Program Philosophy, Theme, Accreditation
We believe that deaf professionals are the most appropriate role models, while hearing counselors trained in working with deaf people can be highly effective helpers also. Therefore, a secondary goal of the program is to increase the number of highly qualified mental health counselors trained in this program who are themselves deaf or hard-of-hearing, and or minority deaf or hard-of-hearing.
In order to reach these goals, a core course of studies is required of all accepted students. In addition, courses in deafness and communication skills are also required. We believe that mental health counselors must be proficient in a variety of communication styles in order to be effective helpers. Therefore, a high level of sign language proficiency is required of all students in order to begin the fieldwork experience, and additional competency in sign language is required in order to graduate.
The individual needs of students within the program vary, and for that reason, there is some flexibility within the prescribed program. Students may add areas of interest and specialization through elective course work, workshops offered on campus, and when approved, independent studies. The program offers emphases in clinical mental health counseling or community mental health counseling through selection of fieldwork placement sites.
The Mental Health Counseling Program prides itself on the integration of course work with field work experiences. Students who graduate from the program complete more than 1000 clock hours of supervised experience prior to graduation. Sites and supervision styles vary, which is an important reflection of our belief that no one theory of intervention or counseling can help all people. However, change - and all people are capable of change - is optimized through a relationship with a trained professional. The major responsibility of the mental health counselor is to provide for the social and emotional needs of their clients, screen for and detect, and assist in the treatment of serious personal or emotional problems, and make appropriate community and mental health referrals.
In addition, it is our belief that mental health counselors are responsible for initiating and implementing preventative activities that are intended to lessen the development of increased stressors, resulting in improved mental health for deaf and hard of hearing people living in various communities.
The organizing theme for the program is as follows:
"The mental health counselor working with deaf and hard-of-hearing clients and deaf clients with additional special needs, is a professional who applies principles of facilitating change and development to individuals, groups, systems, and society."
This theme reflects the philosophy of the program, defines points of intervention along the continuum, focuses on the role of the professional in life, and leads to the attainment of the program objectives. This theme determines what/who our graduates should be upon completion of this program.
Full accreditation was awarded by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) during the spring of 2000. With this accreditation, graduates are eligible to take the National Counselor Examination (NBCC) during the last semester of study (while completing the internship).
Students are also encouraged to seek information on specific certification requirements of mental health counselors in states where they are likely to seek employment. Information can usually be obtained from the Offices of Licensing and Certification in the State Capitals or by checking the websites of the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American Mental Health Counseling Association (AMHCA).