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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

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Union’s Ph.D. Program Welcomes New Leadership This Fall

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Union’s Ph.D. Program Welcomes New Leadership This Fall

Dr. Michael Raffanti is the new Dean of the Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies program. In this Q&A, Dr. Raffanti discusses his goals for the program as he begins his new role.

Q. What are you most excited about in your new role as the Dean of the Ph.D. program?

A. This is an exciting time to lead the Ph.D. program. I’m part of equipping leaders as they learn. I am excited to lead a program that is student-centered. Our goal as a university is to continually meet the needs of students. By putting students first, the curriculum remains relevant, not stagnant. I also want to thank Dr. Arlene Sacks, former dean and now Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, for her leadership and assistance in developing many of the curricular changes that we are now implementing and our students are benefiting from daily.

Second, I am excited to continue to work with such an excellent faculty as we have here at Union. The faculty is continually involved in scholarly research and develops the students to become scholar practitioners.

Third, I am excited to continue Union’s long-time focus on social justice. It is so rewarding to watch our students take on social justice issues within their communities. They are doing real work to help marginalized populations that face poverty and racism daily.

Fourth, I am excited to strengthen the close collaboration among departments. The common goal at Union is to serve students. This sets Union apart from other universities.

Q. What is your favorite thing about being a part of the Union family? 

A. Everything. What attracted me at first about Union and still does, is the university’s commitment to educating people of all ages with the hope that education improves lives and communities. I am a first-generation college graduate. I understand the struggles nontraditional doctoral students encounter. Facilitating adults in their educational journey to use their knowledge and skills to better serve their communities is the most satisfying work I have ever done.

Q. Why is a strong Ph.D. program important to a university?

A. Strong Ph.D. program strengthens a university’s scholarship and influences the culture. You might say a strong program is a flagship of a university.

Q. What is your greatest piece of advice to give to students entering into our doctoral program?

A. Working toward a Ph.D. is the most transformative experience a person will undergo. You don’t know where this journey will take you, but it will be life changing. I try to prepare students to imagine the experience, to discuss the sacrifice this commitment takes with family, and to be realistic about the daily, weekly, workload. My doctorate has taken me to the Dean of the Union Institute & University Ph.D. program. Go for it!

About Dr. Michael Raffanti:

Mr. Raffanti joined Union in 2007 as a faculty member and served as the associate dean in the Ph.D. program prior to taking on his new position as dean. He earned his Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Change from Fielding Graduate University, Master in Teaching, Teachers of Native American Learners, from Evergreen State College, and his Bachelor of Arts in History and Philosophy from University of Portland. Dr. Raffanti also holds a Juris Doctor from the Boston College Law School. He has been published in the Journal of Ethnographic and Qualitative Research, Journal of Qualitative and Ethnographic Research, and Journal of Integral Theory and Practice and presented at many conferences.

Learn more about Union’s
distinctive doctoral program

A Celebration of Learning: Union’s 2016 Ph.D. Residency

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

Highlights from the 2016 July Ph.D. Residency


Highlights from

the 2016 Ph.D. Residency

A Celebration of Learning was on display as students from around the nation gathered at the 2016 July Ph.D. Residency in Cincinnati, Ohio for the collective purpose of pursuing professional goals and a lifetime of learning, service and social responsibility. 

The residency opened Sunday, July 3rd with an Opening Night Dinner event featuring Dr. Betty Overton-Adkins, renowned social justice speaker, with a, powerful presentation entitled, “Intersectionality Part 2: Intersectionality and the New Normalcy.” Other featured events included Breakfast with University Provost Dr. Nelson Soto; New Student lunch with Dr. Arlene Sacks, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs; Two MLK Capstone Presentations; Women & Power Hour with Dr. Diane Allerdyce, Program Chair; and Curriculum and Dissertation process with Dr. Raffanti, Dean of the Ph.D. Program.   

Outside of hitting the books after dinner, the evenings of the residency week were filled with fun group activities such as a Dance Social and Open Mic Night. The culminating event, held Friday, July 8th, was the Presidential Luncheon hosted by University President, Dr. Roger H. Sublett. Dr. Sublett reflected on the current state of higher education in America and Union’s role in transforming lives and communities. 

Our Ph.D. residency weeks are held twice a year in January and July. All doctoral students are required to attend the residencies. Most students find extreme value in these week-long connection events. Dr. Raffanti, Dean of the Ph.D. Program noted, “We make ourselves as faculty very available to our students that week, from mornings through well into the evenings,” Raffanti said. “We try to establish those connections you won’t find in other, similar programs.”

Learn more about Union’s
distinctive doctoral program

Our Last Surviving Founder Leaves Legacy of Innovation

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Dr. James Payson Dixon III, last surviving member of the original Board of Trustees of the precursor of Union Institute & University, and the fourth chairman of the Union Board of Trustees passed away at the age of 98 in February 2016.

Dr. James Payson Dixon III

Last Surviving Founder Leaves Legacy

Dr. James Payson Dixon III, last surviving member of the original Board of Trustees of the precursor of Union Institute & University, and the fourth chairman of the Union Board of Trustees passed away at the age of 98 in February 2016. 

Dr. George Pruitt, Union alumni, President of Thomas Edison State College, and Chairman of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, lauds his contribution to Union. “Jim Dixon was not just one of Unions founders; he was a principal, organizing influence. His impact on higher education should be remembered and celebrated. “

Roger Allbee, Union Institute & University Board of Trustees Chair, praises his contribution to Union. “Dr. Dixon was a real visionary and leader with a distinguished career.”

The impact Dr. Dixon had on Union is summarized below, in Union’s Last Surviving Founder, by Dr. Benjamin R. Justesen, alumni, Ph.D. 2009. You may also read more about Dr. Dixon and his remarkable career in this New York Times obituary

Union’s Last Surviving Founder

“Dr. James Payson Dixon III, last surviving member of the original board of trustees of the precursor of Union Institute & University, and the fourth chairman of the Union board of trustees, has died, according to the New York Times. The highly-regarded educator, a former president of Antioch College, died February 27 in Haverford, Pennsylvania; he would have turned 99 on March 15.

A native of Lebanon, Maine, Dixon was one of 10 founding members of the first board of trustees of the Union for Research and Experimentation in Higher Education (UREHE), formed in 1964. He served on the board for the next 14 years, under the leadership of Union presidents Samuel Baskin and King V. Cheek, Jr.  

During his tenure, the UREHE was renamed the Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities (UECU) and established both the Union Graduate School and the undergraduate University Without Walls. Its membership grew to include more than 30 schools. Dixon left Antioch in 1975, but remained on the board until 1978; in his last year on the board; he was elected as its chairman.

Dr. Dixon then moved from Ohio to North Carolina, where he served as a longtime professor of health administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also interim president of Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia, and a faculty member of Walden University.

The Harvard-trained physician, a graduate of Antioch College, was an Antioch trustee before becoming its president in 1959. His years as Antioch’s leader are movingly recounted in a biography published by his wife, Edla (“Eddie”) Dixon, in 1991: Antioch: The Dixon Era, 1959-1975: Perspectives of James P. Dixon. The Dixons, who met as students at Antioch and were married in 1941, had six children and 11 grandchildren. Mrs. Dixon, an elementary schoolteacher and real estate agent, died in 1995. 

Dixon was the last surviving member of the founding board of UREHE. Only two other members lived into the 21st century: Jerome Sachs, who died in 2012, and Paul Ward, who died in 2005. Royce T. Pitkin (1965-1969) and Rev. Reamer Kline (1969-1974) were the board’s first two chairmen; Dixon became the board’s fourth chairman in 1977, succeeding fellow member James Werntz.

According to the Times obituary (March 6, 2016), Dixon “was one of the first students at Harvard Medical School on academic scholarship and received his medical degree in 1943. A life-long pacifist, Jim registered as a conscientious objector during WWII. He completed his alternative military service with the National Institutes of Health.”

As a lifelong champion of civil rights, Dixon was proud to bring Martin Luther King, Jr. to Antioch as the 1965 college commencement speaker. He was also an active member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Learn more about Union’s Innovative
History in Online Education