Lisa Harmon aims to reduce the stigma many military service members associate with seeking help for psychological and mental health needs.
A licensed clinical social worker, she works at the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, and provides behavioral health counseling to special operations personnel including Green Berets and Navy SEALs who have returned from deployment. She also works with their families.
Harmon is a member of the inaugural graduating class of UT’s online Doctor of Social Work degree program.
“My clients are the nation’s warriors and are good at their jobs and have a hard time accepting they might have a mental health challenge,” she said. “This program has boosted my confidence in my clinical abilities to do this job and to do it well.”
Harmon and eighteen other students will participate in the College of Social Work commencement ceremony today. The 2014 class is composed of clinicians whose jobs include student services and counseling, investigation of child sexual abuse, services for seniors, and private practice.
The advanced clinical practice and leadership doctoral program is based in the College of Social Work and enrolls midcareer clinical social workers who hail from around the country.
“Graduates of the program will bring to their communities state-of-the-art skills and knowledge to address complex family and community problems such as child abuse, domestic violence, and behavioral health,” said David Patterson, Endowed Professor in Mental Health Research and Practice in the College of Social Work and the program’s director. “This will result in improved services delivery and, more importantly, better clinical outcomes for the complex and diverse populations they will serve.”
The program, which began in January 2012, allows students to pursue their doctoral education while continuing to practice. The doctoral program differs from the PhD in social work in that it is a professional practice degree and is designed to prepare students for advanced clinical practice and clinical leadership positions.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve learned something and then seen it when dealing with a client in the next few days,” said Freida Herron, a clinical social worker who owns BalancePoint, a private counseling practice for adults in Maryville, Tennessee. “The program has required us to reach deep into ourselves to find time we didn’t think we had, think deeper than we’ve ever had to and then practice applying it.”
The program’s emphasis on evidence-based practice and how to adequately evaluate interventions are two major lessons that have changed the way Lisa Dupree does her job daily.
“I have a better understanding of assessing what we’re doing in a way that’s empirically sound,” said Dupree, a forensic social worker at Our Kids Center, an outpatient clinic of Nashville General Hospital at Meharry. She’s part of a team that investigates allegations of child sexual abuse.
It’s especially important to measure results and outcomes to show funders that what they’re financially supporting is effective, she said.
Dupree added that the online program’s focus on clinical leadership has been helpful when it comes to “managing more effectively and more intentionally, whether it’s staff or clinical practice.”
To learn more about the Doctor of Social Work program, visit the website.
Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, firstname.lastname@example.org)