Penn State Schuylkill offers new addictions and recovery minor

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SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, Pa. — Penn State Schuylkill now offers an interdisciplinary minor in addictions and recovery. The program supplements the education of students across disciplines, specifically criminal justice, human development and family studies, and psychology, who seek advanced knowledge and skills to support people living with a substance use disorder in all stages of the recovery process.

The rise in the number of individuals struggling with addiction and recovery, the increased potency and administration of some drugs, and the specific needs of certain sub-groups within the addictions population contribute to the complex landscape of addictions and recovery. Upon completion of the minor, students will have the knowledge and skills to support development and administration of programs designed to improve outcomes for those struggling with addictions and recovery.

Meeting a community need

For Schuylkill County residents, graduates entering the workforce who possess this type of education and support will be imperative in aiding the local population. “Unfortunately, the drug and alcohol problem isn’t going anywhere,” said Jessica Saalfield, assistant professor of psychology at Penn State Schuylkill. “Rural communities like those in Schuylkill County are hit particularly hard by addictions.”

Saalfield’s research focuses on the drinking culture on rural college campuses, and she will helm this minor at Schuylkill. She is currently applying for grants and awaiting research approval from the Institutional Review Boards to continue her research on campus.

Opportunities for undergraduate research

The addictions and recovery minor also provides opportunities for students to seek out research and applied experiences to enhance their preparation for graduate work or working with people in applied settings.

Because Saalfield’s research examines the impact of alcohol abuse in young adults, she hopes to involve students in all steps of her research. “These students are largely the target of my research,” she said. “They have all the insight, and they may have better questions to ask than I do.” Saalfield hopes to involve students in study design, data collection, and data analysis. “We need people who want to be involved and want to help, including the people who do the research that lead to changes in policy,” she said.

Interdisciplinary perspectives

Students completing the minor will be able to take courses across multiple disciplines to view this phenomenon from various perspectives. The courses that comprise the minor are organized into recommended tracks that will permit students to select combinations of courses that will best complement their major studies and prepare them for future professional goals. For instance, one track provides a pathway to certification as a drug and alcohol counselor for those who successfully complete their bachelor's degree in a behavioral science major in addition to the minor coursework.

“I’m pleased to help implement this minor to add that little extra bit of specificity to students’ course of study,” said Saalfield. “Psychology is such a broad field. Many students know they like examining the brain, but aren’t sure what they want to do with that,” she concluded.

Visit Penn State Schuylkill’s website to learn more about the psychology, criminal justice, and human development and family studies degree programs as well as the addictions and recovery minor.