Mental health centers team up to provide stronger services

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

Melissa Hoffman, left, and Andrew Moon teamed up last fall to start an LGBT counseling group at the Professional Psychology Program. The program will now coordinate services with the four other mental health centers on campus.

The five mental health centers on campus have begun coordinating services for the first time, which the University Counseling Center director said will help students get quicker, more specialized help at GW.

Silvo Weisner, who leads the counseling center, has linked his office with GW’s four training clinics, which will also help pave the way for the UCC to again become a training program for aspiring psychologists.

Weisner arrived at GW last fall with a background in clinical training, and said students will likely see shorter wait times as the centers team up.

“Every year we refer students and then we wonder, ‘Gee, I wonder if the Meltzer [Psychological Services] Center is taking new clients or if the clinic is offering any new types of groups.’ This would be an opportunity to put all that info in one place,” Weisner said.

GW’s four training clinics offer real-life experience for GW’s graduate programs, including Ph.D. psychology, education and human development, professional psychology and art therapy programs.

Directors of each clinic will meet once or twice a semester, Weisner said, to share resources like each’s client referral database, which the centers rely on to send patients into permanent centers, and also link up for training and outreach programs.

The centers take students as patients, who typically go there if the wait is too long at UCC or if the students has used up their 12 allowed sessions a year. The clinics also see Foggy Bottom neighbors and D.C. residents.

Senior Associate Dean of Students Mark Levine, who oversees wellness at GW and ran the counseling center for nearly a year before Weisner was hired, said the collaboration has already started with a joint-training session and will help grow the training program.

“I expect progress. I expect us to continue moving forward in all three facets of UCC’s mission including direct services, outreach and prevention, and crisis response,” Levine said.

He added that sharing resources about educational materials and staff trainings will impact the UCC’s budget, Levine said.

“Collaborations can exponentially enrich and expand the outcome – meaning this rich collaboration offers great potential to positively impact GW’s mental health services,” Levine added.

Weisner came to GW last year from Marymount University where he built its counseling training program from the ground up, hiring staff and crafting policies. Renewing the UCC’s graduate student training program, which would bring in full-time interns preparing to get licensed, has been one of Weisner’s top goals since he came aboard.

UCC’s training program, which was certified by the American Psychological Association, shut down in 2008. But a review of the center after former director John Dages resigned– after nearly a dozen counselors quit the center with concerns of mismanagement – found that more training opportunities could help draw top doctorate students to GW.

Earning APA certification is a years-long process for most schools, a possibility Weisner has said he would look at as part of a three-to-five year plan.

Weisner also said the centers will link up to consolidate information about each clinic’s services, including pricing information and types of services, in one place.

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