Counseling clinic will train students, help underserved

A new in-service training opportunity will enable graduate students to receive hands-on instruction from licensed, professional instructors and provide counseling services to people in the community who otherwise could not afford them.

(From left to right) Jacqueline Swank, Larry Tyson, Michael Brooks and Solange Ribeiro are the clinical faculty along with Glenda Isenhour (not pictured) of the new UAB Community Counseling Clinic — a practicum and internship site in the School of Education that enables graduate students to receive hands-on instruction and training from licensed, professional instructors.
The UAB Community Counseling Clinic is a practicum and internship site in the School of Education building and a service of the Counselor Education Program (CEP); it begins receiving clients this week.

“Until now, all of our students have been placed in different community agencies for their practica,” says Solange Ribeiro, Ph.D., clinic director and licensed therapist. “With that, some agencies by nature have a niche population they serve. We want our students to have an opportunity for a more rounded experience in which they are exposed to a variety of different clients.”

The clinic will serve pediatric, adult and geriatric patients from 1 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday in its location in School of Education Room 157. The cost for an individual session is $5. Call 996-2414 for referrals and appointments.

A variety of counseling modalities will be available, including cognitive and emotional behavior therapy, parenting and group therapy and counseling for anxiety, depression and relationship issues, among others. Providing affordable and diversity-competent counseling services will fill a void in mental health services in the region and contribute to UAB’s status as a leader in health services to the community, Ribeiro says.

“By offering quality in-house training to these beginning professional students, the CEP will have the opportunity to develop innovative approaches to counselor education and to clinical practice bringing UAB to the forefront as a leader in counselor education,” Ribeiro says. “This will provide a forum for collaboration between the CEP, the School of Education and other campus units and enable the clinic to contribute to the UAB mission as a leader in research.”

The clinical faculty includes Ribeiro, Larry Tyson, Ph.D., program coordinator; Michael Brooks, Ph.D., associate professor of counselor education; Glenda Isenhour, Ph.D., assistant professor of counselor education and Jacqueline Swank, Ph.D., assistant professor of counselor education. The faculty are licensed, professional counselors in Alabama, and one is a certified play therapy supervisor.

Students will staff the clinic under direct supervision of the five counselors. Prospective clients will be screened prior to their visit to the clinic, and those whose needs appear to be beyond the level of student competence will be referred to a faculty professional.

The clinic facilities possess equipment that enables live observation of all sessions, and faculty will provide live supervision as needed.

“All of our students will have the same level of supervision,” Ribeiro says. “We can interject during a session if needed, and we can debrief and engage the students immediately afterward. It really should benefit us, the students and the clients because we can see how and what they are doing, and we’ll have a better idea of the skills that need to be further developed.”

On-the-job training
The CEP, in its 42nd year, prepares graduate students to become school, community, mental health and/or rehabilitation counselors. Students are required to participate in two levels of clinical experience — practicum and internship — after completing coursework and passing a comprehensive examination.

The practicum experience is 100 hours of field experience, 40 of which must be spent providing counseling services directly to clients. At least half of those 40 hours must be providing individual counseling; 10 may be in assessment activities, and 10 hours may be in group-leadership work. During practicum, students receive one hour of individual supervision and 90 minutes of group supervision per week from program faculty.

The internship comprises 600 hours of field experience, 240 of which much be direct contact with clients. Students are expected to develop all areas of concentration-specific practice needed by a counseling professional employed in that setting. During this phase of training, one hour of individual supervision is provided by the site supervisor, while group supervision continues to be provided by program faculty.

“It’s an in-depth, hands-on, intense program,” Ribeiro says.

The CEP recently received an eight-year accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs and holds its Council on Rehabilitation Education accreditation until 2015.

Partnerships on campus and off
The Counselor Education Community Clinic will partner with The UAB Wellness Center to fill voids each entity cannot meet, but it will not see enrolled UAB students. The clinic will provide services for students after they graduate and spouses and family members of UAB students who are not eligible for Counseling & Wellness Center services.

“We aren’t competing, we are partnering,” says Susan Hart, director of the Counseling & Wellness Center. “I graduated from the Department of Education, and I know the importance of training. I think the counselor education program understands our role and they don’t want to interfere with the mandate and mission we have. But they have opportunities to help people on campus and in the community who we can’t help. I see that as a wonderful blending of what we have to offer.”

Consultation with professionals from area agencies, including the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, The Crisis Center, Lovelady and others, revealed that clients served by these agencies would benefit from low-cost counseling services. Area children and their families who seek mental health services also would benefit.

“The service is at a very low cost for the client,” Ribeiro says of the $5 fee. “That is not intended to financially support the clinic; it’s for reasons of accountability. We want the clients to put something into it so they will value it.”

The majority of funding for the clinic comes from the College of Arts and Sciences and professional training courses and workshops hosted by the Counselor Education Program during the year. Fees collected will be used for clinic operating expenses.