Laurence Gonzaga on Careers in Psychology and Local Mental Health Systems

Pia Henson, Writer, Vice President

MSJC chartered a new club for the Spring of 2023, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), under advisor Dr. Truc HaMai.

Photo by Hugo Aguilar

Spring 2023 NAMI Leadership includes:

President, Juan Pablo Lopez Aguilar

Vice President, Olivia Gonzalez

Secretary, Elijah Drew

Treasurer, Kyle Stears

ICC Representative, Katie Deason 


To kick off the semester, NAMI brought in their first guest speaker, Laurence Gonzaga, to discuss careers in psychology and local mental health systems.

Laurence Gonzaga’s work in psychology has taught him many lessons, and I had the privilege of learning about the different career options for psychology. He noted that most employers will require a Ph.D. or a Master’s Degree for jobs like teaching, research, clinical psychology, counseling psychology, social work, and corporate or marketing. For the people looking into getting their Bachelor’s degree, he provided a few examples of occupations, including working in mid/top-level management, sales, social work, human resources, insurance, real estate, and healthcare. He stressed the importance of having the motivation for getting into your desired field in psychology and to “get your foot in the door, no matter what it is.” While he enjoyed academia, Gonzaga realized that building his career, rather than completing a doctorate degree, is not a bad thing. As one of the few people in the audience who was not a psychology major, I felt that this advice was valuable for any major, field, or career one might pursue. 

Hugo Aguilar

Gonzaga discussed the medi-cal tier system and explained it as such:

Tier 0: prevention and early intervention

Tier 1: primary care

Tier 2: mild and moderate symptoms 

Tier 3: severe symptoms/crisis services

“Tier 4”: hospitalization, treatment centers, and inpatient psychiatric

I was a bit shocked to realize that I have never heard about the resources that Medi-Cal provided for their patients, and I felt extremely lucky to attend Laurence Gonzaga’s lecture as it was a wonderful educational experience. 

Hugo Aguilar

Gonzaga then explored the theoretical ideas of psychology, bringing awareness and de-stigmatizing the topic of mental illness. Discussing a particular stigma, Gonzaga notes, there “is always an overemphasis on physical health, and mental health tends to take the backseat because it isn’t as apparent.” While the stigma against mental health and mental illnesses may be based around a cultural belief system, like  Gonzaga’s experience with a Filipino background, a huge problem has been the access to resources for help. Many people are not aware that one’s mental health moderates their physical health, which is why many people first go to a  primary care doctor. However, when someone needs a psychologist, there are issues that arise, such as access to healthcare, the fear of trusting a professional due to abuse in the system, and the ability to even find one due to poor funding for services. 

Gonzaga’s work focuses on developing policies and workflows in the implementation of federal and state regulations related to behavioral health systems for children, adults, and older adults, as well as special populations such as eating disorders. He is also an adjunct professor of psychology and child development education since 2012 at Mt. San Jacinto College, Chaffey College, and San Bernardino Valley College, and also taught at Argosy University. He has taught the following courses: Introduction to Psychology, Lifespan Development, Adolescent Development, Personal and Social Adjustment, Teaching in a Diverse Society, Child Growth and Development, and Child Family and Community. He is a board member of Citrus Counseling Services in Redlands. In his spare time, he provides mental health awareness and stigma reduction presentations for churches, veterans groups, NAMI, other advocacy groups, and colleges. 

 Laurence Gonzaga was born in Quezon City, Philippines in 1983 and immigrated to the United States at the age of four in 1987. He grew up in the greater Los Angeles area in the cities of Atwater, Highland Park, Highland, and finally in Colton throughout his K through 12 education and into his university studies at California State University, San Bernardino where he earned his bachelor in psychology and master in psychology with an emphasis on child development. He currently works in the healthcare industry as a behavioral health program manager with Molina Healthcare since December 2022. Before that he worked in a similar capacity for 10 years at Inland Empire Health Plan. 

The NAMI club had a successful event and continues to contribute to the MSJC campus by informing, educating, and de-stigmatizing an overlooked aspect that affects our daily lives, mental health.

Follow the NAMI club on Instagram to see their upcoming events!