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Argosy U. Aims to Train More Diverse Mental Health Workers

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SAN BERNARDINO

 

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Dr. Benjamin Barnes
As a clinical psychologist and mental health worker with San Bernardino and Riverside counties, Dr. Benjamin Barnes saw first hand some of the psychological problems affecting African Americans and Latinos in the Inland Empire.  Argosy University/Inland Empire is hoping to train more mental health workers from a diverse background to address the growing needs of the community.

While working as both a professor at Argosy University/Inland Empire and a county mental health provider, Dr. Barnes has noticed the lack of African American and Latino psychologists.

"There are very few African American therapists," he said. "Even now only 10 to 15 percent of the therapists in San Bernardino County are African American. And we don't have many bilingual therapists."

An African-American, Dr. Barnes is one of the ethnically diverse faculty members at Argosy University/Inland Empire who are dedicated to increasing the number of local African-American and Latino mental health workers. Wendy Vasquez-Osborn, interim campus president, said that Argosy University's blended programs, which offer online, evening and weekend courses, are attractive to students in the Inland Empire who are often working full-time jobs.

"Many students entered the workforce right after high school or had to raise families, and now they need a degree to move to the next level," she said. "Our programs fit the needs of working adults."

Dr. Barnes says that, "Many of Argosy University/Inland Empire's faculty members have extensive backgrounds working with the Black and Latino communities and have spent many years working on the front lines of the mental health field."

Dr. Barnes said the psychology profession is still predominately white and female, and this may cause problems for people of color who are looking for a mental health provider. "In some cases, it may put up a cultural barrier. Some minorities may believe that the therapists are not sensitive to their cultural needs," he said.

He added that there is also a lack of awareness about mental health issues in the Black/Latino communities. Dr. Barnes said most African-American and Latino college students go into the computer and business fields and shy away from psychology, because of the fear they may not get a job after graduating.

"They stay away from psychology because there is still a stigma about it in the African-American/Latino community," he said "That is the reason why African-American and Latino people often don't use mental health services." He also said that the African-American and Latino community may be unaware of the signs of mental health problems because they are accustomed to dealing with other stressful issues such as racism and unemployment. "Our definition of mental health stressors are different from the mainstream," he said.

Dr. Barnes is currently in a master's degree program in psychopharmacology at Alliant University, and he holds a master's degree and doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Fielding Graduate University. He teaches courses in Clinical Psychology at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels at Argosy University. Dr. Barnes also teaches at San Bernardino Valley College.

He said he is pleased to see the ethnic diversity in his classes at Argosy. "Argosy University has many programs making it visible in local high schools and colleges," Barnes said. "The solution to boosting the number of African-American and Latino psychologists is by reaching out to those communities through face-to-face marketing in non-traditional places such as community recreation centers, shopping malls, churches, sports clubs and public events."

"Argosy University is going out and meeting people in their communities and neighborhoods," Dr. Barnes said. He also stated that, "Argosy University is targeting potential psychologists earlier through associate's and bachelor's degree programs, which are attractive to high school students, and by talking to individuals in the health, business and education professions who want to move to the next level of their career."

Argosy University/Inland Empire is one of 18 Argosy University (www.argosyu.edu) locations in 12 states. Argosy University offers doctoral and master's degree programs in psychology, business, counseling, and education. Argosy University also offers bachelor's degree completion programs in psychology and business, and associate's degree programs in various health sciences fields. Argosy University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association (NCA) (30 N. LaSalle Street, Suite 2400, Chicago, IL 60602, 1-800-621-7440), (www.ncahlc.org).

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