Union Institute & University prides itself on the number of scholar-practitioners we have leading our academic programs. Dr. Gerald A. Fishman successfully combines over three decades of psychological research and practice with a passion for community outreach and the skill and insight for effective institutional administration. He is a resource and model for both students and faculty, and he is a valued member of both his own local community and of the public health, social services and counseling community nationwide.
A New York State Licensed Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist trained in a number of therapy areas related to public health and chemical dependency, Dr. Fishman brings over 30 years of experience from his individual clinical, counseling practice to his role as Associate Dean at the Vermont Center in Brattleboro.
In this role of Associate Dean, he is responsible for administering and providing direct service to master’s and doctoral level graduate programs in psychology. He is active in program development and evaluation, institutional research, outcome assessment, and strategic planning in addition to his teaching responsibilities.
The Master of Arts with a Concentration in Counseling Psychology allows students to become familiar with identifying and treating psychological issues in a variety of clinical, educational and workplace environments. The degree also offers a unique graduate Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling. Dr. Fishman’s training in therapy approaches related to chemical dependency and addiction issues, as well as his work with nonprofit organizations, universities, governmental agencies and school systems, make him an invaluable resource and model for students in the program pursuing professional counseling avenues in different areas.
Outside of the academy, Dr. Fishman has used his training to create a number of adolescent chemical dependency and adult disorder programs throughout the state of New York. He is also the director of the Human Services Consultation and Training Institute, in Albany New York, an organization offering statewide and national professional trainings in specific clinical, chemical dependency, behavioral health, and school psychology.
More recently, Dr. Fishman has served as a consultant with Casey Family Programs out of Seattle, Washington. This position involves consultation to not-for-profit community mental health centers and governmental agencies serving rural eastern Kentucky and providing a continuum of care to women, children, and families. In this role, Dr. Fishman participates in formative research, program development, and staff training.
We asked Dr. Fishman to share some of his views about the important topics for current students of psychology, as well as his insights into what it means for him to practice the value of social responsibility.
What started you on the path of psychology, public health, and psychosocial related services?
My interest in psychology and clinical practice with children and adults was sparked by my volunteer work in high school with special education students and peers encountering academic difficulty. I reflected on the best teachers I ever had, asking what was it about these teachers that influenced positive learning and emotional and behavioral change in their students, and I also included the effects that these teachers had on me. From these early experiences, I became very interested in understanding and applying principles identified and researched by psychologists to the goal of helping others encountering challenges in their lives. This essential purpose influenced pursuit of specialized graduate training, certifications, and professional experience intended to address the needs of children and adults across a variety of clinical and behavioral health areas.
What are the top two issues that you believe need to be addressed for your students within the therapy and public health fields?
Addiction and trauma-informed treatment are two critical areas that need to be addressed with students in clinical training programs. The scope and impact of substance abuse is increasingly apparent in mental health, criminal justice, health, and social welfare settings, with adverse childhood events (including trauma) evidenced to influence poor outcomes for both children and adults in these systems. The symptoms of trauma and substance use disorders are maintained in a vicious cycle. Trauma-informed care is based on a model of empowerment that promotes recovery from both substance use and mental health disorders and helps the client build skills to increase safety and effective adaptation in their lives.
What have been the most rewarding aspects of your career within the fields of counseling, teaching, writing, workshop leadership, etc.?
I am both excited and honored by the possibility of making a difference in the lives of others by training future counselors and clinicians in best practices and evidence-based approaches to relieving suffering, enhancing coping skills, and increasing positive life outcomes. Continued evaluation of educational programs for quality assurance and quality improvement purposes is critical, and informs all of our efforts to provide a valuable and value-laden education for our students. To this objective, I am actively involved in teaching, practice, and lifelong learning. Engaged study keeps us humble and grateful. As the mantra goes, “the more I learn, the less I know.”
What does “social responsibility” mean to you?As educators and human services professionals, social responsibility translates to ensuring respect for human dignity and human rights. Social responsibility and, more broadly, social justice provide a set of principles which guide both the content and the conducting of education for our students. Enhancing access to education, exploring the nature of responsibility to others through ethical, cultural, and societal lenses, and examining the values which inform our direct actions with others are crucial to influencing fair treatment and equality for all people we serve.