Beatrice L. Smith is the Director of Advising and Student Services in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences and is the chief contact of the major.
“It actually is the first of its kind in the state of [Florida] at the bachelor’s level and the success of the minor in Behavioral Healthcare was a catalyst for the proposal for the new bachelor’s degree, which was officially launched in September,” Smith said in an email.
Larry Thompson, faculty coordinator at FHMI, said that the idea for the major came from the success of the behavioral healthcare minor, as well as student interest. Thirty students have already declared behavioral healthcare as their major.
“We have a large number of students from other majors, especially psychology, who were interested in learning more applied psychology with interest in working with the various agencies in the community,” Thompson said. “Many of our research projects at the Florida Mental Health Institute work in conjunction with mental health agencies.”
After learning basic information that students will need to prepare them for working with patients, they will branch out and work with mental health agencies in the community toward the end of the undergraduate degree.
“The students, when they first take a job in these agencies, are thrown into some pretty tough decisions . . . [like] dealing with people who are suicidal, or providing case management,” Thompson said.
Going out into the community is often reserved for mental health graduate and doctoral candidates, but Thompson believes it is important for students to complete it earlier.
“Everybody gets the image that a psychologist sits in an office and does a 50-minute psychotherapy hour,” Thompson said. “That’s very rare in our society today. We prepare the student to be the case manager who goes under the bridge and talks with a homeless person who has a mental illness such as schizophrenia, a drinking problem, many health problems, as well as being homeless.”
The degree is a 37-credit program consisting of 22 core credits. Students must also pick one of the three offered concentrations within the major including adult community services, behavioral health research and applied behavior analysis, according to the FHMI website.
The major is different from most, however, in the fact that “fingerprinting, a background check, and a drug screen” may be required before completing the major. If a student does not pass one of these tests, they will be “terminated” from the major and he or she will be responsible for “any associated costs,” according to the behavioral healthcare major checklist.
The adult community services concentration is focused on students interested in pursuing a career as a “certified addictions professional,” a “recovery peer specialist,” or other similar careers, according to the checklist.
The behavioral health research concentration will focus heavily on research, teaching students how to effectively find information in the behavioral healthcare field.
The applied behavioral analysis concentration will focus on how to address developmental disabilities like autism and “other behaviors that may limit functioning,” according to the checklist.
Because the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees created a mandate that universities must not spend any new money in creating a degree, Thompson said that mental health researchers who are not usually teachers were selected as the major’s faculty.
“Our advantage is we have a lot of top notch researchers who are, by their job description, not instructors . . . we have encouraged them to teach some classes,” Thompson said. “In addition to their research agenda, I have probably about 15 doctorate-degree faculty, who are now teaching at least one class.”
The USF major declaration form can be found here.