March 13, 2023

Pioneering Instruction: Brian Droubay Trains MSW Students to Consider Religion and Spirituality in Clinical Practice

By Andrea DeHaan, CHaSS Communications Editor

Assistant Professor Brian Droubay, pictured, was awarded funds to develop graduate training in religious and spiritual compentencyAssistant Professor Brian Droubay was awarded funds to disseminate graduate training in religious and spiritual compentency

Utah State University Assistant Professor of Social Work Brian Droubay was recently awarded $40,000 for a project focused on developing religious and spiritual competency among students pursuing advanced degrees in mental health.

“While academic training of practitioners has increasingly, and rightfully, emphasized utilizing a multicultural perspective,” Droubay said. “The area of religion and spirituality has been neglected in the mental health field even while it is a central part of people’s lives and identities and a crucial component of diversity.”

The project started in the fall of 2022, but curricular dissemination is taking place this semester in Droubay’s SW 6750 graduate-level course: Advanced Practice with Couples, Families, and Groups. His USU Brigham City Master of Social Work (MSW) students are receiving what he calls “innovative” instruction and applying this in the real world via practicum placements, where they have the opportunity to work with clients. Droubay, who is based at the Brigham City regional campus, will conduct a final case study at the end of the training, and a national research study will further evaluate whether the curriculum helps students develop the desired competencies.

“This is a project with real-world implications,” Droubay said. “My students are participating in a truly cutting-edge training program and research study, the findings of which will influence many mental health practitioners and clients going forward.”

USU is one of 20 sites around the country to receive money from the John Templeton Foundation to focus on religious and spiritual competency in mental health graduate education. Other awardees include faculty in social work, marriage and family therapy, counseling, and psychology. Droubay’s award is technically a re-grant administered through the University of South Alabama.

Funds have allowed him to hire a graduate research assistant, USU Brigham City MSW student, Anarie White, as well as facilitate data collection and additional research pointed at spiritual and sexual identity integration among lesbian, gay, and bisexual women, which is a student project led by Janice Snow at the Logan campus. Droubay also plans to put some of the funding toward a guest speaker.

In terms of impact, Droubay hopes the grant will see USU’s Department of Social Work lead efforts to provide students and local health providers with evidence-based training that is transferrable to clinical practice.

“This is the biggest project that I know of to date that has focused on religious/spiritual competency in mental health practice,” Droubay said. “It is a great opportunity for these students, as their participation includes both practice and research components, both of which are heavily emphasized in social work.”


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