Mental Health Continuing Education: Going Beyond the Degree
A wise man once noted that any field worth studying was one where the knowledge was continually changing. Nowhere does this description match more perfectly than the field of mental health. Continuing education in the field is not only necessary in terms of earning licensing credits, it is the only way to have any understanding of the subject at all. Learning at the feet of giants such as Freud will give each student a foundation that is invaluable. But when it comes to furthering their own practice and digging deeper into the science, there is no substitute for keeping up with the changing field on a year to year basis.
Of course, our collective understanding of the field is in its infancy, really. What you learn in mental health continuing education classes today may be tossed on the junk pile of discredited theories tomorrow. For some, this is an excuse to stay somewhat behind the times. Let the science work itself out and come back when they have something definitive to hand out. Unfortunately, anyone who takes this position should have turned around and walked the other way before their first psychology class. Theorists are still refining and discarding science from the very first psychologists in the field. Theories change at too rapid a pace to wait and see.
Besides, anyone involved with psychology and psychiatry should be an experimental researcher at heart. What works for most people will never work for everyone. This is why a psychologist with even the best proven system will find himself having to switch things up when it comes to that one particularly difficult patient. Education gives you that toolbox you can use when your usual bag of tricks isn’t getting the job done. By watching others and seeing what works in other situations, you can expand your understanding of the field and treat patients with more efficiency.
For institutions both public and private, providing staff with academic opportunities is one of the most important aspects of building a great place for patients. When possible, this means paying for those classes. When not possible, it means posting the opportunities and letting employees know how important it is that they take advantage of them. Many states require these credits for continued licensing. If you are involved in the field, make sure you’re aware of your own state’s requirements so you don’t wind up short when it comes time to renew for the following year.