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Opportunities Expand to Become a Behavioral Health Professional

Kaiser Permanente is accepting applications to its Mental Health Scholars Academy from Northern and Southern California employees who want to earn advanced degrees in the behavioral health field starting in fall 2021. Pictured, Quincyetta McClain.

Quincyetta McClain is a Kaiser Permanente spiritual care manager based in Modesto, California.

These days she is also a student — participating in the organization’s Mental Health Scholars Academy (MHSA) as she pursues a degree to become a California licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT).

“Professionally, it’s a huge step in my career and the opportunity that I’ve longed for to achieve my highest potential,” she said.

McClain is 1 of 41 students transitioning from existing Kaiser Permanente careers, ranging from information technology to finance, into the behavioral health field. They are continuing to work while taking the courses on their own time. The students were admitted in June and just started class at the end of August.

Now MHSA is accepting applicants for its fall 2021 program, with an increase in students to be accepted, an expanded list of potential behavioral health degrees, and more participating academic institutions.

The Class of Fall 2021

The academy currently works with its original academic partners, University of San Francisco and Alliant International University, while new ones have been added for fall 2021: Fielding Graduate University, California State University Long Beach, and Brandman University.

The classes are online during the pandemic. Later, they will be a mix of online, in person, and hybrid, in order to make the program doable for students throughout the state to attend. The academy pays 75% of students’ tuition.

The current students are doing coursework for their MFT master’s degrees. In addition to that degree, the fall 2021 students will be able to pursue master’s degrees in social work, clinical counseling, and clinical counseling with a concentration in MFT, or a PsyD or a PhD in clinical psychology.

The application deadlines and learning institutions vary, depending upon the degree pursued. Interested employees who work full or part time (20+ hours/week) in California and who have completed their probationary period may want to review the program’s FAQs and consider attending informational webinars before applying.

Diverse, Committed Applicants

Dan Gizzo, PhD, a clinical psychologist and the academy’s director, said that up to 187 students will be accepted for the fall 2021 class. Over the next 3 years, MHSA  is expected to enroll hundreds more.

“The overarching focus of the entire academy is to promote people returning to school, expanding their careers, and meeting the needs of the communities we serve, which are diverse and multilingual,” said Jim D’Alfonso, DNP, RN, the executive director of Professional Practice, Leadership Development, & Research, and of the Nurse Scholars Academy upon which the MHSA was based.

“The Mental Health Scholars Academy in particular will help meet the growing need for more new therapists in California,” added Dr. Gizzo. “We are looking for participants who have a long-term commitment to the behavioral health field.”

People just like Quincyetta McClain.

“I am hoping to make a positive impact on as many people as possible who are facing life challenges for as long as I can,” she said. “My training in psychotherapy will help provide a source of strength, hope, and encouragement to people who are not only feeling the severity of COVID-19, but facing many other mental health issues prevalent in our society today.”

For more information go to the program’s website. Questions? Email


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