Counselor Education Department Innovates to Best Prepare Students to Meet the Needs of Clients

Counselor Education Department Innovates to Best Prepare Students to Meet the Needs of Clients

Students conversing in the 'Diagnosis and Treatment Across the Lifespan' course.

Students in the "Diagnosis and Treatment Across the Lifespan" course.

Faculty members continue to offer new coursework to address the needs of clients in a post-Covid world and are active leaders in the field.

In our coursework, we emphasize how to meet crisis appropriately, and based on feedback from our students we’ve begun to offer new courses to address specific needs.

— Jocelyn Novella PhD, LPC, ACS, BC-TMH

Quality professional counselors today are in high demand and are needed now more than ever. According to a report from the Behavioral Health and Economics Network, Connecticut would need a more than 50 percent increase in the behavioral health workforce to meet the needs of children, families, and underserved individuals. Fairfield’s Counselor Education Department is actively responding to this demand by ensuring graduates are trained in specific skills that are crucial to serving clients in a post-Covid world.

A major focus of the School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs is to provide students with opportunities to experience training in a variety of settings and to be exposed to diverse communities as part of their practicum and internship experiences. In fact, students work with a Clinical Coordinator Pamela Anderson, MS, LPC, to find the best match for them when determining where to pursue their practicums and internships.

“What our students are seeing in the field are more severe issues,” said Jocelyn Novella PhD, LPC, ACS, BC-TMH, assistant professor of counselor education. “In our coursework, we emphasize how to meet crisis appropriately, and based on feedback from our students we’ve begun to offer new courses to address specific needs.”

One such course is "Interpersonal Theory of Suicide," designed and taught by James Geisler, PhD, NCC, LPC, who is the executive director of Counseling and Student Wellness Services at Sacred Heart University. Dr. Geisler is a graduate of Fairfield’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program.

“What inspired me to design the course was my belief that counselors nationwide are often ill-prepared to work with suicidal clients, even after their coursework is completed at the graduate level,” said Dr. Geisler. “In combination with my own experiences and my exposure to theory I learned at the doctoral level, I became inspired to help others feel more prepared to enter the field with the knowledge and confidence to not just assess for suicide, but to also intervene.”

Another area that has become increasingly important for counselors is telemental health training. Dr. Novella and her colleagues are in the process of developing an advanced skills in counseling course that will focus on more complex counseling skills and telemental health training. An expert in telemental health, Dr. Novella developed three training modules that have been shared state-wide with counselors through the Connecticut Counseling Association (CCA). The training modules were also recently shared with counselors who attended the North Atlantic Region Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (NARACES) conference.

Both Dr. Novella and Chair and Professor of Counselor Education Dilani Perera, PhD, LPC, LADC, NCC, MAC, BC-TMH are active members in the CCA. Dr. Perera recently served as president of the Connecticut Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (CACES), a division of the CCA, for the 2021 term and was recognized with the Joanne Stein Leadership Award for her dedication to reinvigorating the organization by holding monthly meetings and engaging new members including graduate students. Dr. Perera, Dr. Novella, and John Kiweewa, PhD, LMHC, associate professor of counselor education, are also active in NARACES and provided wellness workshops for counselor educators and supervisors at the conference

“Dr. Novella and I are legislative committee members and are actively involved in reviewing bills and advocating for counselors at the state level,” said Dr. Perera. “Our faculty are also engaged in research with our students in areas including wellness and telemental health training.”

The Counselor Education Department continues to grow and recently welcomed Dr. Kiweewa.

“I enjoy teaching current issues in counseling for the opportunity to have real, engaging conversations,” said Dr. Kiweewa. “I find that oftentimes we don’t know how to talk about our differences. We debate them instead of talking about them. When we debate there is a lot that is missed.”

Learn more about the School of Education and Human Development School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs.

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20230113

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