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Program Spotlight: Pathways

Apr 3, 2023

On March 16th, People Incorporated’s Pathways program celebrated another group of graduates from its trainee program, which trains and gives field immersion experience to recent graduates and current students seeking careers in the behavioral health field. This cohort’s four trainee graduates are part of over 60 trainees in total who have graduated from the Pathways program since its inception.

The Pathways model is unique in how it addresses disparities in the behavioral health field. According to 2021 census data, just a third of Minnesota’s need for mental health professionals is met. This workforce shortage helps drive a self-perpetuating behavioral health crisis cycle: when Minnesotans struggle to access mental health care—whether due to cost barriers, provider shortages, or lack of providers who share their cultural identity—they typically delay or forgo care until symptoms become unmanageable. Pathways prioritize aspiring mental health professionals who come from underrepresented identities, increasing equity and addressing current workforce shortages.

The small cohort model of Pathways allows for each group of trainees to bond quickly, forming an invaluable support system that carries them through the program and beyond.

“My favorite part of the Pathways experience was the group dynamic of the cohort,” said graduate Blake Paulson. “We were able to use each other for support, talk about similar experiences, and build friendships across the duration of the program. Our meetings became less of an obligated discussion and more of a judgment-free space for my cohort to share their experiences. Our supervisors made themselves readily available to provide support and were deeply dedicated to seeing the group achieve our respective goals.”

To date, nearly 50% of trainee graduates are now People Incorporated staff, illustrating a seamless transition to the workforce and proving a clear affinity between trainees and the larger organization.

In 2023, Pathways tracks available to trainees will include: Mental Health Practitioner, Mental Health Support Specialist, Deaf and Hard of Hearing cohort with training in American Sign Language, and a cohort focused on working with middle school and high school-age youth. These focus areas are of high need in the community today, and we hope to continue growing with this need in future years.

“One of the most important things I’ve learned in my time as a trainee is the value of authenticity,” said Paulson. “Often just simply being present and genuine when interacting with clients can have a profoundly positive impact on their feelings of safety within a facility, their trust with staff members, and their overall perspective on mental healthcare services.”

You can support young professionals’ training and education by making a gift to the Pathways program through the GIVE page on our website. By partnering with us, you are building a behavioral health workforce that is culturally specific, robust, and accessible to all.