Academic journal article Journal of Human Services

Promoting Wellness in Human Services Training: Infusing a Wellness Model across the Undergraduate Human Services Curriculum

Academic journal article Journal of Human Services

Promoting Wellness in Human Services Training: Infusing a Wellness Model across the Undergraduate Human Services Curriculum

Article excerpt


This article examines how undergraduate human services programs may systematically provide opportunities for student self-development as recommended by the Council for Standards in Human Service Education [CSHSE] (2013). A potential approach to facilitating self-development is for human services educators to systematically infuse an evidence-based wellness model and formal assessments of student wellness throughout the curriculum. This process may prepare students for the personal and professional demands of human services fieldwork and post-graduate professional practice.


Wellness is a concept that has been explored extensively over the last 50 years in several disciplines to include medicine, psychology, and counseling. However, the current authors are focusing on the definition presented by Myers, Sweeney and Witmer (2000), which defines wellness "as a way of life oriented toward optimal health and well-being in which mind body, and spirit are integrated by the individual to live life more fully within the human and natural community. Ideally, it is the optimum state of health and well-being that each individual is capable of achieving" (p. 252). This definition is the basis of the Wheel of Wellness (WEL) model (Myers et. al, 2000) and the empirically based Indivisible Self (IS-Wel) model (Myers & Sweeney, 2005e). The later model and related assessments will be discussed as potential tools for human services educators to facilitate student self-development throughout undergraduate curriculum.

Wellness and the Human Services Profession

Neukrug (2013) identified wellness as one of eight characteristics that are theoretically related to the effectiveness of human services professionals. He asserted that adopting a wellness perspective is essential to reducing stress and preventing cynicism and burnout. He explained that stress reduction potentially reduces the probability of impairment when working with clients and recommended the utility of the Indivisible-Self model (IS-Wel), and the 5F-Wel inventory developed by Myers and Sweeney (2005d) as one method of assessing wellness for human services professionals. As more human services programs encourage students to engage in community-based advocacy and required fieldwork, the use of this model and assessment tool may potentially enhance the wellness of students and create approaches for mitigating stress throughout their curriculum, particularly during their fieldwork when they are required to serve clients.

The recommendation to infuse wellness across undergraduate curriculums has been researched in other disciplines. For example, Curry and O'Brien (2012) suggested that increasing teacher retention begins with the movement toward a wellness standard in teacher education programs. The authors defined wellness holistically based on the research of Street (1994) and Myers, Sweeney and Witmer (2000). They asserted that teachers who are knowledgeable of personal wellness and who readily adhere to practices of self-regulation are better able to handle the multiple stressors of teaching. Additionally, the authors stressed that "infusing a wellness paradigm in teacher training programs may mitigate attrition rates and promote long term success" (Curry & O'Brien, 2012, p. 184). They provided case studies in which they contrasted teachers who developed a personal wellness plan with those who did not. It seems that a clearly developed wellness plan contributed to positive outcomes for new teachers.

Based on the existing research, it is potentially beneficial to consider a wellness-infused human services curriculum that may facilitate the development of human services professionals who intentionally practice holistic wellness. This type of curriculum is particularly relevant for undergraduate human services students who are immersed in academically rigorous programs. In addition to coursework, many programs in compliance with the Counsel for Accreditation in Human Services Education require a minimum of three hundred and fifty clock hours of onsite training (CSHSE, 2013). …

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