Four California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) students have been awarded highly competitive California MFT stipends, which provide financial support for their continuing educational pursuits as well as one-year paid employment and training.
Funded by California’s Mental Health Services Act and administered by the MFT Consortium of California and Greater Los Angeles, the program awards 118 stipends statewide, and only 70 in Los Angeles County. CSUDH MFT students Daniel Lopez, Natashia Leonard, Jasmine Henry-Ala, and Gabriela Rubio will each receive a stipend of $18,500 and full-time positions at mental health agencies operated or contracted by county mental health departments.
Additionally, the students will be placed as top candidates when they begin applying for the competitive jobs after graduation, and their hours on the job may be applied to mandatory work hours required for MFT licensure through the State Board of Behavioral Science.
“It was great to hear I got the stipend, but to receive an $18,500 grant as well—you can’t beat that. The stipend really gave me a sense of security knowing that I’ll have a job after I graduate, and knowing I can use the funds to pursue a doctorate,” said Daniel Lopez, who once had depression, an experience that drove his interest in MFT work and helping others. “Seeing the stigma attached to it motivated me to become part of the solution. I really want this.”
Lopez, Leonard, and Henry-Ala received the LA County MFT Stipend, while Rubio was awarded the statewide California Educational MFT Stipend. Both programs offer the same benefits; however, the LA County program focuses on addressing the workforce need for MFT practitioners who can provide services in a language other than English, and it is offered to those with experience in underserved communities.
“The stipend is made for the type of students who are admitted by our MFT department. I am so proud to say that I have gotten to know these recipients very well,” said Michael G. Laurent, chair of the Department of Marital and Family Therapy at CSUDH, who explained that students must complete four semesters of fieldwork before they graduate. “They are committed to the communities that they will be serving. Some of them were raised in those same neighborhoods and learned first-hand what were the true needs of the community.”
After they graduate from CSUDH, the students will be provided a list of places and agencies within the county to apply for MFT work, which is a one-year commitment.
“I want to continue working with families—the population that I’m working with right now,” said Rubio, who was offered both the LA County and California stipend, but chose the more competitive state award. “My last time working with a family, was when I provided therapy in Spanish. I really liked it. I’m addicted, and really excited about getting my next family. I had such a feeling of accomplishment as I saw I was making headway during the session.”
Three of the CSUDH students are on track to graduate in spring 2018. Henry-Ala graduated in fall 2017 and is already seeking work through the DMH. She is currently working with military veterans.
“I have always known that I wanted to help people as a career. I used to be called ‘The Fixer,’ the one who everyone would go to when they had an issue,” said Henry-Ala, who hopes to open her own practice in the future with a focus on veterans. “I find enjoyment in helping people find themselves—not fixing problems for them—but helping them realize what the problem is and the solution might be.”
While at CSUDH, Leonard has been working with those who are developmentally disabled, and plans to continue that work in the future.
“This is an underserved population that is often neglected, and many mental health agencies do not know how to provide services for this population,” said Leonard. “I believe that I could help develop groundbreaking work in this area.”