Alumna and licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Karla Evans has dedicated her career to providing treatment and care for prison inmates struggling with mental illnesses.
Dr. Evans is the Clinical Training Director for the doctoral psychology internship program at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Her daily responsibilities include a caseload of clients, responding to crisis situations within the institution, supervising doctoral interns and providing specialized didactic training to ensure that they are receiving the proper training and work experience before completing their doctoral degrees.
“My job is that we are correctional officers first,” Dr. Evans says. “The challenge is working in a population where you have to always maintain safety and security while also considering providing the best clinical practice for those with varying degrees of mental illness.”
According to a report by the Treatment Advocacy Center, there are approximately 356,000 inmates with serious mental illness in jails and state prisons. This is approximately the population of Honolulu, Hawaii and Tampa, Florida.
“The reason I think this marginalized population is so important to work with is because they are often-times that group of individuals society has given up on and have likely not received the best mental health care,” Dr. Evans says. “I have a strong passion for re-entry and helping them reintegrate into the community so they can be successful in society.”
Dr. Karla Evans’ parents are Assemblies of God U.S. Missionaries who minister to inmates across the United States and abroad. As a young girl, she remembers the impact of sharing Jesus to prisoners struggling to find hope. These memories resonated with her and assisted in guiding her into the path of psychology and counseling in the correctional setting.
Dr. Evans received her bachelor’s degree in Counseling and her master’s degree in Counseling/Psychology from SAGU in 2005. She later received her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Argosy University in 2010.
She believes her time at SAGU greatly impacted her faith which plays a major role in her work today.
“I believe I am able to utilize my faith every day,” Dr. Evans says. “It may not be from quoting scripture or praying with my clients or co-workers but just by trying to live a life Christ has called us to do. Sometimes people have the misconception that if we are not in pulpit ministry, we aren’t ministering for God. But we absolutely have an opportunity to work with people and show Jesus in the darkest situations. I always feel like my faith helps create that sense of optimism and hope in the secular workplace.”
She is also a part of an online radio show called “ The Sweet I Am .” “We help teach people basic skills to overcome life challenges and grow their intimacy with Christ,” Dr. Evans says. The show airs Thursdays at www.fbrn.us in the Grey Bowl at 4 p.m. CST.
For students interested in pursuing a career in psychology or counseling, Dr. Evans implores them to pursue graduate studies. “The options in an undergraduate setting are limited but if you are willing to put forth the education efforts, there is a huge world of opportunities. Society is desperately in need of spirit-filled Christians to infiltrate the psychology realm to utilize their faith to help people regain life.”