More than half of the 2015-16 graduates of CFA’s Marital and Family Therapy program have been awarded State of California and the L.A. County Department of Mental Health stipends to use towards their educational costs. Out of a graduating class of 20 students, 11 were awarded the $18,500 stipend and three were chosen as alternates, giving LMU the highest ratio of honorees in the region.
“It’s really quite an accomplishment,” said Kathleen Fogel-Richmond, practicum coordinator for the Department of Marital and Family Therapy. “It means that we’re really doing something right here to best prepare students for the market and the field.”
The state and county stipends to help fill the need for culturally and linguistically qualified therapists in underserved communities. After graduation, stipend recipients are required to complete at least one year of employment in a high-need public mental health service agency.
“It’s a great recognition of our commitment to work with underserved populations,” said California state stipend recipient Liz Liskin, M.A. ’16, who currently works with substance abuse populations and hopes to use her bilingual skills to help reduce the stigma of mental illness in Asian culture. “Our program really pushes us to think about multicultural issues and to incorporate that learning into our practice.”
“Overall, the [stipend] program has been successful at recruiting a much more diverse mental health clinical field,” said Fogel-Richmond. “And that’s something that falls in line with our mission of promoting social justice. This is a passion that we try to instill in our students.”
Community outreach and a commitment to service are cornerstones of the MFT program at LMU, which requires candidates to complete two clinical placements as trainees. “Our practicum training and all of our courses are designed to talk about how you work with all populations — especially at-risk, vulnerable populations, which encompass a great deal of diversity as far as experiences, immigration status and socio-economics,” said Fogel-Richmond.
In addition to the diverse and challenging trainee placements that Fogel-Richmond oversees, LMU students also benefit from practical experience at the on-site Helen B. Landgarten Art Therapy Clinic clinic, which offers clinical art therapy interventions to the community. “The mission of the clinic is to provide services for these very vulnerable populations who are sometimes overlooked,” explained Fogel-Richmond. “We work with pregnant and parenting teens in Watts; we work with HOLA in MacArthur Park, with really vulnerable kids in that community who are at risk for gang involvement; we work at Dolores Mission School in Boyle Heights, supporting students and families living in the socioeconomically disadvantaged community.
“That training specifically relates to the students’ success. The opportunity to work in the clinic with these at-risk populations in addition to DMH agency placements makes them really strong candidates.”
L.A. County stipend recipient Christine Kurata, M.A. ’16, noted that she feels uniquely prepared by the transformative learning experiences she has had at LMU. “These types of experiences and other specialized training set a high standard of learning and service, allowing us to approach the work and interact with clients in a unique way,” she said. ”They also provide a competitive edge for employment in the community and for awards such as the [county and state] stipends, where multicultural awareness and competency are of high priority.
“I feel very honored and grateful to be able to pursue a lifelong goal of contributing to the community in this way while receiving the support of the MFT Consortium’s stipend.”