Education through Community Care

The Community Counseling Clinic was created to meet the needs of an underserved population, says Sean Hall, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAB School of Education.

More than 1,000 patients have received low-cost mental health care services at the clinic, which provides an innovative education for graduate students.

The Community Counseling Clinic was created to meet the needs of an underserved population. Now, more than 1,000 patients have received low-cost mental health care services at the clinic that also serves another purpose—to provide an innovative education for graduate students.

If you live in Birmingham and don't have private insurance, your options for affordable mental health counseling services may be limited.

The Campaign for UAB is doing its part to eliminate this issue by providing support to the UAB Community Counseling Clinic. The clinic, which opened in 2011, was created to meet the needs of an underserved population. “The driving force was to fill a service gap in the local community,” says Sean Hall, Ph.D., clinic director and assistant professor in the UAB School of Education Department of Human Studies.

Today, more than 1,000 patients have received low-cost mental health care services at the clinic, operated by the UAB School of Education’s Counseling program.

The clinic has another purpose—to provide an innovative education. It offers hands-on experiences that prepare master’s students for real-world situations.

Meeting a Need

According to Mental Health America, Alabama is one of the worst states in terms of access to mental health care. The low-income population is hit especially hard, Hall explains. “A lot of therapists in Birmingham only take private insurance, or they don’t take insurance and charge well over $100 for individual sessions,” he says.

Those without insurance or disposable income are left with few options. Some simply can’t find service, or they compete for the few spots available for low-income patients at some practices. “Demand is high; availability is low,” Hall adds.

To address that demand, the Community Counseling Clinic offers individual, group, family, and couples and marital counseling services with fees ranging from $5 to $30 per session, depending on income. The clinic provides service for a wide range of mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, relationship conflicts, grieving and loss, and more. Patients are referred by partnering agencies across Jefferson County.

An Innovative Education

All master’s students in the Counseling program complete a practicum and an internship. Those who work in the Community Counseling Clinic enjoy a unique opportunity because they see clients under faculty supervision. In similar counseling programs, sessions are reserved for doctoral students. Master’s students in UAB’s program, however, see patients while a faculty supervisor oversees all clinic activity.

“If a situation comes up that students do not know how to handle, they can just walk down the hall and find the faculty supervisor,” Hall says. Students can also receive digital messages from observing faculty during sessions and send a one-touch message to supervisors, such as “please advise.”

Kathryn Ely, a master’s student in the Counseling program and clinic counselor, says she appreciates the balance between experiential learning and instruction.

“As future counselors, we can assess and work with our clients in our own ways while also being able to lean on the experience and knowledge of our professors,” Ely says. “I will be prepared for many different types of jobs in the counseling community.”

Moving Forward

Clinic services have expanded to include play therapy for children between the ages of 4 to 8, and Hall wants to keep expanding services as well as renovate the space. He also plans to form an advisory board and work with the Birmingham mental health community in planning for the future.

“We want to take advantage of the growth we’re experiencing,” he says. “We want to look for feedback and guidance as we see what the next five years looks like. We want to continue doing what we can to keep people from falling through the cracks.”

Providing Support

As the clinic aims to expand its counseling services to an increased number of patients, the hope is that the community will lend its support to meet the clinic's goal through partnership. The Campaign for UAB is not only meant to serve the institution but the citizens in our local community and the region as well. Your contribution to the UAB Community Counseling Clinic is an example of the impact we can have.

Learn more about supporting the Community Counseling Clinic: Kerry Chesnut, director of development, (205) 975-3754, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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