Wise Counsel

New Department of Counseling and Behavioral Health prepares graduates to address today’s challenges.

An opioid epidemic grips the U.S. Philadelphia’s rate of residents living in deep poverty ranks the highest among the country’s 10 largest cities. Childhood trauma passes through generations, causing far-reaching implications, especially in impoverished areas.

“There are these crises going on, and there’s a need for counselors and therapists who can help address them,” explains Dr. Michael Dryer, dean of the College of Health Professions at Jefferson.

To build a broader ecosystem that deals with the major challenges facing the nation, the University recently combined its Department of Couple and Family Therapy (CFT) with the Community and Trauma Counseling (CTC) program to create the Department of Counseling and Behavioral Health.

“We’re leveraging our strengths and enhancing the collaboration between the two,” says Dr. Jeanne Felter, the new department chair. “It allows us to be intentional and to plan meaningfully for how will we expand our offerings to meet the needs of consumers of behavioral health care today. We have our ear to the ground. We’re paying attention to what the community needs.”

The MS in CTC program prepares students for the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credential. They can currently opt for two specializations (or plus options) that lead to an additional credential. The Specialization in Art Therapy dually prepares students for the LPC and the Registered Art Therapy credentials. The Specialization in Trauma, Addictions and Recovery, which will launch in summer 2019, prepares students for the LPC and Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor credentials.

We’ve created programs flexible enough that students can curate their education.
– Dr. Michael Dryer

The Master’s in Family Therapy program, developed and operated in a unique partnership with the Council for Relationships, prepares graduates for the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy credential, and features two plus options as well: a sex therapy or a family therapy track.

As a result of this partnership, students train with Council for Relationships faculty members, who bring a wealth of clinical and teaching experience to the classroom, says Dr. Kenneth Covelman, Couple and Family Therapy program director.

“Having our students do their clinical training at the Council for Relationships creates a powerful learning environment,” Dr. Covelman says. “It allows us to blur the boundary between classroom and clinic and helps our students integrate complex theoretical information in rapid fashion. This is an ideal way to learn the difficult skills of couple, family and sex therapy.”

Council for Relationships CEO Deb D’Arcangelo called the partnership a win-win for both institutions. “By having the student interns complete their clinical practicum with us by providing low- or no-fee therapy, Council for Relationships can serve everyone, including families in transitional housing, refugees and other people in great need,” she says. “In turn, we hear from employers that Jefferson graduates are more like therapists who have two years of full-time work experience, which adds to the success and reputation of the program.”

Additional Opportunities

The Department of Counseling and Behavioral Health also offers an undergraduate minor in child trauma studies, an expedited five-year combined bachelor’s/master’s degree in psychology or health sciences (BS) and community and trauma counseling (MS), and an array of certificate programs for advanced practice professionals seeking additional competencies in trauma, addictions, sex therapy, medical family therapy or art therapy.

In the months ahead, the department will build upon its current programming to offer additional opportunities.

“We’ve created programs flexible enough that students can curate their education,” Dr. Dryer says. “They can personalize their degree in a way that best prepares them to practice the way they think they’re needed in the community.”

The new department allows Jefferson graduates to be more effective in their practice, as well as more marketable in the workforce, Dr. Felter adds.

In a city like Philadelphia, where residents experience trauma and adversity in doses higher than the national average, providers of care need to be trauma-informed. The CTC program is among the few programs nationally that provides a fully integrated trauma curriculum and prepares practitioners to address the trauma-related needs of their clients. Also, due to people’s complex needs that extend beyond the individual and include the family and other systems, traditional outpatient treatment models fail many of the most vulnerable patients, Dr. Felter notes. “There’s a need for family-based, systems-oriented services, and our CFT students, for example, are well-positioned to provide that support.”

Two women speaking with each other
The University recently combined its Department of Couple and Family Therapy with the Community and Trauma Counseling program to create the Department of Counseling and Behavioral Health.

The Greater Good

The Department of Counseling and Behavioral Health offers multiple programs and training opportunities beyond the degree and certificate programs to contribute to behavioral health workforce development regionally and nationally, Dr. Felter says.

The Jefferson Trauma Education Network (J-TEN) launched with support from the Scattergood Foundation to grow well-trained, healthy and sustainable human service workforces, to provide resources and support for families, communities and leaders, and to reduce barriers and support equitable access to services.

As the interprofessional training and community intervention arm of Jefferson’s CTC program, J-TEN delivers accessible and affordable monthly trainings to enhance the knowledge and application of novel skills and competencies among professionals, paraprofessionals and students across disciplines and sectors, community members, parents, caregivers and leaders.

J-TEN recently worked with Jefferson’s bone marrow transplant nurses and critical care staff, for instance, to provide training. They covered the potential impact of psychological trauma on physical health, developed awareness of the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma in the workforce, and implemented strategies to mitigate the impact of this difficult work on their own psychological health and emotional well-being.

“There’s greater recognition of the need to become more skilled and knowledgeable about behavioral health, trauma and social justice, and compassion fatigue,” Dr. Felter says. “Our department has great expertise in all these areas, and we’re excited to extend our work into the clinical pillar.”

J-TEN also has successfully provided intensive interprofessional training through the Philadelphia Trauma Training Conference. The third annual event, held July 29-Aug. 1 on East Falls Campus, focused on “Promoting Equitable Access to High-Quality Services for Vulnerable Children and Families.” The conference attracted over 500 practitioners, leaders, researchers and lay individuals invested in the health and well-being of their patients, clients, neighbors and communities.

“You have a physician sitting next to a block captain sitting next to a Department of Human Services social worker,” Dr. Felter says. “It’s about creating and nurturing that community of practice. Our department and this conference have a similar mission centered on workforce development. We’re training people to do the work of today and to ensure they’re ethically and clinically prepared to sustain for the future.”

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