Psychologists call for a paradigm shift in mental health: Implications for mentoring programs

In a recent article in American Psychologist, Dodge et al. (2024) present a call to action for transforming mental health research  and practice to focus on population-level impact. The authors argue convincingly that the field must move beyond its traditional individual-level focus to become accountable for improving mental health outcomes across entire populations. This commentary provides an in-depth analysis of the article’s key arguments and implications.


There has been an alarming rise in mental health challenges, particularly among youth. And, while psychologists have  developed many effective individual-level interventions, these have failed to “move the needle” on scaling to a large swatch of the population. The authors propose a new framework of “population mental health science” encompassing three core strategies:

1) scaling up evidence-based practice individual interventions: We need to expand the reach of evidence-based programs (EBPs) by  invest in novel delivery systems (e.g., digital interventions), expanding the mental health workforce through lay providers like mentors, and develop culturally-informed adaptations.(Platforms like MentorPRO have been at the forefront of such efforts).

2) developing community-level interventions:

Community-Level Interventions: population-wide approaches like public health campaigns, policy changes, and environmental interventions are needed. Examples such as expanding green spaces and regulating social media fit within this category.

3) transforming systems of care: The authors propose creating a new universal system of primary mental health care, analogous to pediatric well-child visits. This would involve regular check-ins across the lifespan, screening, and connection to tailored resources.

Overall, this approach can address pervasive disparities and reach those currently underserved and the need for increased public investment, workforce development, and shifts in how psychologists conceptualize their role.

The article concludes by outlining key next steps, including:

Implications for Training Programs

This paradigm-shifting article has several important implications for mentoring and paraprofessional training programs:

• Mentors need exposure to implementation science principles for scaling interventions.

• Cultural adaptation skills are critical for ensuring interventions reach diverse populations.

• Programs should incorporate training on community engagement, coalition-building, and working across sectors.

• Mentor need training and preparation for new roles in primary prevention, screening, and systems change. Courses that train mentors in mental health skills are vital.

• Programs should instill a sense of accountability for community-wide outcomes, not just individual client progress.

In conclusion, Dodge et al. (2024) provide a compelling roadmap for transforming mental health research and practice. Training programs have a vital role to play in preparing the next generation of professionals to lead this paradigm shift toward population impact.


Dodge, K. A., Prinstein, M. J., Evans, A. C., Ahuvia, I. L., Alvarez, K., Beidas, R. S., Brown, A. J., Cuijpers, P., Denton, E.-g., Hoagwood, K. E., Johnson, C., Kazdin, A. E., McDanal, R., Metzger, I. W., Rowley, S. N., Schleider, J., & Shaw, D. S. (2024). Population mental health science: Guiding principles and initial agenda. American Psychologist. Advance online publication.