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Dr. Sheldon Jacobs, Champion of Diversity in Mental Health

Graduates of Alliant University’s California School of Professional Psychology not only learn from leaders in their respective fields, but also share their alumni status with some of the most impactful professionals in the country. 

One of these alumni who is leading the charge of mental health advocacy in his field is Dr. Sheldon Jacobs. Dr. Jacobs has a diverse background that has given him a unique perspective and greatly assisted his ability to work closely with minority communities. Growing up in San Diego as a young black man and being raised by a single parent all played a major role in shaping his career focus and drive to expand access to mental health services for minority communities. 

His Impact and Journey

His work in Nevada led to him to create the Increasing Diversity in Mental Health Coalition in 2017. This coalition aligns minorities from various mental health disciplines such as psychiatry, social work, clinical mental health, and marriage and family therapy. These professionals work together to participate in outreach events, high school panel discussions, and symposiums where they discuss mental health as a career at large. Dr. Jacobs’ experience in the field of mental health was propelled forward after he was confronted with the heavy reality of what his life choices could lead to as a rebellious teenager who fell in with a dangerous gang in San Diego. He ultimately lost two close friends and nearly his own life in the course of a couple of weeks and those tragic events forever shaped his future and that of many others through his push to bring more minorities into mental health care careers in order to increase access to mental health services for communities that are typically underserved in such fields. 

That eye-opening that Dr. Jacobs needed to see that his life was not headed where he wanted it to took him from a life of danger and despair into a future where he now gives hope to the once hopeless and comfort to communities experiencing trauma.. Despite having the cards stacked against him with a diagnosed learning disability, Dr. Jacobs was relentless in his pursuit for a brighter future for himself. After graduating from high school, he attended the Ohio State University as a communications major. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he then went on to work with at-risk young men at a group home. Because a majority of the residents were minorities themselves, they found that opening up to him was easier than the therapist for the facility who was not a minority. The resident therapist saw the way that the residents trusted and divulged their traumas to Jacobs and suggested that Jacobs pursue a career as a therapist too. Knowing that he wanted to be in a field that he could help people, but not knowing exactly what that meant just yet, this was the spark that lit the fire for Jacobs to return to school and pursue his Ph.D. 

Dr. Jacobs has taken his fearless pursuit of helping those in need to levels that most professionals would never dare to. In an act of extreme selflessness, Dr. Jacobs chose to live the life of a homeless resident of Las Vegas’ most notorious homeless corridor for 2 days with no assistance. This brave act gave him an entirely new and deeply profound perspective on the hardships that the homeless face that go unseen by those who have never experienced such circumstances. 

“I chose CSPP simply because of the emphasis on diversity and inclusion. I wanted to be in a learning environment where my ideas could be shaped and cultivated.”

Dr. Jacobs knew that he wanted a learning environment that was going to be as diverse as the communities that he was going to be serving, so he chose CSPP for his doctoral studies. 

Another defining reason for his choice to attend CSPP came from the world-renowned faculty that teach at all levels and across multiple programs. 

“The other reason why I selected CSPP is because many of the pioneers in the field of Marriage and Family Therapy either taught or were currently on faculty at CSPP, including Jay Haley who is considered one of the founding fathers,” explained Dr. Jacobs. 

Dr. Jacobs was the first recipient of the prestigious scholarship named after Jay Haley and was eventually provided mentorship by Haley’s wife Dr. Madeline Haley, which he has described as a priceless addition to his education at CSPP. 

“When I think of CSPP, I think of innovation, which is the blueprint that the Jay Haley’s, Virginia Satirs, and the Sue Johnsons (just to name a few) have set. From the first day I set foot on San Diego’s Main Campus, I wanted to fill some of the voids or areas in our field that required attention, and I feel that my CSPP education has provided me with the education and skills necessary to fulfill the vision I have to change my community.”

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