Innovative WSU graduate program deals with mental health, deafness

January 14, 2005

A training program in mental health and deafness at the Wright State University School of Professional Psychology (SOPP) that is unique in American higher education is planning to expand to other locations in Ohio, according to Miami Valley clinical psychologist Robert Basil, Psy.D.

"We know of no other program in America with the dual purpose of training mental health professionals to work with deaf clients and training interpreters to work in mental health settings," explained Basil. He directs the program for SOPP in addition to operating a private practice in Middletown.

Basil said the eight-month graduate program, currently with a limited enrollment, meets one evening each week and two Saturday mornings each month at the SOPP Ellis Human Development Institute in downtown Dayton. The participants, mostly students from SOPP but also including the University of Dayton and Sinclair Community College, receive a Certificate of Mental Health & Deafness upon completion of the program.

A critical part of the program is an outpatient mental health clinic operating on Wednesday evenings. "Our clients are deaf adults and children who are struggling with life," said Basil, noting there are some 4,000 deaf people in the Dayton area and an estimated 230,000 in the United States--roughly one percent of the population.

The Saturday lecture and discussion topics include introductions to deafness, mental health and therapy, plus interpreting, testing and assessment, families, children, chemical dependency, mental illness, medications, forensics and deaf/blind issues.

"Our program is dedicated to training mental health professionals and interpreters in understanding the characteristics, needs, culture and communication aspects of deaf clients and providing these individuals with equal access to mental health services," he said.

Basil, who has been working with deaf individuals since 1989 and is fluent in American Sign Language, said the training is multi-disciplinary. Participating students come from a variety of disciplines, including psychology, psychiatry, mental health counseling, rehabilitation counseling, art therapy, social work and interpreting. Partners with SOPP are the University of Dayton and Sinclair Community College through its Interpreter Training Program.

The program at Wright State, which began in 1989 with a grant from the Ohio Department of Mental Health, is now planning to expand. Basil is pursuing the development of satellite clinics in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati and the beginning of on-line instruction through the World Wide Web. He said Wright State has an online master's program in rehabilitation counseling, and this can be tied to the mental health and deafness program.

The American Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990, has been a strong impetus for training individuals to accommodate deaf clients in mental health and health care fields, according to Basil. This has resulted in hospitals, county government and social service providers hiring those who complete this program.

Basil said agencies that work with SOPP in this program include the Dayton Community Services for the Deaf, the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation of the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission, CSD of Ohio, the Hearing Impaired Students Program of the Dayton Public Schools, Regional Assessment Center for Handicapped students, Ohio School for the Deaf and St. Rita's School for the Deaf.

Wright State University

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