Psychology helping meet growing needs in mental health

Psychology Jim Paulus class

The need to address mental health concerns has arguably never been greater.

It’s why Jim Paulus (g’94), assistant professor of psychology, couldn’t be happier with the growth and sustainability of his program at Tabor College.

After returning to campus in the fall of 2011 to lead Student Life, Paulus recently concluded his sixth year as a professor. The program carried under 30 majors when he first took over. It ended the 2023 spring semester with 70 majors and 36 minors.

“With the world being digital and less face-to-face, I don’t think it’s a given that people have those skills,” Paulus said. “Students in our program recognize the need for connection, and they’re drawn to that. Whether as a single or double major, they recognize the value of connecting, why it can be hard, and how they can intervene.”

With a requirement to take General Psychology or Intro to Sociology, Paulus has seen student interest boom in recent years.

“I get 100 freshmen, and we talk about adding a minor or second major in psychology,” he said. “I hope they see what the class covers, and I hope to convey that psychology covers their interests. It creates better interaction as a student and for their future.”

Another boost has been the number of dual-credit students and earlier exposure to classes like psychology in high school. The recent increase opened the door to an additional professor in the major and a master’s degree. No timetable is set for either addition.

Hailey O’Neal (SR, Pipe Creek, Texas) was a double major in Psychology and Social Work and also concluded her career with Tabor softball.

Pursuing her master’s degree at Incarnate Word University after graduating, O’Neal said her experience at Tabor propelled her career.

“This well-rounded learning environment has shaped me so that I can effectively respond to various situations that may occur in the duration of my time in the field,” O’Neal said.

That interest also meets a demand in the industry. Paulus said some counseling and psychology clinics are telling people they may have to wait a month or more before they can see them.

“Mental health concerns are skyrocketing, and there is such a need,” Paulus said. “There is a significant need for skilled workers with the heart to serve. The need isn’t going anywhere. If you desire to make a difference and are willing to train to do it, there will be a place for you.”

Behind the intrapersonal experience, it’s an understanding that Paulus hopes to convey to his students that life, whether joy or trial, was not meant to be lived alone.

“That’s where I feel psychology and faith go hand-in-hand,” Paulus said. “Jesus didn’t have to have 12 disciples to do his work, but what he did is find 12 people to walk with and live life together. I use that analogy all the time. He showed us how we need to walk this world. God designed us to be relational, and that’s when we’re at our best.”