Counseling Psychology Students Work to Improve Patient Outcomes

By schwartzsa | February 17, 2013

Photography JORDAN RICHARDS ’15

You’ve heard it before: Today’s students are tomorrow’s professionals. It’s so true, it’s become a cliché—one easily brushed off when, in the midst of a graduate program, internship hours need to be logged and coursework deadlines loom. But students in Arcadia University’s Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology program are updating the old adage, taking it upon themselves to help safeguard the future of their profession.

The Bulletin recently sat down with Jan Lineberger ’13M and Jess Cuttic ’13M, graduate students in Arcadia’s Counseling Psychology program. Though their paths to the field were quite different—Lineberger is a non-traditional student having worked in the field of IT for more than 15 years, and Cuttic originally set out to teach comparative literature—they share a vision for their respective futures, working as counselors in integrative care.

Integrative care units include doctors, nurses, counselors and social workers under one roof. For patients the benefits are simple: Communication is instantaneous, and the care is continuous. No more bouncing around the system, having to tell their story several different times and experiencing delays or interruptions. Unfortunately, licensed professional counselors (LPC) are rarely included in these units; many integrated care professionals undervalue or are simply unaware of LPC training and competencies.

Cuttic and Lineberger are addressing these barriers by coordinating a snapshot of the current state of behavioral health services. By collecting data from health care professionals who are currently working in collaborative care settings, they are hoping to determine whether LPCs are presently qualified to provide services in collaborative care settings.

“We wanted to advocate for our profession and I think our research will move our profession forward,” says Lineberger.

It all began in fall 2011 during their second year of the program. Assistant Professor Dr. Michael Morrow arrived on the scene, new to the core faculty of Arcadia’s Graduate Program in Counseling Psychology. Lineberger and Cuttic were struck by his energy. His excitement for research was infectious; his willingness to collaborate with students on projects inspiring. Among his interests: the role of LPCs in an integrated and medical care facility

“When Dr. Morrow mentioned that, it kind of created a light bulb moment. So that’s what got us involved,” says Cuttic. Each communicated their research interests to Morrow, and by the end of the semester Morrow connected them with fellow student Liz Cretekos ’13M to form a research team.

Quick to lay out the goals and the scope of the project, a year later, the team is finishing collecting data from a survey they created to evaluate the experiences of integrative care professionals across the United States. They are searching for the ideal conference to showcase their work. However, the ultimate goal is to publish. Both Lineberger and Cuttic are also looking into continuing their research by entering doctoral programs.

While research isn’t a requirement at Arcadia, it’s a necessity for prospective doctoral students. Furthermore, as Cuttic interns with Network of Victim Assistance in Bucks County, Pa., she’s realizing that the influence of her faculty members is crucial at this juncture.

“Arcadia has a really strong clinical training program, not to mention support,” says Cuttic. “I’ve had the faculty go above and beyond to support me in different challenges. My professors have been available to talk through things, especially about doctoral programs. It’s been wonderful and I don’t know of a lot of other programs that can say that their professors are available to them at that level or to that extent.”

Lineberger and Cuttic are preparing to graduate this spring, and the mentorship of their professors will make all the difference. The next step is the long road to licensure. To qualify in Pennsylvania, candidates must complete a 60-credit master’s program, pass the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification, and log 3,000 supervised clinical hours after completing a master’s program. The process usually takes from three to five years.

Lineberger, who landed an internship in an integrated care environment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is hopeful the experience will lead to a full-time job. “Arcadia has prepared me,” she says. “Compared to some people who are already in the positions and even the interns, we’re far more prepared. We have more tools and resources to be able to return to, especially in regards to multicultural and evidence-based practices. I feel more prepared; I am prepared.”