Deaf Wellness Center Specialization Track
Since 1992, the URMC Department of Psychiatry's pre-doctoral internship in general adult psychology has offered a "track" for interns seeking specialized training in services to the deaf population. Originally launched as our Program for Deaf Trainees, this track has served both deaf and hearing interns seeking careers in this specialized field. Post-doctoral fellowships, MSW internships, clerkships for medical students, and psychiatry residency positions, also have been available at times. Pre-doctoral psychology intern applicants who are proficient in American Sign Language (ASL) and who have experience serving deaf individuals may apply for this track. (The position is listed separately from the general adult psychology internship positions on our application forms.) For more information on the pre-doctoral internship in clinical psychology, including program structure, application information, and more, visit: URMC's doctoral internship program in Clinical Psychology
Interns in this track spend approximately 10-15 hours per week in the Deaf Wellness Center (DWC) program. The DWC staff consists of two full-time faculty psychologists, a faculty sign language interpreter, a pre-doctoral intern, two consulting psychiatrists, an administrative assistant and, occasionally, other trainees. Interns participate in DWC team and individual intake sessions, individual and group psychotherapy, and a variety of psychological assessment activities, all involving deaf adults. The population served consists of deaf adults with a wide range of mental illness diagnoses and levels of functioning. Supervision is provided by the sign-fluent faculty of the DWC. All of the remaining activities in this track are identical to those described for the general adult psychology internship program with the exception of "Training Clinic." (In effect, the intern's participation in DWC clinical activities "replaces" Training Clinic.) This track's combination of specialty training within the DWC and generalist training (serving hearing patients, with sign language interpreters as necessary when the intern is deaf) has been particularly valued by our graduates. The DWC track can also offer opportunities for consultation, teaching, and research experience.
Applicants for this track must be proficient in ASL and have prior experience serving deaf individuals. Applications from persons who are themselves deaf or hard-of-hearing are particularly encouraged and will be evaluated in an affirmative action framework. Deaf and hard-of-hearing trainees in this program enjoy a rich pool of accommodation resources, including sign-fluent supervisors and a talented array of sign language interpreters who are experienced in serving deaf professionals who work in mental health settings. Applicants' ASL proficiency can be documented by sending one of the following three items with your regular application materials: (A) a video, at least 10 minutes in length, which thoroughly demonstrates the applicant's expressive and receptive ASL skills (a ten minute, casual conversation between the applicant and another fluent signer, on any topic, should suffice) or (B) documentation that you have passed the Sign Language Proficiency Interview (Newell, Caccamise, Boardman, &; Ray- Holcomb, 1983) at the advanced level or beyond, or (C) evidence of RID interpreter certification. No other sign language test results will be accepted nor will any statements regarding ASL proficiency that may be contained in letters of recommendation.
All DWC activities are grounded in professional and cross-cultural values pertaining to deaf people as a heterogeneous sociocultural group, yet one whose members are frequently misunderstood, neglected, or maltreated by the health and mental health care enterprise. The distinctions of normalcy and mental illness in this population, the systemic, linguistic, and cross-cultural issues involved in accessing mental health care and in identifying and treating psychopathology, and the ethical imperative of preparing persons who are deaf and hard-of-hearing for leadership in the mental health professions are themes that characterize our work. DWC training initiatives have been internationally recognized and were cited in an award from the American Psychological Association in 1994.
Deaf Wellness Center Training Mission
The Deaf Wellness Center trains deaf and sign-proficient hearing individuals for leadership, broad competence, and unusual dedication to excellence in the mental health professions, and promotes and contributes to such training in other health care professions. Our primary training objective is to prepare deaf professionals for careers of scholarship and clinical service excellence. We also train hearing individuals who work with deaf professionals or deaf consumers, fostering their comprehension of and respect for deaf people and sign language, and their ability to work with deaf people in an effective and mutually enriching manner. Our training content is informed by the latest relevant research and addresses the spectrum of biological, psychological, social, linguistic, and cultural factors that impact the lives of deaf people.