What Credentials Does a Behavioral Health CEO Need?

What Credentials Does a Behavioral Health CEO Need?

According to CDC data, over half of the people in the United States will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime. The United States government spent more than $225 billion on mental health care programs in 2019 to aid those with psychiatric conditions.

It falls on CEOs to ensure the patient satisfaction of behavioral health organizations, which is no easy task. As C-suite leaders in the behavioral health field, CEOs are in a key position to implement strategic planning and professional development for organizational and clinical leadership, as well as safeguarding compliance to meet state and accreditation needs.

In this article, we will discuss the credentials needed to become a behavioral health CEO.

Behavioral Health CEO | Jeri Daivs International

What Is a Behavioral Health CEO?

A CEO sets the pace and direction for the vision of the company. Typically, in order to pursue leadership positions of this caliber, a qualified candidate would have completed a business or psychology program and ideally have a master’s in business or healthcare administration or related advanced degree.

Leadership positions within hospitals, substance abuse clinics, psychiatric facilities, and large specialized professional practices for the treatment of mental health disorders are just a few of the many establishments which have CEOs at the helm. Rather than engaging with patients directly, C-suite executives in the CEO position focus on building the overall business and oversee the operational strategic planning of the facility. They also are the face of the organization internally and throughout the community.

While nurses, doctors and clinical professionals provide front-line treatment of patients, CEOs ensure everything performs well behind the scenes. Budget optimization and employee management may seem like their usual responsibilities, but the outcome is truly priceless: treatment that enables people to live peaceful and independent lives.

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Duties of a CEO

The duties of a behavioral health CEO, center on making the facility run as efficient as possible while also assuring its continued sustainability over the long run.

Depending on the nature and scale of the company, a CEO’s knowledge, skill set, and hands on experience will vary based on their responsibilities. Nevertheless, CEOs in behavioral health leadership all have some obligations, including the following:

  • Budgeting in a way that takes into account clinical and compliance requirements while simultaneously generating excess income/profit and financial stability.
  • Marketing campaign implementation.
  • Setting the facility’s short and long-term objectives.
  • Installing competent talent management systems are in place for filling critical job openings, training, and encouragement of staff to pursue leadership roles.
  • Ensuring patient excellence in tandem with other behavioral health leadership.
  • Maintaining compliance with statutory requirements.
  • Identifying and addressing synergistic leadership styles while incorporating Equity, Diversity and Inclusion excellence.
  • Exploring independent research, authorizing outcome studies and new knowledge dissemination across the organization with the goal of offering the highest quality of care for patients.
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Becoming a CEO in Behavioral Health Settings

Here are the steps that most CEOs take to get where they are:

Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

C-suite executives, especially CEOs, are in high demand and a behavioral health background including previous work experience in psychiatric, or addiction settings paralleled with a more advanced degree or master’s degree is the ideal.

Typically, behavioral health leadership experience with a bachelor’s degree is the minimum standard required to pursue a CEO position along with substantial first hand experience in a treatment setting demonstrating increased management and leadership responsibilities. CEOs often have bachelor’s or master’s degrees in fields like psychology, counseling, social work, and health science but also must have business management experience within a large healthcare setting.

Over the last several decades, most industry CEOs for both for profit or not for profit institutions come from a clinical background, either masters in the mental health field, or addiction certification with a BA.  These individuals get promoted by their supervisors who see their leadership potential and mentor and encourage them to seek out growing leadership roles.

National behavioral health organizations are increasingly offering CEO in training programs where individuals coming out of healthcare administration or other master’s programs are fast tracked into executive roles under the mentorship of seasoned CEOs. These experiences allow CEOs-in-training to work across the organization and often at more than one site in the operation to create more trained and experienced leaders faster.  

Obtain a Graduate Degree

There are a few masters programs across the country that offer specialized management programs exclusively in mental health. Some individuals find their way into mental health leadership through PhD’s or PsyD’s in industrial or community psychology. However most, aspiring leaders in the field of behavioral psychology or mental healthcare often study in graduate programs such as:

  • Master’s in health administration
  • Master’s in business administration with a healthcare focus
  • Master’s in public health focusing on social and behavioral health

Acquire Valuable Professional Experience

CEOs in the mental healthcare industry typically have advanced degrees and years of experience in the field, but they must also keep up with the latest developments in policy and practice. Gaining additional experience in a variety of healthcare management roles at both large and small facilities, in either the public or private sector, is highly advantageous.

Launching their careers in counseling or social work can provide valuable experience for those who eventually become CEOs of facilities or organizations. Gaining management experience is an important prerequisite for behavioral health CEOs.

Appropriate Licenses For Career Path

Behavioral health professionals, such as substance abuse counselors, may need to obtain a special license or certification to practice in some states. Depending on the state, they may need to take an exam or participate in continuing education. Following a career path can better prepare themselves for job opportunities like a CEO position in their future by learning about the state’s specific licensing requirements.

Earn Optional Certifications

Professional certificates are not typically required by employers, but having them can help candidates stand out from the competition. Aspiring behavioral health CEOs can demonstrate their expertise to potential employers and expand their own horizons by pursuing professional certifications, such as:

  • Certified Behavioral Health Leadership
  • Leadership Skills in Mental Health Treatment
  • Certified Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Six Sigma or other executive management training program area a great idea for individuals lacking any business management training
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Behavioral Health Leadership: CEO Skills

Effective management of mental healthcare institutions typically requires the following skills on the part of behavioral health leadership:

Competence in Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Successful leaders in the field of behavioral health management need strong analytical skills. This includes checking the effectiveness and efficiency of treatment offered through data analysis. Examining employee performance records is also part of the job.

A CEO should be able to look over the results of any facility inspections and make changes based on what they find. They should also have an understanding of recent legislation and regulatory changes.

Establish and Maintain Effective Working Relationships

CEO’s in behavioral health must be effective communicators. They need to engage with others in a way that makes the knowledge accessible to the listeners. This involves interacting with both their medical and administrative staff. Communicating with the public, medical professionals, patients, and their loved ones is also a part of this dynamic. An integral part of being an effective behavioral health CEO is having strong interpersonal skills. They will have to collaborate with a wide range of people with varying perspectives and experiences.

Be at Ease in a Leadership Role

The ideal candidate for the position of behavioral health CEO will be someone who thrives in a leadership position. A director is expected to perform a wide range of administrative tasks and make ethical, well-informed choices. They must also lead by example if they want to inspire their staff. Their leadership skills are crucial to the success of the behavioral health center.

Expertise in Technology

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that an effective medical and health services director will need solid technical abilities. A behavioral health CEO must be comfortable with the many types of software required for the organization to track patients’ records, manage their bills, evaluate staff performance, and measure the organization’s overall success.

Teamwork Acumen & EDI

C-suite executives in the mental health field often try to foster a warm and welcoming workplace on behalf of their staff and their patients. To make the behavioral health settings more pleasant for everyone involved, CEOs may adopt team-building techniques to encourage greater communication and collaboration among behavioral health leadership and staff members. They also put these abilities to use when bringing on new behavioral health directors as team members, ensuring that they quickly feel accepted and appreciated.

Organization Leadership

CEOs require organizational leadership skills to understand the details of patient treatment, finances, and marketing. They must be highly organized to keep the healthcare facility running well and to make sure all healthcare professionals are adhering to policy and procedures.

Financial Analysis

Financial analysis is a key competence for CEO’s in behavioral health. They often examine budgets to guarantee the viability of the company.

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Pros and Cons of Being a CEO

There are several perks and downsides to becoming a CEO. On the bright side, CEOs typically earn in the six figures and have generous benefits packages. Over the coming decade, more jobs are expected to be created, including in the field of mental health care.

As a result of their work, CEO’s receive the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve contributed to the recovery of patients. It’s a great position for people who are mission driven and thrive in social situations and enjoy managing teams of professionals in the healthcare industry.

However, CEOs have a difficult job that frequently requires them to work more than 40 hours per week. It can be challenging to keep mental health programs running when funds are limited. They also need to make substantial personal investments in their own training, development and certification.

Outlook for the Future

The need for behavioral and mental health CEOs is expected to increase through the year 2024.

High demand for mental health services is expected to rise as more people become educated about mental health issues and the stigma associated with them fades away. In addition, addiction treatment programs are increasingly preferred over incarceration for illegal drug offenders.

Even though they may not provide direct patient care, behavioral and mental health CEO’s can make a difference in the lives of their patients by ensuring that they receive high-quality services. They can help people improve their mental health and maintain that progress through a variety of programs and services.

Wrapping Up

Chief executive officers in the field of behavioral health have the important responsibility of ensuring their organization complies with all applicable legislation, employs only those who share their dedication to providing excellent patient care, and runs as effectively as possible.

Because of this, becoming a behavioral health organization CEO calls for a lengthy list of prerequisites, such as education, experience, and key leadership abilities.

If you are a private equity firm, or behavioral health organization seeking a well-qualified CEO, JDi can find the top executive talent to transform your organization and continue to reach your goals. We look forward to learning more about your needs. Please reach out to us anytime through info@jeridavis.com or www.jeridavis.com.