Quality Practicum Experiences and Community Services in New Counseling Center
A renewed space and a fresh approach to the COE counseling center has come with the arrival of Emily Oliveira, our new director of the college’s Counseling and Social Advocacy Center @ UMSL (CSAC). Oliveira, currently a lecturer in the Department of Counseling and Family Therapy, is a graduate of Southeast Missouri State where she also served as coordinator of disability services. She is now a doctoral candidate in the COE’s Counseling and Family Therapy Program.
“Our goal is to provide top notch experiences for our counseling students and doctoral candidates while delivering quality, affordable counseling services to our clients,” Oliveira said. Clients include children, adults, couples, families and groups in the UMSL community as well as the broader St. Louis area.
The new location in the beautifully rehabbed 1950s post-modern building (formerly the Ward Barnes Library) that houses the Ed Collabitat offers a welcoming, yet discrete space for individuals who come to the center. As the CSAC renovations were in progress last summer, Oliveira was hired and joined the counseling faculty in re-imagining the center’s purpose and establishing comprehensive policies and procedures for its operation.
“First and foremost we wanted to make sure that we continue following HIPAA privacy rules for our clients and that we incorporate Best Practices in Clinical Supervision guidelines (established in 2011 by ACES) for our counseling candidates,” said Oliveira.
The center has several individual and couples counseling rooms along with a play therapy room and a larger room for group sessions. All counseling sessions are supervised by either faculty or advanced doctoral candidates. Reviewing sessions with their supervisor is critical for practicum participants to evaluate and improve their professionalism and performance in clinical settings.
Counseling degree candidates are trained using a multicultural and social justice framework, which is central to the experience in the CSAC. “The CSAC provides our counseling degree candidates with a professional practicum setting where they can see clients in a friendly environment rather than going to an outside service agency in which they may not be familiar with the location, staff or that agency’s particular policies and procedures,” Oliveira said. “It’s a controlled environment that really eases them into the idea of seeing clients.”
Serving the UMSL Community and Beyond
“The center is part of several counseling and psychological services across campus at UMSL,” Oliveira said, noting that CSAC and other UMSL on-campus services like the Psychology Department’s Community Psychology Services and the Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis frequently cross-refer clients so that they receive the most appropriate services for their needs.
CSAC has received client referrals from the community and several school districts, but right now, most of clients come from the UMSL community – faculty, staff, students. With the new location and longer, regular hours of operation plus a full-time support staff to handle incoming calls and scheduling, CSAC will be expanding more into the St. Louis community. The new center plans to hold a community grand opening in April.
Clients come to the center for a variety of concerns including stress, relationship issues, depression, grief, academic performance, body image, self-harm and self-esteem. CSAC has just received credentials from the Association for Play Therapy as an approved Center of Play Therapy Education for teaching and providing play therapy to clients age 16 and under. Play therapy has been proven to enhance both cognitive and physical behaviors, and there is a significant amount of research from the fields of neurophysiology and molecular biology that supports play therapy as a valid therapeutic technique for those past childhood.
“You might not think of play therapy for teens or adults but play therapy can also be used to treat issues faced by teenagers and adults. It can be a great icebreaker for an adolescent who is showing resistance to the counseling process,” said Oliveira. Toys used in therapy may include sandboxes with associated miniature figurines, art materials, Legos or other construction toys, costumes or other clothing, stuffed animals, dolls, a dollhouse with miniature furniture, puppets, indoor sports equipment, and other indoor games.
Social Advocacy on the Move
“We gained a great deal of experience in this area in our work with the Ferguson protesters where we took sand trays onsite and helped people in that community begin the healing process,” Oliveira said. The counseling center is now poised for continuing social advocacy work throughout the community with mobile units that include play therapy tools like sand trays and trained counselors to work with school, community and church groups who are striving to improve social justice and equity issues in their communities.
The Counseling and Social Advocacy Center at UMSL offers services including individual, couple, family, and group counseling for children, adolescents, and adults. CSAC also accepts clients who are referred from local schools, including students and their families. Mental health seminars and professional development opportunities are also available.
HOURS of operation are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The center is closed on Fridays and during university vacation breaks. For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of the counselors, contact the center at (314)-516-4613 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to complete a brief intake interview. Additional information, including fees and directions, is available on the CSAC website: http://csac.umsl.edu/.
For information about our CACREP-accredited master’s or doctoral programs in counseling, please visit the Department of Counseling and Family Therapy website.
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