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Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People: Progress and Possibilities
Since 1993, NIMH has funded a small number of social work programs to conduct research as well as provide special scholarships and coursework on prevention research for doctoral students, which has increased the supply of researchers trained in prevention research methods (Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research, n.d.). Recently, NIMH launched other initiatives to enhance partnerships to integrate evidence-based mental health practices into social work education and research (Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research, n.d.), but prevention research is a relatively small part of these initiatives.
Clinical Psychology. There are approximately 90,000 clinically trained psychologists in the United States, many of whom have training in child psychology. Training in prevention of MEB disorders is not standard for most master’s- or doctoral-level curricula or for certification or licensure in school psychology. A 2003 report of a task force of the Society of Pediatric Psychology recommended 12 topic areas most important for training experiences of child psychologists. Three of these areas were prevention, family support, and health promotion (Spirito, Brown, et al., 2003). Similarly, in their call for redesign of clinical psychology graduate education, Snyder and Elliott make a case for focus on individual strengths (protective factors), and lifestyle or community-level influences on mental health. They conclude that prevention must be an essential feature of education curricula. They note that a few psychology training programs do stress reduction of risk factors, but they recommend that postdoctoral programs in clinical psychology increase their focus on prevention and health (Snyder and Elliott, 2005). The response to these recommendations will be important to monitor.
Similarly, psychologists typically receive little training or preparation for dealing with substance abuse. Half or more receive no didactic or practical training in substance use conditions according to a 1990s survey (Institute of Medicine, 2006b). Their clinical training, as for other health professionals, is focused on diagnosis and treatment. Certification of clinical competence is offered by the American Board of Professional Psychology. Licensure in some states requires written or oral evaluations of knowledge. Neither licensure nor certification assesses competence related to prevention of MEB disorders.
Community psychology, developmental psychology, and social psychology are other potential training pathways for a career in prevention research and program implementation, although none of these areas focuses exclusively or in major part on prevention. It is not uncommon for graduate students who wish to work in the area of prevention of MEB disorders to construct independent study programs (Perry, Albee, et al., 1996).