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Going Global with an Innovative Approach to Psychiatric Rehabilitation Education

January 19, 2016

Faculty members from the Behavioral Health Counseling (BHC) Department traveled to Seoul, Korea in November 2015, to present a workshop on a unique partnership with Project HOME, a nonprofit organization that provides housing and other services to men, women, and children in Philadelphia. Associate Clinical Professors Veronica Carey, PhD, and Lisa Schmidt, PhD, shared an innovative approach to teaching psychiatric rehabilitation skills in a community setting at the international meeting of the World Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation (WAPR) – an event that was attended by 1,400 individuals representing 46 countries.

The workshop described Drexel’s advanced counseling course, BACS 420 Psychiatric Rehabilitation Competencies. This course conducts a couple of classes at the Project HOME site in Philadelphia, allowing students, service recipients, and staff to interact with one another on issues related to psychiatric rehabilitation. Students then have an opportunity to partner with one resident for the term, meeting several times to talk about recovery issues and what it’s like to go back to live, learn, work, and socialize, when you’re experiencing psychiatric symptoms. The partnership between Drexel’s Behavioral Health Counseling Department and Project HOME is entering its sixth year.

Carey stated “The workshop reflected well on Drexel’s initiatives to partner with the community, to not just educate our students, but also to build bridges with persons in the surrounding area of the behavioral health program.” The two BHC professors hope the lessons learned help launch similar initiatives internationally. Schmidt added, “Community-based learning is a model that’s been effective at Drexel and something that international conference attendees can adapt to their particular setting, especially if they are struggling to train staff in the latest skills in psychiatric rehabilitation.”

The pair also learned there is a stark contrast between U.S. mental health systems and those in other countries. For instance, Carey offered, “most Pacific Rim countries still rely on institutionalization to care for persons with serious mental illnesses.” Schmidt added, “We heard about places such as Bangladesh where there is only one Occupational Therapist in the entire country working with people recovering from serious mental illnesses.”  It was such an important opportunity to learn about and then bring back to the Drexel classroom what is happening around the world with respect to rehabilitation and mental health care.

With a majority of conference attendees from Seoul (1,000 individuals representing their professional workforce and student population), the event offered a glimpse into the Korean culture. For instance, Schmidt shared, “The welcome dinner opened with folk music and drumming from a group of high school students.” There were also opportunities for independent touring, which gave insight into Korean religion and architecture. Schmidt continued, “There were several ancient palaces within the city dating back to the 1400s that were very interesting to see.”

Another highlight of the trip – the two had an opportunity to connect with President Fry who was coincidentally hosting an alumni reception in Seoul for international students. Carey said, “It was a great opportunity to meet with families of Drexel’s international students and represent the College of Nursing and Health Professions.”

Overall, the conference offered a great opportunity to further several goals within the BHC Department. These include promoting the program internationally, encouraging others to incorporate community-based learning into their behavioral health education framework, and enriching Drexel’s Behavioral Health Counseling cultural competency curriculum.