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Faculty Spotlight on Dr. Cory Viehl

He received the Commitment to Social Change Award for his work and research in LGBTQI+ communities.

Earning a degree in a clinical mental health master’s program is not only a journey to understanding and helping others, it is a journey inward. Dr. Cory Viehl, a faculty member in Walden University’s online MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program, says master’s candidates must learn to examine their own “lenses and biases” so that they can most effectively help future clients.

Dr. Viehl draws on his 12 years of experience as a licensed clinical mental health counselor to help Walden MS students learn to do the work that’s needed to become respected mental health professionals helping clients and working for positive social change.

We sat down with Dr. Viehl, one of Walden’s newer MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling faculty members, to learn about his work and research. A widely published scholar, Dr. Viehl focuses his research on LGBTQI+ individuals in counseling, counselor education, and supervision. Read our interview with Dr. Viehl to learn more.

What do you like most about teaching at Walden University?

I just recently joined Walden—my first class began June 1, 2020. However, I will share that a big appeal for me with this position included the opportunity for flexibility and autonomy to provide more time for service leadership and scholarship. Additionally, I am looking forward to learning from others on best practices for online instruction, having taught on-ground for over 12 years now.

Your biography contains so many interesting publications and presentations supporting the LGBTQI+ community. What would you consider your most important work?

The article on “Burnout Among Sexual Minority Mental Health Practitioners” feels like one of the more important pieces. The themes illuminated from this informed my dissertation topic and opened the door for future research on intersecting identities as well as resiliency strategies/coping that we could consider integrating within counselor education. It feels like an important foundational study in my research agenda.

I understand you won a Commitment to Social Change Award. Can you tell me about that?

The Commitment to Social Change Award is the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) Minority Fellowship. I was selected as a fellow during my doctorate studies at Georgia State for my work and research in LGBTQI+ communities. The fellowship provided me the opportunity to network with other amazing colleagues and to receive additional training/mentorship in furthering my work with LGBTQI+ communities.

How is the LGBTQI+ community affected differently by mental illness?

The mental health concerns facing LGBTQI+ are a result of stigmatization and oppression attached to their specific identities (sexual, affectional, gender, etc.). These identities are marginalized within a heteronormative society and often result in bullying of LGBTQI+ adolescents, concealment of identities within social and workplace contexts, and subsequent experiences of negative health (physical, emotional, psychological).

The problem is that much of the research on these experiences examine a correlation between the various identities and subsequent mental health concerns rather than examining the social/cultural impacts these experiences have on LGBTQI+ individuals. In other words, we should be examining what can we do to create more inclusive/celebratory practices/environments for our LGBTQI+ communities rather than researching why they experience high rates of depression, etc.

When an individual is consistently marginalized/oppressed because of their identities, of course we would expect to see some negative consequences. In my opinion, we need to be exploring ways to change the social/cultural milieu so that our LGBTQI+ individuals can live authentically.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing clinical mental health counselors today?

I think we are seeing an increased emphasis on the importance of mental wellness, and thus the field is growing significantly. One of the problems I see is access in terms of location (rural communities) as well as access given the challenges created by COVID-19 and ensuring clinicians have adequate training for telehealth services.

What advice would give to a prospective student considering a career in clinical mental health counseling?

This is a degree where counselors-in-training not only learn didactic skills to become ethical and competent practitioners, but also must engage in introspective work and address their own biases, family systems, etc. It is a highly reflective process that requires a great deal of work emotionally and otherwise; thus, I would say that a prospective student be open to self-exploration and feedback and be willing to explore their own lenses/biases, etc.

Do you have any advice to help people cope during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I think the first piece is to recognize that this is a shared, collective trauma and thus it is a time for people to “survive, not thrive.” I think we need to celebrate the daily wins of getting up, showing up, and accomplishing activities of daily living in a time where nothing feels the way it used to be. There is a grieving process happening and as we are adjusting to huge life changes. I think we must take time to affirm ourselves, express gratitude, and help others where we can. We must be kind to ourselves and do the best we can to survive an unprecedented time in our lives and navigate the daily ripple effect it has created for us socially, culturally, and otherwise. As I am sharing this, I am mindful of the parallel process in telling myself to do these things as well.

What suggestions do you have for celebrating Pride Month virtually this year?

I find even the simplest things to be so impactful—from posting an article on LGBTQI+ communities on social media to engaging in virtual opportunities (virtual runs or benefits raising awareness and/or funding for LGBTQI+ organizations) to attending virtual drag performances to support LGBTQI+ performance culture. I also find it helpful to post or have conversations with others where I can through social media or other means to discuss the importance of LGBTQI+ rights, history, etc. The more knowledge out there, the more we move toward creating a culture of inclusion and celebration for our communities. Find a way to support an LGBTQI+ organization and business.

What do you wish for the LGBTQI+ community?

Consistent with the vision of the Society for Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansive Identities (SAIGE), to exist in “a world where LGBTGEQIAP+ people are respected, celebrated, and experience belonging.”

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Becoming a Mental Health Professional

With instruction from faculty members like Dr. Viehl, students in Walden’s online clinical mental health master’s degree program receive the knowledge and skills they need to embark on rewarding counseling careers.

Walden’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CACREP accreditation is a requirement for licensure in many states. Walden’s clinical mental health master’s program helps you meet the requirements to pursue licensure as a counseling professional.

With Walden as your online education partner, you’ll have options. Choose the general program or opt for one of the following optional specializations: Military Families and Culture; Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling; Addiction Counseling; Forensic Counseling; and Trauma and Crisis Counseling.

Walden’s clinical mental health counseling online program also offers flexibility. Rolling start dates let you find the timing that works best for you. And with Walden’s online learning platform, you can complete coursework when it’s convenient for you—and continue working in your career while you earn a degree.

An MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling can help prepare you for a career helping others to learn and grow. Let that growth begin with you as you start your journey to becoming a mental health professional.

Dr. Cory Viehl, LPC, NCC, ACS, is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the state of Georgia as well as a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS) through NBCC. He earned his PhD in Counselor Education and Practice with a cognate in multicultural supervision and practice from Georgia State University and was selected as an NBCC Minority Fellow in 2014. He has been in clinical practice for 12 years in various settings including intensive outpatient programs, college counseling centers, and private practice. His research and professional interests center on LGBTQI+ individuals in counseling, counselor education, and supervision. More specifically, his publications focus on sexual and gender diverse counselors and their experiences of minority stress, compassion fatigue, burnout, and coping.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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