WAUKESHA — Carroll University unveiled this year a new program designed to address health needs in the community and Wisconsin overall.

The Master’s of Science in Behavioral Health Psychology program is designed to equip graduate students with the skills

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and knowledge they need to be effective therapists and counselors, pursue a research-oriented PhD, or more.

Program Director Dr. Jessica Lahner said behavioral health psychology addresses mental health but also the behavioral and physical manifestations of mental health. She said part of what spurred the program is “the need for additional mental health providers in Wisconsin.” She said the state ranks poorly compared to peers in mental health providers per population, and is ranked only 22nd for licensed professional counselors.

“There’s a huge gap in what our residents need (and) what we’re able to provide,” she said. “The major impetus for our program was to fill that gap.”

The program is delivered in a hybrid format, with some content delivered virtually and some in person. Students and instructors gather twice per month in person to apply what they’ve learned. Lahner said the format is meant to be assessable to a wide variety of students, including working adults seeking to advance in the health field, students who work full-time and career changers. The program opened with a student cohort of 19, which is robust for the graduate level.

Lahner said another thing that helped get the program started was the consistent apparent interest among existing Carroll students. She said she recently wrote about 50 letters of recommendation for Carroll students to attend similar graduate options “but they were elsewhere... we knew undergraduate students had a strong interest in this kind of program.”

The undergraduate majors most seamlessly transitioning to the MS in Behavioral Health Psychology are psychology, occupational therapy, sociology, criminal justice, and public health.

Carroll worked closely with community partners to tailor curriculum to local employer needs. Lahner said there’s been a course developed so students know how to handle case management — working with clients and directing them to a variety of resources, following up and tracking outcomes long-term. She said a need for case management experience was a consistent request from organizations that employ counselors.

The program also focuses on evidence- based practice and “having a real understanding of the science behind the tools and techniques that we use in therapy and combining that with the unique circumstances of the client you’re working with,” Lahner said. “We want our students to be comfortable engaging with science.”

Students can specialize in one of four concentrations: clinical assessment, adult and geriatric behavioral health, youth behavioral health, and applied research. They’ll accrue at least 1,300 clinical hours over the course of their enrollment as well.

The next virtual information session is Sept. 29 at 4 p.m.

To learn more about Carroll’s Master’s in Behavioral Health Psychology program, visit https://rb.gy/qbjbad.