The Oregon Tech Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program is working with Grace William Health Systems, a non-profit behavioral health agency located in Klamath Falls, to provide advanced education and license prerequisites for professionals living in Ghana and Nigeria.
Kevin Garrett, Ph.D., Program and Clinical Director of the MFT program at Oregon Tech, said with this license, and as graduates of the MFT program, these professionals would help fill the growing demand for qualified behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment professionals in Klamath Falls and Oregon.
MFT enrolled seven students during Winter Term who are, or were, working professionals in their home countries. Most students have advanced behavioral health degrees, but a desire to work in the U.S. prompted them to earn a license to practice in Oregon. The shortage of qualified therapists in Klamath Falls and Oregon makes this partnership ideal, and some of the students have already relocated to Klamath Falls.
"There is typically a long waiting list in Klamath Falls for those who need behavioral health services to get the treatment they so desperately need. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified this need and lengthened the waiting list," Garrett said.
One student now in the MFT program, Folajaiye Kareem, is a Clinical Psychologist in the Nigerian Police Force in Abuja, Nigeria, and already has a bachelor's in Psychology and a master's in Clinical Psychology. Kareem also runs a mental health private practice and serves as Director of Interventions for a mental health non-government organization.
Kareem said that the opportunity to work with Oregon Tech and Grace William Health Systems provides him with new methods of offering mental health services, and a means to use previous relevant clinical experience in a community with similar characteristics to the town he received his degree in.
"With the shortage of mental health professionals in the U.S., it behooves me to be part of solving this problem," Kareem said. "My Oregon Tech experience has been both rewarding and challenging. The professors' quality and teaching style are tailor-suited to ensure that one learns collaboratively and experientially."
Full-time students in the MFT program can complete their education within 2.75 years. Garrett said this cohort of international students is expected to graduate from the MFT program within 1-1.75 years, since they have already completed advanced education and degrees. Oregon Tech's MFT program is a part- or full-time mental health graduate program with specialized training in systems, families, and relationships, as well as substance use disorder treatment and integrated behavioral healthcare.
Another student in the program, Molabo Oretade, lives and works in Abuja, Nigeria, as a Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Trainer at the Sam Obafemi Behavioural Change Academy. Although Oretade has a bachelor's in Psychology and a master's in Clinical Psychology in Nigeria, she said the MFT program through Oregon Tech has been a growing experience. "The curriculum is rich and resourceful, with experienced faculty who encourage professional and personal growth," Oretade said.
Most students currently participate virtually and complete coursework online. Garrett hopes there will be more face-to-face opportunities soon.
"The hope is to have all of the students come to Klamath Falls to participate in practicum experiences in Klamath County and gain their licensure hours," Garrett said.
The campaign to invite qualified professionals from other countries to share their expertise in the U.S. was created by Israel Ojo, Ph.D., who successfully implemented the practice in Maryland. However, the partnership with Oregon Tech and Ojo's new initiative, Grace William Health Systems, is the first to bring together the health system and education to guide students from coursework and licensure to practice.
Ojo believes that business is about people and must positively affect the community at large. "At Grace William Health Systems, we focus on identifying and actualizing opportunities for creating borderless healthcare service partnerships," Ojo said. "We identify and unite expert teams that go on to unlock health system solutions in under-resourced communities."
Garrett hopes MFT will enroll 10 new international students in this program each year.
"A collaboration of this magnitude would not be possible without a great deal of teamwork across Oregon Tech," Garrett said. "My thanks go to our provost, dean, and especially the Chair of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department, and the support team in Student Involvement and Belonging (SIB), who have guided these students in the complexities of enrolling and virtual coursework. Kati Peterson and Zoe Smiley in SIB have been a huge help."###