The pandemic-fueled mental health decline in America needs solutions. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in the midst of COVID-19 that one out of every three individuals showed signs of depression or anxiety or both. In another study conducted by the Bureau and released in December of last year, 42% of the people surveyed said they had symptoms of depression and anxiety. In 2019 that percentage was only 11%.

Many of those people will require counseling. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a need for 165,100 mental health counselors in the year 2022. At some point in their academic life, those counselors required instructors and then supervisors. The demand continues to grow for credentialed workers in these positions.

To get those instructors and managers trained and into their desired roles, many institutions of higher learning now offer a degree program titled “Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision (Ph.D. in CES) or a similar title.

“This program is designed to train students to become counselor educators and supervisors for both mental health and school counseling providers,” says James “Jamey” Cheek, Ph.D., a CityU professor and licensed mental health counselor. “By increasing the number of available educators and supervisors, we can hopefully increase the opportunities for more people to be trained and licensed to provide much-needed mental health services across all populations.”

The American Psychiatric Association says marginalized populations often don’t get the help they need. That might be due to the inaccessibility of appropriate mental health services, discrimination or that particular population’s lack of knowledge concerning mental health. These people may suffer from either anxiety, depression or more serious mental health conditions.

During one week in June of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed high adverse mental health issues due to the pandemic. The people surveyed were young adults, minorities, essential workers and caregivers. Some reported an increase in substance use and/or thoughts of suicide.


Cheek says it’s vital for a program aimed at increasing counselor training opportunities to also strive to train students in culturally appropriate mental health interventions. These students should also know how to advocate for the addressing and changing of social justice issues to improve the inequalities that now exist.

To qualify for the Ph.D. in CES at City University of Seattle, students must have completed a master’s program in counseling at any learning institution, explains Kent Provost, Ph.D., a CityU associate professor and interim program director of the Counselor Education Program.

“The content course work takes about two years, followed by independent work to complete a dissertation, a final major research project on a specialized topic,” Provost says. “During the independent dissertation work, a student will have a Counselor Education Program faculty mentor and the dissertation committee to work with to complete this project.”

Students will gain the knowledge and skills needed to train others to be counselors. Additionally, they will learn how to advocate for others and the counseling profession, and become researchers in the counseling field, he says.

One focus of the degree is building competency in scientific research, says Cheek. Then implementing those findings to increase the efficacy and impact of counseling interventions.

Although any Ph.D. coursework is rigorous and challenging, it’s well worth the effort because when successfully completed you can add a doctoral degree to your résumé. The time and effort you devote to this type of education pays off in increased earning capacity and greater demand for the particular type of knowledge you acquired.

Graduates with a Ph.D. in CES can look forward to working as counseling program faculty, as a clinical supervisor, researcher or a professional consultant for clinical entities. The average salary for these positions runs about $73,000 or more.

The City U Counseling Program, in particular, is built on the foundation of developing and growing skilled and passionate counseling professionals, says Cheek. The focus on social justice throughout all areas of the program is dedicated to creating change in not only the students enrolled, but, also, in the greater community overall.

“We want to create agents of change who are dedicated to the growth and success of all people regardless of their challenges or resources,” Cheek says.

City University of Seattle is a private nonprofit university accredited through the doctoral level. It has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the Top 50 in the country for its online bachelor’s degree programs for eight consecutive years.