Counseling Students Train, Help in New Clinic

By Jo Lynn Orr

fall2011_counselingClinic director Solange Ribeiro (left) and student Katie Gorman.

For more than 40 years, UAB’s Counselor Education Program has been preparing students for careers in mental health, rehabilitation, and school counseling. But only in the past few months have graduate students in the program been able to put their skills to the test in a new on-site clinic, offering counseling to clients with mood and anxiety disorders, relationship problems, situational difficulties, and parenting issues.

The UAB Community Counseling Clinic (CCC) represents a new approach to counselor training, says director Solange Ribeiro, Ph.D. “In the past, we have worked with great community agencies to place our students for their practicum internships,” she says. “But some of these agencies are very specialized, focusing on grief counseling for example. By having the clinic here, we can make sure that every student is exposed to the types of comprehensive issues they will face in the real world.”

The CCC’s flexible hours—it is open from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m., four days a week—have been popular with students and clients, Ribeiro says. The on-campus location also allows faculty to be always on hand for live supervision, she adds. “We can observe students interacting with clients and make corrections if necessary, and we can provide immediate feedback, which is a real advantage to students.”

“Most health insurance either has inadequate mental-health coverage or none at all. We are very low-cost, and in some cases there’s no cost.”

Clients also benefit from the clinic’s affordable rates, which start at $5 for an individual session, Ribeiro says. “Most health insurance either has inadequate mental-health coverage or none at all. And many individuals and families in the community don’t have any type of health insurance. We are very low-cost, and in some cases there’s no cost.”

Because the CCC is a training facility, it’s not geared to caring for clients who are actively suicidal or have severe mental illness; these clients are referred to specialized counselors.

Students who are placed at the CCC have finished their 40 hours of academic training, Ribeiro explains. “They have passed their comprehensive examination and are now doing clinical training,” which consists of 100 hours of field experience during the practicum stage, followed by 600 hours of field experience during the final internship phase.

After graduation, students “often work for mental-health agencies such as Fellowship House and the Amelia Center, as well as go into private practice,” Ribeiro adds. Katie Gorman, who completed her undergraduate degree in sociology at UAB in 2006, is now a Counselor Education Program student interning at the clinic. “Having a clinic at UAB is very convenient,” Gorman says. “I also like the diversity of clients that we see here; this is an affordable place for people to get help.”