Programs aims to fill need for licensed therapists, help professionals meet new goals

Laura Gilbow is working to obtain her clinical therapist license under the supervision of Matt Dittmer through a program at Stormont Vail Behavioral Health.
Updated: Sep. 21, 2023 at 10:00 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Behavioral health providers say they’re seeing an increase in calls as people have increased awareness about the need to pay attention to mental health.

It also means a greater need for licensed professionals.

Laura Gilbow always wanted to be a medical social worker. She’s using her masters degree in social work to assist patients and families at Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka. She says it’s rewarding, but she found herself wanting to do more.

“When you’re somebody in the hospital, they’re there three or four days, you help get them stabilized, you help them get out the door to their next thing, but I couldn’t really spend a lot of time diving into things with them,” she said.

Gilbow decided to pursue her clinical therapist license, and learned Stormont has a program to help her do that.

Behavorial Health Therapist Supervisor Matt Dittmer says the program assists employees with masters-level degrees, most frequently in social work or psychology.

“We like to try to grow our own here,” Dittmer said. “They already have a lot of experience working with families and individuals in a supportive role. It’s taking it a further step with how to do that and how to implement theoretical practices such as cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy.”

To earn a clinical therapist license, a person must have a required number of face-to-face hours with clients under the supervision and guidance of a licensed therapist, in addition to group therapy supervision. Gilbow said it could have required her paying a therapist for their supervision time and working in addition to her full-time job. But Stormont’s program is on regular work time, at no cost.

“They provide the supervisor. I get to work my 40 hours a week. I still get my work/life balance. And then I have all these....decades of other therapists, decades worth of experience that I can get to,” Gilbow said.

Dittmer says Stormont benefits by growing a team of licensed therapists to meet a growing community demand.

“We need as many providers as possible to fill that need. People are seeking help every day,” he said. “The dreaded time that was a real struggle with COVID and how that created a lot of isolation, people not being able to socialize like they were before, having to come face to face with some things - their own thoughts, if you will.”

It can take two years or more to get the required hours. Gilbow is nearly half-way there, and already knows she’s on the right path.

“It’s been really rewarding,” she said.

October is Mental Health Awareness Month.

If you or a loved one is in crisis, call the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline any time at 9-8-8.