UCCI Course Description

Developing Future Mental and Behavioral Health Professionals Through Mentorships and Internships

Overview Course Content Course Materials
Length of Course
Full Year (2 semesters; 3 trimesters; 4 quarters)
Subject Area - Discipline
College-preparatory Elective (G) - Interdisciplinary
UC Honors Designation
CTE Sector
Health Science and Medical Technology
CTE Pathway
Mental and Behavioral Health
Grade Level(s)
9 - 12
Recommend completion of UCCI course Social Work and Health Advocacy in Action or equivalent


This upper level health sciences course is designed to be the Mental and Behavioral Health culmination for students pursuing a career in mental and behavioral health, and includes development of reading, writing, and speaking and listening skills. It was developed in collaboration with the instructors at the Community Health Advocates School (at Augustus Hawkins HS), and the Center for Powerful Public Schools. The Center is available for trainings and workshops to support implementation of this course, particularly the mentorship retreat in unit 1 and the QI project in unit 2. They can also assist with designing an advisory to align with the goals of the course. To initiate contact please email Talma Shultz at: tshultz (at) powerfuled (dot) org.

In this course, students explore the complexity of the work of mental and behavioral health professionals using evidence-based interventions and conceptual frameworks. Students are responsible for a mentor/mentee caseload, case study analysis, simulations and experiential learning and gain the foundations to practice interactions with individuals, organizations and communities with professionalism and grounded in ethical standards. Students understand a variety of factors and settings which impact their clients and learn to base decision-making on client need, using a systems thinking approach to support their growth. This course could be implemented at a site with existing peer mentorship and internship programs, or as a means to pilot smaller, scaled down programs.

In the first semester, senior students begin participating in a school-based peer mentor program where mentees are assigned to mentors based on mentees’ needs and mentors’ experience and strengths. A two-day mentorship retreat occurs very early on in the semester to develop leadership and coaching skills. Mentors support all incoming 9th grade students on a wide range of needs from academics to learning social skills, focusing on overall social and emotional growth of the mentees. Mentors and mentees should have time to interact during advisory, after school and at other agreed upon times.

In the spring semester, senior students will continue managing their mentee case-load and apply for and then participate in an internship according to their availability. This allows students to extend their knowledge in the field of mental and behavioral health. Senior students will summarize  and reflect on their growth as professionals as they complete their course work.

Course Content

Unit 1 : What makes a good mental and behavioral health practitioner?

Unit 1 Description

This introductory unit exposes students to the skills used by mental and behavioral health professionals. Students will use the ecological (Bronfenbrenner,1989) and systemic roots (von Bertalanffy, 1969) theories applied in social work practice as well as foster resilience in mentees using evidence -based practice (EBP) process. As students learn these skills in the classroom, concurrently, each senior is assigned 2-3 9th grade mentees as a “case load.” Students will serve as coach/mentor to their mentees applying the tools and practices that social work/mental health professionals use. In addition students will learn Motivational Interviewing as a practice to support mentees in their growth as learners and people. These include: empathetic listening, case study analysis, evidence-based practice decision-making, youth development and ecological frameworks, restorative practices  and text analysis. The course will begin with students developing self-awareness about personality types, personal bias, and the role of a mentor. Personal self-awareness will facilitate students’ ability to communicate their needs as learners and professionals during their second semester internships placements. Students will also be introduced to the Social Work Competencies and Mental and Behavioral Health standards to provide a framework for the course.

  1. X-Ray Profiles: In small groups, students will create a life-sized artistic representation of a mental or behavioral health professional. After researching their assigned professional, students annotate or label the  X-Ray profile with the skills and dispositions needed for that profession. Professionals include: Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor, School Psychologist, Clinical Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist, Patient Advocate/Navigator, Youth Counselor, etc. The culminating task will be a class presentation, which may include 9th and/or 10th grade students to expose them to existing and emerging mental and behavioral health professions. Presentations must include talents, credentials, schooling, examples of advocacy, salary, workload/caseload, and other distinguishing skills or assets needed. Through a written reflection, students will reflect on the profession that best reflects their personal interest and professional goals.
  2. Professional Growth Plan: At the beginning of the course, students will also participate in a two-day mentorship retreat. This retreat will focus on students learning leadership and coaching skills. Key features of the retreat will include addressing questions/topics such as: 1) What motivates people to become mentors, 2) the role and commitment of the coach, 3) judgments as barriers to coaching, 4) mentorship boundaries, 5) predicting issues that mentees may experience, 6) coaching strategies and tools: establishing rapport and listening skills,  7) identifying dominant leadership style (North, West, East, South) and analyzing their Myers-Briggs assessment results, 8) role play practice, and 9) Community Building strategies (Restorative Justice practices). At the end of the retreat, students will design an initial community building activity applying Restorative Justice practices for their mentees that will continue throughout the year. After the retreat, student mentors will use an initial professional self-assessment based on strengths and needs to support mentees. Using this self-assessment, mentors will develop a Professional Growth Plan. The skills assessed include empathetic listening, paraphrasing, awareness of personal triggers, and support for client based on neutrality by avoiding transference and countertransference. The self-assessment will be based on social work competencies as defined by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Students will use the self-assessment at the beginning of the course and at the end of the course to assess learning as a result of the two-days workshop.  
  3. Letter to 9th Grade Self: Reflecting on their self-assessment and personal high school experience, mentors will write a letter to 9th grade mentees, which goes beyond telling the student what to do, but instead provides personal examples, specific strategies, and references challenges and tools for success. This assignment will allow students to place themselves back in the shoes of a 9th graders. They will identify their own triggers and needs, thus allowing them to have more empathy when talking to their mentees. As a class, students will share their letters and identify themes emerging from their experiences. Using the list of themes, the class will identify and document strategies, resources, and tools that could be used to address potential mentees’ needs.
  4. Mental and Behavioral Health Practicum: Students will use sample case studies (see Chronic Illness, A Case Study Application With A Latina Client referenced in Transformative Social Work Practice by Eric M. Schott and Eugenia L. Weiss, pg. 41) to learn about fundamental skills needed as practitioners. These include: conducting assessments (micro, mezzo and macro), evidence-based interventions, legal and ethical concerns, roles that mental and behavioral health practitioners play,  familiarity with various interventions and therapies, and differentiating roles and responsibilities within the field. Small groups of students will be given a case study, as experts, to present to the class and lead professional conversations about a particular case. They will need to include the following in their presentation/conversation:
    1. 1) client profile, 2) key terms/ contextual terminology, 3) assessments, including micro, mezzo, and macro, 4) and interventions, including evidence-based practices. The students in the audience will be expected to take notes and prepare questions and comments based on the case study. This will lead into a class discussion in order to synthesize the most important points emerging from case studies.  To conclude, using expert presentations and notes, all students will create a Case Study Portfolio, which will include an annotated “case record” of all case studies presented.
    2. Other case studies include: 1) Mindfulness in Mental Health Care Settings, 2) Substance Abuse: A Harm Reduction Approach, 3) Gambling Disorders, 4) Social Work in Skilled Nursing Homes, 5) Working with Gang - Involved/ Affiliated Youth, 6) Adolescent Bullying, 7) Public Health Social Work, 8) The Engineering of Social Work in Communities, 9) Intergenerational Trauma and Indigenous People, and 10) The Suicidal Military Client.
  5. Mentor/Mentee Journals:  Once students are assigned their mentees, they will be required to write weekly mentor/mentee meeting journals to reflect on effectiveness of meeting sessions. Journals must include explicit examples of conversation starters used during meetings. Students must also include detailed examples of types of responses used to facilitate conversation, such as posing a question, reflecting on a feeling, focusing on an issue, and/or responding with a different interpretation. In the journals, students identify and analyze effectiveness of their method of responding based on the situation, which may include passive, aggressive, or assertive. Journals also provide a space for students to write about their own awareness of their professional trajectory/journey. They will be encouraged to write in a format which allows for internal dialogue and/or stream of consciousness to arrive at their plans for next steps. Through this process students will identify their triggers, biases and countertransference.
  6. Intervention/Action plan: Students will apply what they have learned so far including: adolescent needs, case study analysis, and specific tools such as motivational interviewing to create an “intervention plan” for their mentees.  The plan will include: defining goals and objectives, action steps/type of intervention(s), and frequency of intervention/time frame. Students write a reflection communicating the rationale for the components of their respective intervention plan(s)
  7. Documenting Practice: As evidence of students’ development as professionals  while managing their mentees “case load,” students will summarize their mentee’s growth process and journey using a comic strip, storyboard or short PSA. Students will be able to choose the medium they want to use to communicate: 1) understanding the client/mentee’s context/conditions, 2) explain the practices used, 3)  the rationale for their choices, and 4) the impact on the client/mentee.
  8. Active Listening Role Play and Reflection: Using TED Talks “The Power of Vulnerability” and “Listening to Shame” from Brene Brown and readings from Training Peer Helpers on strategies for active listening, students will role play active listening. Students will base the content for their scenarios on interactions during the first weeks of mentor/mentee meetings. To demonstrate learning, students will write a script of their dialogue, which highlights their own process of engaging their mentee through active listening. Before presenting their role play, students will have a peer review to provide initial feedback and ask clarifying/probing questions to support active listening.  Students watching role plays will use rubrics to provide feedback for effectiveness of active listening. At the end of the role-plays, students will write a self-reflection including: 1) What they have mastered in active listening, 2) What they need to work on, 3) A plan to reach mastery on the areas that need additional work.
  9. Research-based Essay: In order to extend learning about the adolescent brain and stress and better understand their mentees, students will read excerpts from National Geographic “The Teenage Brain,”  and excerpts from Daniel Siegal’s book: ”Brainstorm” They will also listen to speakers, such as the TedTalk “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” by Amy Cuddy. Students will make connections between these resources and their observations of 9th grade students’ behaviors. For example: mentors will be able to explain how stress impacts learning. How does the physiology of the brain in adolescents explain impulse, mood swings and high- risk behaviors.  Students will also identify patterns of body language they note in their mentees or other students while observing them in their classrooms. What does the mentee’s/students’ body language tell the mentors about the student's’ state of mind, engagement in learning, and so on. Students write a 500 word essay answering the following prompt: “How does research and science support/refute my classroom observations of 9th grade students behaviors?” Students will need to include references used in class and others they will research independently. Students will also develop at least two questions for future investigation either about their own practice as mentors, or more general questions related to adolescent development.

Unit 2 : Quality Improvement

The Quality Improvement (QI) unit is based on the Improvement Science methodology used in the health professions, which provides a framework for implementing systemic change and increasingly being applied to Mental and Behavioral Sciences. Peer mentors have already developed an intervention plan for their mentees in unit one. The purpose here is to improve the function/effectiveness of a system by identifying what needs to be improved, by how much, by when, and for what or for whom. Peer Mentors work with mentees to help them identify goals and strategies they can use to reach those goals. They also identify data to collect and analyze that data in order to determine the extent to which the strategy supported the achievement of the identified goals. Students should have time to engage in one QI cycle before the end of the semester. At the end of the unit (first semester) mentors will use the results of the Quality Improvement process to refine their plans to support mentees for the remainder of the year. Students should aim to use QI throughout the remainder course to continuously refine their intervention plans.

  1. Developing a Cycle of Improvement

    Part One: Students draft an AIM (goal statement) with their mentees addressing a need they have identified through empathetic interviewing. The AIM statement  should answer the question: “What are we trying to accomplish through this process?” and should set a goal for improvement, identifying what needs to be improved, by whom and by when. These could be academic or social-emotional growth AIMs. Students summarize in writing their rationale for focusing on a particular AIM given what they learned about their mentees through interviews conducted.

    Part Two: Then students establish a process for evaluating the draft statements and their effectiveness in order to a) streamline the process of evaluating outcomes measured in part four and b) measure systemic change in addition to individual growth. In groups, students analyze all of the mentees’ statements in order to categorize them according to identified patterns. A whole class discussion follows for the purposes of reaching consensus on a set of 5 revised AIM’s that, as a class, they will work on.  As part of the process, students also brainstorm possible strategies to help mentees reach their goal. For example, if their goal is to improve academic performance, one strategy might be to go to tutoring twice a week. They should consider factors that may pose a challenge or support the achievement of the AIM based on what what they know of their mentees, incorporating the Bronfenbrenner ecological framework, culturegrams, and other tools. Example of a final AIM: My mentee(s) will improve their academic performance by attending tutoring at least once a week through December 31, 2016.

    Part Three: Teams now will determine the type of intervention, appropriate data, and data collection method to evaluate effectiveness. (For example, if students have selected to use text messages to remind mentees to attend tutoring vs. in person reminders, students are ultimately determining which approach yields higher participation in tutoring and how they will gather and measure that evidence.) Teams should each have different approaches for the purposes of comparing different types of interventions. Using a Plan Do Study Act cycle, teams collect data on the change strategies, develop RUN charts and analyze the extent to which the choices of  interventions represent an improvement. Students’ teams present their findings to each other and, as a whole group, determine which strategies led to improvement.

    Part Four: Individually, students then write an analysis and reflection paper, documenting their findings and the effectiveness of the process they implemented. Students will include successes and suggestions for improvement towards reaching the AIM established for mentees. Students will also advocate for the adoption of these strategies to ensure they become integral to the way mentees are supported and guided. Through this assignment students will demonstrate their ability to document a process/intervention and the outcomes of their work. These are essential skills required in Behavioral Sciences/Social Work.

Unit 3 : Internship Preparation

During the second semester, students are matched and placed as interns in various sites including community-based clinics, non-profit organizations, and other mental and behavioral health providers. Depending on the final placement, students will contextualize their internships experience by researching and referencing specific concepts and frameworks related to  their internship focus. In addition, through the LA Youth at Work curriculum, students will review and revise work-readiness tools: goal-setting, work ethics, resume, cover letter, and employment application. Students will also review workplace conduct and rights, specifically digital citizenship and sexual harassment. They will learn about time management, “code switching”, interviewing other professionals at the site, identifying needs and reaching out for support to fully benefit from their internship. Students will identify their professional goals in relation to their internship placement, as well as reflect on their work-readiness, noting areas that need development. In addition, students will define the steps they are planning to take in order to reach their professional goals and work-readiness growth.

  1. Save the Last Word Class Discussion: Students will use a discussion protocol after reading the “Generalist Social Worker” description from Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare: Empowering People to identify similarities and differences from the role of a mentor. As part of the “change process,” 10 skills are identified in the reading, so students will choose 2 of the skills they plan to use most as a mentor and, in the discussion, explain how they will use these skills. Overall, students should explain how this excerpt informs their role as a mentor. In transition to starting their internships, students should also identify skills they would like to further develop in partnership with their internship supervisor(s). Students must cite textual evidence as part of the discussion protocol to demonstrate mentorship/internship connections and analysis.
  2. Socratic Seminar and Academic Precis: Students will read and annotate Chapter 3 “The People’s Free Medical Clinics” from Body and Soul to identify and then discuss the need for health advocacy for underserved communities by people from those same communities. Students will review the mental and behavioral health standards and select the core standards which best connect to community engagement and should explain why and how they are connected. After the Socratic Seminar, students summarize key points in a written academic precis, which should include points raised in the discussion.
  3. Internship Interview and Work Readiness Portfolio: Using active listening skills learned in Unit 1, students will prepare for interviews with potential internship sites.  To contextualize workplace experience, students will read and explore their community health focus area/topic, using An Introduction to Community Health text. Based on chapter selected, students must complete and present to the class one of the activities listed for their corresponding chapter. For example, in the “Community Mental Health” chapter an activity is to make an appointment with a local counseling and psychological service center for an orientation of the services offered.  To further prepare for interviews, students must learn to anticipate questions specific to their desired workplace, respond confidently and clearly, and prepare their own questions for workplace site. Students will prepare a Work Readiness Portfolio which must include an updated resume, cover letter, and a completed work application.
  4. Workplace Scenario Analysis and Essay: In groups, students read and analyze workplace scenarios with issue, conflict or ethical dilemma, using examples from the National Association of Social Worker’s  “Institutional Racism and The Social Work Profession: A Call to Action.” Students must create a role play with three alternative endings. One ending must show apathy or lack of action. The second must show intervention with inappropriate responses for the situation. The third must show a professional and/or ethical response. Scenarios will include challenges around communication, power dynamics, theft, inappropriate use of technology, and boundaries. Individually, in a 500 word essay, students will summarize their scenario and  reflect on what they learned about themselves through their own scenario or other scenarios presented by peer. They will also identify their positions on ethical dilemmas as an element of their professional identities.

Unit 4 : Internship

Students will participate in a 12-week local internship placement during part of the school day, to provide students a basic background instruction to prepare for mental/behavioral health and/or health advocacy occupations and related professions. Through these internships students will be able to reinforce academic and professional skills, as well as facilitate the transition between school and employment. Since some students will be placed at the same site, students will have an opportunity to develop the ability to work cooperatively with peer interns and supervisors. Through blogs, students will also engage in constant reflection of educational growth necessary for successful employment and professional success. On a weekly basis, students will electronically submit their internship time card identifying hours worked, tasks accomplished, and goals for the following week.  As a culminating task students will present to their worksite recommendations for quality improvement, including suggested goals and actions for improvement.

  1. Internship Blog: Students will be required to update blog posts on a weekly basis throughout their 12-week internship. The blog postings will include the following topics: planning and preparedness (including transportation and timeliness), goals,  progress and reflection, “A Day in the LIfe of an Intern,” supervisor communication, balancing internship duties and academic/personal commitments, workplace culture, and peer questions and responses to blog postings.
  2. Individualized Training Plan: Using Social Work Competencies and the Mental and Behavioral Health standards, students will develop an Individualized Training Plan. Students begin with a pre-assessment, including categories such as Developing, Emerging, Proficient and Advanced to identify their 3-5 competencies /standards they will focus on. Students will develop a training plan in conjunction with their supervisor that will include actions steps and a timeline for completion. To prepare for their final evaluation, student will review progress on their individualized training plan with their supervisors and use this feedback to identify steps they might take for future growth. Students are responsible for monitoring their own progress and providing evidence of growth through written reflections throughout the  internship.
  3. Interview a Professional: Students will need to interview 2-3 professionals in addition to their supervisor and describe how these different jobs relate to the overall services offered at the site. Students will develop the interview questions and follow-up questions. Upon completing interviews, students will create a short presentation, using PowerPoint, Google Slides, Prezi, or other presentation tool. Students must include 1) job title 2) description of skill needed 3) preparation need for job 4) highlights/challenges of the job 5) possible interest in these positions based on information acquired and personal knowledge/interests.
  4. Intern Profile: Using the same structure used for the X-Ray profile in Unit 1, during the latter part of their internship, students will identify their acquired skills and dispositions and integrate them by revising the cover letter they wrote at the beginning of the course. Students will be required to incorporate their internship and mentorship acquired skills, based on Social Work Competencies and the Mental and Behavioral Health standards.
  5. Internship Presentation: At the end of their 12-week internship, students will create a presentation, using Google Slides or Prezi,  to share their learning with other students who had participated in other internships. This is a way in which students communicate their learning and expose others to diverse opportunities in the field. In order to do so students’ presentations will include: 1)Mission of the organization 2) description of the role of the intern 3) role of the department students were in fulfilling the mission of the organization 4) What they learned and how they learned it 5) Based on their observations they will include a quality improvement focus by providing the workplace with identified steps for improvement. By using the Quality Improvement process, students will apply the learning from Unit 2 in a workplace context.

Course Materials

Erik M.P. Schott and Eugenia L. Weiss. Transformative Social Work Practice

James F. McKenzie. Introduction to Community Health (7th Edition)

Barbara B. Varenhorst. Training Peer Helpers: Coaching Youth to Communicate, Solve Problems, and Make Decisions

Charles Zastrow. Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare: Empowering People. (2008) 9th edition, Thomson Brooks/Cole pub.

Alondra Nelson. Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and The Fight Against Medical Discrimination.

Anthony S. Bryk and Louis Gomez. Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better.1st edition, 2015. Carnegie Foundation

Digital Citizenship  

Ted Talks  

Rosemary L. Farmer. Neuroscience and Social Work Practice, The Missing Link (2009), SAGE publishers.

Improvement Science Methodology  

LA Youth at Work curriculum 

Internship Handbook Sample 

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