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A career in Clinical Mental Health Counseling or Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling offers rewards

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A career in Clinical Mental Health Counseling or Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling offers rewards

Jennifer Scott, Psy.D., ABPP

Union Institute & University, together with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), highlights National Recovery Month during September to increase awareness of and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who recover.

In the Q&A below, Jennifer Scott, Psy.D., ABPP, Program Director, discusses the rewards of  a career in Clinical Mental Health Counseling or Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling.

Q.Describe a day in the life of a Clinical Mental Health Counselor?

A. A licensed professional counselor who specializes in clinical mental health counseling is competent to provide a wide variety of services to individuals, couples, groups, and families, including diagnostic assessment and treatment planning and intervention. These professionals often find themselves working in community mental health agencies or in private practice and maintain a focus on client wellness and prevention to promote optimum mental and emotional health. Though there is no “typical day” in the life of a professional counselor, any given week might include collecting information about clients through interviews, observation, psychological tests, review of records, collateral contacts, etc.; counseling clients and families about personal issues; preparing and maintaining treatment records and reports; conducting suicide/risk assessments and crisis intervention; consulting with other treatment providers to coordinate client care; making referrals to community resources or specialized services as necessary; maintaining insurance and financial records for billing purposes; training other mental health professionals or staff; participating in continuing education training and professional development activities; and presenting at professional conferences or publishing scholarly work.

Q. Describe a day in the life of an Alcohol and Drug Counselor?

A. A licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselor specializes in providing counseling and support to individuals and families experiencing problems with substance use or dependence. This may include individual, family or group counseling about the causes and effects of addiction, support for families dealing with addiction, and/or referrals to treatment. The alcohol and drug abuse counselor will also provide education to individuals and groups in the community with a focus on high-risk populations, including youth and pregnant women. The counselor will be familiar with other services and resources in the community and work closely to provide information and support when required.

Q. What attracts a person to this career?

A. A counselor, regardless of specialty area, is a helper first. A person attracted to this field is someone compelled to make a difference one individual at a time, and he or she recognizes the importance of rigorous education and training in order to help others in an ethical and competent manner.

Q. How rewarding is this career?

A. Though counselors will agree that being a counselor is rewarding, what makes it so is different for different people. Some may find the greatest joy in the process of counseling, whereby the counselor and client join together toward a common goal; others may find most appealing the independence of being an autonomous practitioner or the exhilaration that comes with advocacy and making systemic changes in the field. Whatever the personal reward for devoting oneself to the service of others, the real prize is the measurable improvement in the quality of the lives of our clients, their families and their communities.

Q.  What do you want people to know about mental and/or substance use disorders?

A. People with mental and/or substance use disorders are people first. They are mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, partners, friends and co-workers. They are more than their diagnosis and should be treated with compassion, dignity and respect. Many, many mental, emotional and substance use disorders can be treated or effectively managed. All persons, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation or other group membership, deserve equal access to preventative, educational, and intervention mental health services that promote well being and optimal health.


If you believe that behavioral health is essential to health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover from mental and/or substance use disorders, then a degree in Union Institute & University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling or Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling may be the right career move for you.

National Recovery Month

Meet Union’s 2016 Florida Commencement Speaker

By | Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Students | No Comments

Dr. Alison McMahan

2016 Florida Commencement Speaker

Union Institute & University is pleased to announce that alumna Alison McMahan (Ph.D. 1997) will be the 2016 Florida Commencement speaker. Dr. McMahan is a testament to Union Institute & University’s mission to transform lives and communities. She is recognized for her commitment to lifelong learning, her abilities to use her education to shine light on forgotten but important figures and movements, and her dedication to education.

As a Ph.D. student at Union, she researched and wrote Alice Guy Blaché, Lost Visionary of the Cinema, about the first female filmmaker and a key figure in the development of narrative film. Blaché had been left out of the history books and her work had been forgotten. McMahan’s research led to retrospectives of Alice Guy’s work at the George Pompidou Museum in Paris, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and at film festivals all over the globe.

McMahan’s award-winning doctoral dissertation at Union was also the recipient of the Circle of Scholars award in 1997. Published in 2002 by Bloomsbury, the book was translated into Spanish, adapted into a play, and is being produced as a documentary by Hollywood. 

An expert in early cinema topics, Dr. McMahan is often called upon to do research for and appear in projects by other filmmakers, such as the documentary The Lost Garden: The Life and Work of Alice Guy Blaché, the Emmy-award winning program Into the Light (State of the Arts series), and a documentary on early woman filmmakers, Reel Models: The Women of Early Film, which aired the American Movie Classics Channel.

McMahan is also the author of The Films of Tim Burton: Animating Live Action in Hollywood, (Bloomsbury, 2005) and an award-winning novel, The Saffron Crocus, a historical mystery for young adults, published by Black Opal Books in 2014. She is a regular contributor to the magazine The Big Thrill.

Dr. McMahan’s film work includes numerous award-winning screenplays. Through her company, Homunculus Productions, LLC, she produces non-fiction films. Her film work includes: an industrial film and PSA for Pensamento Digital, an NGO in Brazil that provides computers and internet access to poor communities; the educational film, Living with Landmines for the World Rehabilitation Fund; and the documentary, Bare Hands and Wooden Limbs, narrated by Sam Waterston, which is now in general distribution. 

Dr. McMahan held a Mellon Fellowship in Visual Culture at Vassar College from 2001-2003 where she built a virtual reality environment with a biofeedback interface for CAVEs (computer automated virtual environments). From 1997 to 2001, she was an associate professor, teaching film history and theory and new media at the University of Amsterdam.

A committed lifelong learner in the Union tradition, she graduated from the Catholic University of America with a B.F.A. in drama/playwriting, and, in addition to her doctorate from Union, holds two masters degrees, an M.F.A. from New York University in film production and an M.F.A. in creative writing from University of Southern Maine. 

Union Institute & University’s Florida Commencement will be held
May 15, 2016 at the Hilton Miami Airport. Find out more below!