The Y + Heritage University Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Program

Last updated: March 29, 2024, at 11:51 a.m. PT

Originally published: November 15, 2023, at 7:04 a.m. PT

counselors working with teens

A Commitment to Provide Behavioral Health Services for Everyone in a Culturally Rich Community

The YMCA of Greater Seattle and its agency partners provide a fantastic employee opportunity to earn a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling from Heritage University. Through a partnership with Heritage University, the program will provide advanced education in behavioral health to employees of the Y and participating partner agencies, including all King County Medicaid mental health or substance use disorder agencies. Staff with a bachelor's degree may be eligible to apply for admittance to the Y + Heritage University Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Program via a community-based behavioral health clinical training site in King County. The program will prioritize staff of color, staff living with disabilities, and staff identifying as LGBTQIAA+ to increase access to higher education and improve the extent to which behavioral health providers reflect those they serve.

This master’s program will enroll up to thirty staff members per cohort (two unique cohorts per year) to complete degree requirements at their job site at no cost to the employee. Employers must offer compensation for class time as part of the students’ 40-hour work week and at their regular pay rate. Students are expected to complete homework assignments outside of work hours. In year two of the program, staff will complete the M.A. in Counseling internship requirement. Internships will be offered at each participating organization, which allows students to complete internship hours as part of their job. Like the classroom structure, staff will be compensated for their internship, which will similarly be completed during the 40-hour work week. Upon completing this master’s program coursework and internships, program graduates of Heritage University will be contractually obligated to maintain employment for (four) years at their respective community-based behavioral health organization.

In the short term, this master’s program will increase opportunities for up to 60 (per year) staff of color, staff living with disabilities, and staff who identify as part of the LGBTQAIA+ community to pursue professional development and career advancement in the behavioral health field without the barriers of student loan debt and unpaid internships. During the program, they will concurrently manage an average of sixty cases each year, resulting in approximately 4,200 unduplicated clients at any given time.

In the long term, the Y will improve employee retention rates of behavioral health staff in King County by offering education in exchange for a 4-year employment commitment. Furthermore, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community in King County will have more options for behavioral health providers in their region to be equipped to offer culturally relevant and affirmative behavioral health care.

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