In recent years, our world’s focus has shifted to serious concern about mental health and addiction issues. More than 40 years ago, Alvernia was a forerunner, featuring prominently in the solution to this problem by initiating the Alcoholism Counseling and Administration degree. It was the first of its kind in the state and the nation according to a 1977 letter from an Alvernia vice president to the Pennsylvania Governor’s Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
As director of the Addictions and Mental Health Treatment Program, the current name for that groundbreaking offering, David Reyher remains the only full-time faculty member.
“We have about 20-25 adjuncts teaching at various times in Alvernia’s program and working in their respective fields,” explained Reyher, who began as an adjunct in 2006, becoming a full-time faculty member in 2013. “Our program is the oldest continuous program of its kind. We have more than 100 Alvernia graduates working as mental health professionals at Caron Treatment Centers alone and at the Council on Chemical Abuse.”
Reyher says that students are attracted to the program because addiction has affected them directly or a family member has been affected and they experience negative consequences.
“They have real empathy," he said. "They have walked in their shoes. Our work is actually more of a vocation than a career. We are called to this field. Sometimes we choose careers and sometimes they choose us.”
Reyher, and a large portion of his students, identify with the latter.
In their senior year, Alvernia students in this program complete 400 hours of practicum, 12 credits in field coursework, developing learning goals and applying them in the classroom. Field work can be at places like Caron, Reading Hospital Mental Health Center and Easy Does It Transition House.