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Schmidt Holds the Nation’s First-Earned Doctorate in Psychiatric Rehabilitation

September 1, 2012

Like other members of the Behavioral Health Counseling faculty, Lisa Schmidt, PhD’s prior clinical experiences inform and inspire her current work as an educator. Before joining the Behavioral Health Counseling faculty, Schmidt worked in New Jersey community mental health for more than 26 years, helping people live satisfying lives despite having illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. As a Program Director for Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services, she developed a clubhouse program located on the grounds of a State Psychiatric Hospital. Clubhouse members cooked, cleaned, and participated in recovery group discussions in preparation for discharge from the hospital. Members also enjoyed trips into the community to ease their fears about leaving the hospital, where many of them had lived for decades. In other efforts, Schmidt worked to create supportive housing opportunities and supervised case management services that assisted the people who moved to these residences after leaving the hospital. She also assisted families caring for a loved one with mental illness by conducting training sessions on topics such as why mental illness occurs, financial supports, and community resources. She engaged families in individual counseling consultations and facilitated skill-building sessions on communication and problem-solving strategies.

In 1999, Schmidt found herself “in the right place at the right time” when she joined the inaugural class of a new doctoral program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. When she was awarded her degree in 2005, Schmidt became the first person in the United States to earn a doctorate in psychiatric rehabilitation. Her dissertation was entitled The Effects of People in Recovery as Providers. That same year, Schmidt joined the Behavioral Health Counseling Department at the College. She explained, “I wanted to take the clinical experiences I had and apply them to helping the next generation entering the field.”

To give her students opportunities to practice skills they learn in class, Schmidt takes her Psychiatric Rehabilitation Competencies class to Project H.O.M.E., a Philadelphia-based program that works to help individuals that were previously homeless find employment. She pairs her students with a Project H.O.M.E. resident and the students conduct rehabilitation assessments that shed light on the impact of mental illness and substance abuse on homelessness and unemployment. Schmidt said, “This is a chance for our students to practice skills that they will use at their first job.”

Among Schmidt’s ambitions is to leave a lasting legacy in the field of psychiatric rehabilitation. As the author of many published, peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, as well as the co-editor of the book, People in Recovery as Providers of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, she is on her way toward reaching her goals.