Now students at Oregon State University-Cascades can get career experience while giving free counseling to the community.
OSU-Cascades is now providing free mental health counseling to the public in Bend and La Pine. As part of the Masters of Science in Counseling program, students can earn direct client hours through an internship at the clinic.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said clinical mental health counseling student Alvin Becker. “It gives people access to counseling that might not otherwise afford it, and it gives students experience that could be expensive.”
In alternative settings, students earning hours toward their counseling licenses could be expected to pay as much as $100 an hour, according to Becker.
Dr. Ryan Reece, instructor and clinical coordinator for OSU-Cascades, also sees the value of the new program.
“It’s a great opportunity for faculty to get a sense of our student’s needs and the community’s needs,” Reece said.
“What’s key in our profession is establishing that relationship,” Reece said.
At the clinic, students are allowed one on one sessions with clients while faculty and peers observe, either through a one way mirror or on video recordings. This allows for direct supervision as well as learning through observation and suggestion, according to Reece.
“[The program] gives the students the ability to evaluate progress with supervisors,” said student counselor Terese Thompson, “to see if they’ve met their goals.”
The client interaction takes students beyond what can be learned in the classroom.
“I understood theory and the academic side,” Becker said. “It was when I got to be in with a client that I was really able to see how it was applied.”
Clients are made aware of the observation and often feel like they are “giving something back” by helping the students learn, according to Thompson.
In fact, the clinic has seen the number of intakes double since summer term.
“The word is getting around,” Thompson said. “It’s a testament to our students.”
Reece and Thompson are hopeful that this growth will continue, but both remain focused on the current circumstances.
“Right now we are just looking to sustain where we are at,” Reese said, “where we can provide services to the community.”
The clinic does not do diagnosis or prescriptions, but can refer patients to other resources, according to Thompson and Becker.
The OSU Cascades free mental health clinic now is accepting anyone ages 14 and up.
Register by calling 541-322-2047 or on the OSU-Cascades web site at OSUcascades.edu/free-counseling