Academic Programs

In 2008 USF established the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, which includes the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy. As part of the college, MHLP has a strategic plan to develop distinctive academic programs that respond to societal needs. MHLP faculty teach classes within 12 departments at USF, educating students in disciplines such as social work, psychology, medicine, counseling, and gerontology.


Behavioral health problems, including mental illness and substance abuse, are among the greatest public health challenges facing our communities. Evidence-based approaches are available to treat and prevent many of these behavioral health problems. Today's service delivery system utilizes research-tested psychological principles in a wide variety of treatment settings. Current state-of-the-art approaches emphasize consumer empowerment, recovery, self-directed care, and rehabilitation. Students are introduced to these innovative approaches, along with issues related to the organization, financing, delivery, and outcomes of behavioral health services. MHLP recognizes the importance of preparing tomorrow's service providers and administrators to meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving behavioral healthcare system.

Undergraduate Studies in Behavioral Health

The undergraduate programs are designed for students interested in pursuing careers in the behavioral health field. Programs include a B. S. in Behavioral Healthcare and a Minor in Behavioral Healthcare which can be taken in conjunction with any undergraduate major. The Minor in Behavioral Healthcare has proven particularly beneficial to students majoring in disciplines such as psychology, gerontology, criminology, nursing, social work, and sociology. In addition to the major and minor, a Behavioral Healthcare cognate is offered in the Interdisciplinary Social Sciences degree and Behavioral Healthcare concentrations are offered within the Applied Sciences, Health Sciences, and General Studies degrees.

Combining academic and experiential learning, the undergraduate programs provide students with information and practical experience that is applicable to immediately work in the field. Students completing the Minor are placed in community agencies to learn about recovery-oriented programs for persons with a mental illness or an addictive disorder. The academic program has proven useful for students planning to attend graduate school, as well as those planning to work in the behavioral health field after graduation.

Graduate Studies in Behavioral Health

Master's- and doctoral-level courses are offered in the areas of clinical practice, policy, research, and administration relating to mental health and substance abuse services. The graduate certificate program in Planning, Evaluation and Accountability is offered jointly with the College of Public Health. Mini Residency Preceptorships are offered for professionals involved in the treatment of individuals with HIV/AIDS.


Students are engaged in research through the Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates and through one-to-one mentoring by Department faculty. Internships and post-doctorate fellowships strive to prepare students as future behavioral healthcare researchers.

Health Care Law, Professional Ethics, Forensic Mental Health Practice, and Criminal Justice

Department faculty teach undergraduate and graduate courses on topics including law and psychology, forensic psychological assessment, ethics and professional practice, and the psychology of terrorism. Our faculty also helps train physicians completing the Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship program offered by department of Psychiatry in the USF College of Medicine. Several faculty members teach classes in healthcare and mental disability law at local law schools and serve as guest lecturers in Master of Laws (LLM) program in elder law.