Learning Contextual Behavioral Practices: Shifting the Paradigm in Mental Health is a Program of Study. You must be accepted first to SSA's Social Work and Social Welfare (SW) program and then by the Program of Study. SSA students apply to Programs of Study during their first year.
The Learning Contextual Behavioral Practices Program of Study (CBPPS) aims to educate students in the values, principles, and skills that organize the behavior of practitioners using contextual behavioral approaches (CBA).
For the past forty years, the mental health field has approached understanding and treating mental health struggles through a pathologizing lens, similar to the biomedical model. Many psychological perspectives have attempted to accommodate and/or integrate this perspective into their conceptualization of mental distress. Nonetheless, the last four decades have been characterized by a lack of clinical innovation and poor mental health outcomes. Understandably, questions have begun to arise in regard to the utility and validity of this model. Rather than empower people, findings suggest that this model results in people acquiescing to the implied limitations of their mental illness and possibilities for their life. Particularly troublesome is when this model is utilized with person’s living in oppressive contexts. They are persuaded to believe that their understandable reactions to intolerable conditions are actually signs and symptoms of a mental disorder. What is needed is an alternative model for understanding and addressing human suffering.
The POS offers students this alternative in the form of Relational Frame Theory—a theory grounded in a rigorous research program that has identified a set of basic psychological (language) processes that account for mental distress. It, in turn, provides the foundation for a set of empirically-supported practices considered the latest in innovation, disseminated globally and found effective across many cultures.
The coursework for the CBPPS fits into the larger clinical concentration framework. Students learn the fundamentals of a contextual behavioral approach that will enable them to engage effectively in a variety of empirically-validated, third-wave behavioral therapies, including Functional Analytical Psychotherapy (FAP), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).
Acceptable placements include sites open to contextual behavioral practices that allow students to practice the skills they are learning in the program of study.
Contextual behavioral practices are well suited for assisting persons who suffer due to exposure to invalidating environments (i.e., marginalized due to race, color, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or values). Student focus on empowering people to actively engage in pursuing meaningful lives rather dwell on painful pasts. To that end, people transition from living in reaction to their past and problems to reorganizing their behavior and life in response to their values and desired future. Students practice taking a trans-diagnostic, functional approach to distress. They learn to assess it in relation to historical and current environmental factors, counter the impact of invalidating environments, and empower those they serve with the skills to advocate for themselves and their communities.
Paul Holmes, Psy.D.