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College of Continuing Education News

Cutting-edge Training

College of Continuing Education launches new Integrated Behavioral Health Graduate Degree Program

This fall, the College will admit its first cohort in the new 60-credit Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Behavioral Health (MPS-IBH) program. The degree prepares students to hold dual licenses as addictions counselors (LADC) and as mental health counselors (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor/LPCC).

The MPS-IBH will build on the existing Addiction Studies Certificate, with some of the required course work being drawn from the certificate's curriculum. The professional degree is a rigorous, comprehensive pre-service education and clinical application program and includes an 880-hour internship as a requirement for completion.

Says program director Julie Rohovit, "Right now, counselors are typically trained in either mental health or substance abuse disorders. There are very few graduate training programs in the country that address co-occurring disorders in any significant or sustained manner. Some folks may add sequential training to fill in the gaps in their education, but rarely are they getting any sort of integrated education."

Unfortunately, Rohovit says, that means there is a dearth of treatment options for many individuals who are desperately in need of it. "The clinical reality is that a significant percentage of patients present with a dual disorder. Almost nine million adults have co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. They rarely receive services that effectively address both of these issues--if they receive services at all. Just over seven percent receive treatment for both; over half receive no treatment at all."

Graduates of the MPS-IBH program at the U will be uniquely prepared to handle those types of cases, Rohovit says, as students will receive training in a number of treatment methods and models (including cognitive behavioral therapy, emotional regulation and mindfulness, and step-wise interventions), relapse prevention, risk/harm reduction, maintenance in recovery, and group practice. They also will be able to select from a variety of clinical electives, including eating disorders, co-occurring disorders in adolescents, co-occurring disorders in older adults, PTSD, compulsive disorders, and using spirituality in treatment protocols.

"Our program integrates substance use and mental health disorders in each and every course," Rohovit says. "What's more," she continues, "the content goes beyond just the baseline established by the licensing board. Part of the reason we want to keep our class sizes small is because of the clinical aspect and the hands-on skills development.

"The curriculum teaches evidence-based best practices and has its roots in research and applied clinical realities. We'll be using an applied learning approach that draws on the expertise and talent of not only faculty, but other academic and agency partnerships, to develop real-world experience."

Rohovit cites the program's partnership with St. Joseph's Hospital as an example. "We'll have some advanced courses held there; students will do externships and work on a team made up of a nurse, physician, mental health and addiction counselors. Through it, they'll sit in on sessions; do evaluations, that sort of thing. It's very much like the 'grand rounds' concept in med school."

The integrated theory, applied course work, and ability to obtain dual licensure makes program graduates good candidates for the workforce, as well. "For one, there is a real need for people with dual licensures in Minnesota. Currently, there are only 76 LPCC/LADC clinicians in the state," says Rohovit. "What's more, this is a rapidly expanding field, nationwide. According to the U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics, substance abuse counseling and mental health counseling are two of the fastest growing professions. Both areas are projected to grow much faster than average for all occupations over the next decade. Dually trained and licensed clinicians are rare and in high demand."

Following completion of the program and licensure, graduates have a wide variety of career options, including private practice, working as a contractor or consultant, or working in a hospital, nursing home, or even a primary care clinic. "While for many industries the job market is bleak, the outlook for students with dual certification is great--and offers a nice bump in salary in many cases. There's both a community need and a workforce need for these types of practitioners." observes Rohovit.

She concludes, "Minnesota is known as a pioneer for treatment options. The MPS-IBH program at the U of M will go a long way in adding to that reputation. Our students will get the training and education they need to get out and fill a critical gap. Rather than just reading about theory, they will see the conceptual piece firsthand, and put it into practice as they learn. It's a rigorous program, but a pioneering one, and, I think, is going to produce a new generation of highly sought, uniquely qualified behavioral health professionals."

For more information on the Integrated Behavioral Health Master's Degree or the Addiction Studies program, visit our website.

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