Online Master’s Degree Programs in Community Mental Health Management

Psychology is a fascinating and diverse discipline often valuable to professionals pursuing various career paths. Knowledge derived from psychology can be applied in countless ways in numerous settings, including business, human resources, child development, rehabilitation, education, and career counseling.

The need for trained counselors and therapists in the United States is robust. The National Alliance on Mental Health estimated that approximately 51 million adults in the U.S. (roughly one in five adults) experienced mental illness in 2019.

Several factors continue to drive the need for counseling resources. Some of these include the rapid pace of technological and societal change that creates feelings of profound dislocation and alienation for some people, the recent and lingering disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the high prevalence of substance abuse and addiction within the American populace.

Community mental health is one framework in which mental health and related services are conceptualized and subsequently treated. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the genesis of the community mental health concept is attributable to the Community Mental Health Act of 1963. Before the passage of this act, individuals with mental illness in the U.S. were often institutionalized, and the quality of the care they received in such settings varied significantly. After 1963, the model of providing mental health treatment changed from institutionalization to the creation of mental health centers which began offering treatment and other services to people in the communities where they live and work.

This shift in how mental health services are delivered resulted from a change in the theoretical foundation that informs how such services are conceptualized and then offered. The community mental health model is based upon the premise that communities are better able to create, operate and sustain the mental health facilities and programs needed to meet the needs of their population. The American Psychological Association defines community mental health as activities that promote mental health that are performed in the community instead of institutional settings.

Decades after the passage of the Community Mental Health Act, community mental health centers continue to play a vital role in the wellness of the communities they serve. A variety of staff often work at a community mental health center. These include social workers, psychiatrists, counselors, psychologists, and peer support specialists. These centers often serve as a critical resource and stopgap measure when other resources, such as psychiatric hospitals, state departments of public health-operated facilities, and private providers, are insufficient to meet the needs of both individuals and the broader local population. Such centers often provide critical referrals to other local service providers as well as directly contract with these other providers to provide services that effectively sustain a safety net in countless communities throughout the U.S.

Read on to discover community mental health and related academic programs in the United States.

Professors to Know in Community Health Master’s Degree Programs

  • Dr. Nicholas Freudenberg, PhD - City University of New York

    Dr. Nicholas Freudenberg is a distinguished professor of public health at City University of New York School of Public Health and faculty director of Healthy CUNY, a university-wide effort to promote the health of CUNY students to support their academic success. He is also a senior faculty fellow and co-founder of the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute. Freudenberg was the founder and first director of the CUNY School of Public Health’s Doctor of Public Health program.


    Dr. Freudenberg specializes in research examining the impact of food and social policies on urban food environments and health inequalities; strategies to bring the benefits of a college education to more students from historically underserved populations; and public health approaches to reduce the harmful influences of commercial determinants of health. He wrote At What Cost Modern Capitalism and the Future of Health (Oxford, 2021) and Lethal but Legal Corporations, Consumption and Protecting Public Health (Oxford, 2014 and 2016). For over three decades, he has worked to plan, implement, and evaluate health policies and programs to improve living conditions and reduce health inequalities in low-income communities.


    He holds DrPH and MPH degrees from Columbia University and a bachelor of science degree from CUNY Hunter College.

  • Dr. Melissa Creary, PhD, MPH - University of Michigan

    Dr. Melissa Creary currently works as an Assistant Professor in the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She has previously taught courses in race, ethnicity, and culture in health policy, and achievements and challenges in public health systems. 


    She is the director of the Office of Public Health Initiatives within the American Thrombosis & Hemostasis Network. In her role, she supports the organization’s efforts to consolidate federal programs, establish a Health Equity Program and support medically underserved populations. She previously spent nine years at the CDC Division of Blood Disorders, where she created and co-led the first national program and data collection system for sickle cell disease and thalassemia.


    Her research and teaching background is at the nexus of public health, science and technology studies, and medical anthropology. She studies sickle cell disease's social, cultural, ethical, political, and historical tensions in the United States and Brazil.


    Dr. Creary is a three-time alumnus of Emory University. She completed her bachelor of science in biology, a master of public health in behavioral science and health education, and a doctor of philosophy from the Emory University Laney Graduate School.

  • Dr. Cerynn Desjarlais, PhD - University of North Dakota

    Dr. Cerynn Desjarlais is the program director for online graduate counseling programs and a clinical assistant professor at the University of North Dakota. She is dedicated to collaborating with colleagues to promote education defined by values such as diversity, inclusion, and equity of access to counseling services. Her research interests include indigenous student success, missing and murdered indigenous women, and multicultural psychology


    Desjarlais is a member of the Society of Indigenous Psychologists (SIP), where she serves as the SIP Newsletter co-editor. She is also a member of the American Psychological Association and several APA divisions focused on issues such as women, culture, ethnicity, and race.


    She completed her master of arts in counseling and PhD in counseling psychology at UND.

Bernd Geels
Bernd Geels

Bernd Geels is a Berlin, Germany-based freelance writer and artist. He holds an undergraduate degree in atmospheric science and two graduate degrees. He completed his most recent graduate degree in international environmental studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2011. He is interested in healthcare, climate change, marine conservation, indigenous science and refugee issues. You can reach him directly at [email protected].

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