Community Mental Health: Then and Now) 12/30/2016 <p> The Community Mental Health Movement in America began in the 1960’s as a grass roots effort

Community Mental Health: Then and Now

The Community Mental Health Movement in America began in the 1960’s as a grass roots effort to meet the different needs of evolving regions. In the Midwest, workshops were provided to lessen the stress of unemployment, manage life adjustment issues, and to beat the ‘holiday blues’. In the Southeast and larger Metropolitan Cities of the East and West Coasts, Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC) focused on diversity issues and teen pregnancy. While in the far Southwest, CMHC worked with Native American Populations on economic oppression and the impact of tribal segregation.

What do all of these have in common? They reflect awareness of society’s effects on every member of a community. They possess a shared perception of clients as whole persons with a range of personal strengths, resources and limitations. CMHC reflect a desire to prevent debilitating problems in schools and communities. They strive to understand unique needs from diverse cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. Lastly, CMHC’s strive to empower people and communities in order to become strengthened when counselors’ help clients learn ways to help themselves.

Imagine a snowball, cold and wet and compacted between your hands. Now, imagine that you roll that same snowball down a mountain. As the snowball starts rolling down the mountain, it begins to gather more speed. It also gets much larger, as more snow is packed onto its surface. By the time the snowball reaches the bottom of the mountain, it is no longer small, fluffy, and innocent. Instead, it is quite large and possibly dangerous. That is what has and is happening in communities across America. From political unease, sexism, racism, domestic violence, addiction, and other mental health concerns Community Mental Health Centers have evolved to help communities that are suffering from psychological or social discord.

So how are Community Mental Health Centers meeting this challenge? What does it take to be a community counselor (CC)? Community Counselors must display excellent communication and leadership qualities. These counseling professionals connect with and better understand the problems and causes of problems that some communities may face. Leadership skills are important, because they help community members feel more trusting and willing to follow the advice of community psychologists.

The assumptions of CC’s are that environments nurture or limit the people in them. To nurture a community they must be positive, rich in opportunities to learn, supportive, and offer opportunities to interact in a positive way with each other. Negative environments limit the member’s development and stunt their growth. Therefore, is not enough to counsel individuals; to promote well-being we must influence contexts where they live.

The goals of CC are to facilitate individual and community empowerment in a multifaceted way. This is a NEW VISION à we play multiple roles with multifaceted and culturally sensitive approach; a multifaceted approach is more efficient than any single-service approach can be. This new counseling approach focuses on:

• Group counseling

• Psychoeducational interventions

• Alternative strategies

• Make changes in environment to foster well-being

• Counselor is an architect to structure opportunities (within bounds of culture)

Ultimately, prevention is more efficient that remediation and with the Multicultural nature of development central to planning and delivery of services; today’s Community Mental Health Centers and Counselors are having a direct positive impact on their environment.

Written by Dr. Joy Guinn Shabandar

Dr. Joy Guinn Shabandar is the Department Chair for the College of Counseling, Psychology and Social Science at Argosy University Los Angeles, CA.

She has a Private Practice in Yorba Linda, CA. Dr. Shabandar is dually licensed as a LPCC Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor & LADC Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor .

Feel free to contact her at or

The information and opinions expressed herein represent the independent opinions and ideas of Dr. Joy Guinn Shabandar and do not represent the opinions and ideas of Argosy University.

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