Formerly Homeless Teach Students “A Person is a Person”
February 28, 2014
“The Behavioral Health Counseling Program teaches you that a person is a person,” said Alison Reynolds, a student in the College’s Behavioral Health Counseling Program. This key understanding is helping Reynolds and her classmates in BACS 420, a course called Psychiatric Rehabilitation Competencies, to work with formerly homeless clients, some of whom have challenging personal histories involving addictions, criminal records, and mental illness diagnoses.
Over the past several years, many undergraduate students in the College’s Behavioral Health Counseling Program have engaged in collaborative learning opportunities with Project H.O.M.E., a nonprofit organization established by a Drexel alumna with the vision of eliminating homelessness in Philadelphia through relationship building. Students in BACS 420 get a truly unique opportunity to practice their rehabilitation diagnosis skills by pairing up with a Project H.O.M.E. resident and conducting strengths interviews, functional assessments, and rehabilitation goal planning. This course gives students the kind of one-on-one counseling practice that is nearly unheard of at the undergraduate level at other institutions, prompting students to say things like, “This is the kind of educational experience that brought me to Drexel in the first place.”
“I learned what psychiatric rehabilitation was about,” said Diana Frasco, who transferred into the Behavioral Health Counseling Program. “Drexel allows you to apply what you learned in the program with real people. I wouldn’t have gotten this experience anywhere else,” she said.
Psychiatric rehabilitation differs from traditional medication-focused treatment approaches, and is geared more toward identifying strengths, setting goals, and creating a positive new environment for clients to achieve those objectives. Our Behavioral Health Counseling students are at the forefront of mental healthcare education, promoting the psychiatric rehabilitation model through their work with partners at Project H.O.M.E.
Many of the Project H.O.M.E. clients have appreciated and enjoyed the experience just as much as the students. “My partner really loves the interaction with students from our program. It is an amazing feeling to know that I can actually be a change in someone’s life and to know that we can have an impact,” said student Siara Johnson. “My partner shared everything with me. She was so self-aware and able to open up. I am just thankful to have met someone so open and to have this kind of experience,” added Reynolds.
BACS 420 and the collaboration with Project H.O.M.E. is championed by course instructor Lisa Schmidt, PhD, an associate clinical professor in the College’s Behavioral Health Counseling Program. She worked for twenty-six years in community behavioral health and is the editor of People in Recovery as Providers of Psychiatric Rehabilitation.