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Evidence of Success

September 1, 2012 — There is ample evidence that the Behavioral Health Counseling curriculum is hitting the mark. Graduates are highly sought-after by addiction and mental health treatment agencies because employers recognize the superior skills training students receive at the College of Nursing and Health Professions. Graduates are eagerly filling positions in partial hospitals, residential treatment facilities, clubhouse programs, and addiction treatment programs. On the job, BHC graduates consistently report that they are much better-prepared than their peers who were conventionally educated in psychology or social work.

“I have long been an advocate for improving the quality of care delivered to our most vulnerable citizens and have been dismayed that we so often fail these individuals due in part to fuzzy thinking in the initial training of behavioral health care professionals regarding what should constitute essential competencies for professional practice,” shared Dr. Comer. He also said that, in the field as a whole, “We are still struggling to define what transdisciplinary competencies for behavioral health care practitioners should include.” Early on, Dr. Comer developed such a set of competencies to guide the Behavioral Health Counseling Department.

Forty years of progress have brought about deinstitutionalization and increased options for community living for those with a serious mental illness. Today, there is a new behavioral healthcare transformation underway. This transformation involves not where we care for people, but how we care for them. A nearly exclusive reliance on the medical model approach to treatment is giving way to rehabilitative and recovery-oriented models. “The research on the importance of making this transition is very clear,” Dr. Comer stated. “The potential for recovery from serious behavioral health disorders is improved by attending not just to the illness but to all aspects of the person: biological, psychological, and social.” The BHC Program incorporates strengths-based and recovery-oriented principles of practice throughout the curriculum.

There is a well-acknowledged crisis in workforce preparedness that threatens the progress of the current transformation happening in the field because little has changed in the way that behavioral health professionals are trained and educated. Thus, the Behavioral Health Counseling Program here at the College is providing an essential service to Philadelphia and surrounding counties by turning out a small, steady stream of graduates who are capable of providing recovery-oriented services.

In July, Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities Services Commissioner Dr. Arthur Evans wrote to Dr. Comer and said, “I want you to know that I am very impressed with the work you are doing and want to lift it up as exactly the kind of training that our field needs. It is refreshing to know that we have a program in the city that understands the need of the public sector system and prepares people for that reality.”

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