The need for integrated care: Doctor of Behavioral Health

When Sophia Murphy moved to Phoenix after earning her master’s degree in counseling from San Francisco State University, she was immediately struck by the billboards scattered throughout the city proclaiming ASU as a university of innovation. She knew she eventually wanted to return to school to pursue her doctorate, and soon discovered ASU’s Doctor of Behavioral Health program.

At the time, the degree had not yet launched online, and Sophia’s full-time job in community mental health made her hesitant to enroll in an on-campus program.

“I kept the DBH in my head and thought, if only there was a way to do it where I didn’t have to stop working,” she says. “Then one day I discovered they had put it online, and I realized that ASU’s promise of innovation was more than just words.”

She interviewed and was accepted into the program, and was soon able to chase after her doctorate between seeing patients. Though at first she was unsure what to expect from an online degree, she quickly realized that the quality of both the curriculum and instruction was at the same level she’d come to expect from a traditional program.

“The caliber of education is as valid as any other program, but I didn’t have to stop my life for five years,” she says. “I still reference the texts in my day-to-day job. We had the same number of journal articles to review, and once a week we had to log in for the live classroom experience. Even though we couldn’t see one another, we were able to participate and feel like part of the community. I never felt like I had less than when I attended class in person.”

A few months after graduation in May 2016, Sophia received a LinkedIn request from the CEO of a local healthcare organization called Bayless Integrated Healthcare. He was so impressed with her education and experience that he invited her to coffee, which ultimately turned into a meeting with him and other company executives.

“I tell everybody that I feel a bit like a slacker, since they are the ones who sought me out,” Sophia jokes. “My education paid for itself within a couple of months.”

As emotional wellness supervisor, Sophia provides behavioral health assessment, treatment, consultation, and program development alongside primary care providers to patients with psychosocial and behavioral problems and medical conditions.

“It’s challenging to bring together behavioral and primary health,” she explains. “We are developing programming that spreads integration to other sites. Right now we’re in this phase of collecting data and outcomes to show what we’re doing is working. The next phase is being able to walk the walk and talk the talk so we can work with other disciplines and show that when we do come together, our patients are healthier and happier.”

In addition to her work for Bayless, Sophia has kept ties with ASU by coming on as a faculty member, and now teaches courses for both the Doctor of Behavioral Health and Master of Integrated Health Care programs.

“I really enjoy it because I know what it was like to be in the program,” she says. “I think the biggest thing for students to know is that the faculty is the same if not better because we’re online. I had professors from all over the country. They are leaders in their field who want to be involved with learning, so you have access to even more knowledge.”

Learn more about ASU Online’s Doctor of Behavioral Health program.

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