serves, so I see this new program and license supporting SUNY Plattsburgh in fulfilling that need," said Schnell. "For students, it presents to them a highly marketable degree and one that the state has designated as fundamental to the provision of community mental health services."

For more information on the new mental health counseling master's degree program at SUNY Plattsburgh, contact Dr. Richard Schnell at 518-564-4167 or by email at [email protected]

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