Affordable Mental Health

By Mindy Cooper, The Portland Observer, March 7, 2012

Graduate students in the computer lab inside the new Lewis and Clark College Counseling Center on Southwest Barbur Boulevard study under mental health professionals and gain first-hand experience to help them become counselors in the future.View Full Size

Graduate students in the computer lab inside the new Lewis and Clark College Counseling Center on Southwest Barbur Boulevard study under mental health professionals and gain first-hand experience to help them become counselors in the future.

Portlanders and their families experiencing mental health, addiction and relationship issues now have an affordable place to turn to at the new Lewis and Clark Community Counseling Center, which is dedicated to serve those in need with affordable and culturally sensitive low-cost counseling.

According to Antonia Mueller, the director of the center located at 4445 S.W. Barbur Blvd., counseling services are often too expensive for individuals and their families who are looking for a safe and nurturing environment to be heard.

“With the economic times, people are unable to afford higher levels of therapies and support,” she said. “So the graduate school at Lewis and Clark is responding to the economic needs of the Portland community.”

The goal of the new mental health facility, which provides counseling services on a sliding scale from $10 to $50, is to serve the underserved, with a special focus on outreach to African-American, Spanish speaking and LGBTQ communities.

Since opening its doors in January, the clinic has already seen dozens of clients, including families, couples and individuals from multiple age groups and walks of life.

Antonia Mueller directs mental health services for people in need by overseeing the new Lewis and Clark College Counseling Center, which is geared to providing affordable services.View Full Size

Antonia Mueller directs mental health services for people in need by overseeing the new Lewis and Clark College Counseling Center, which is geared to providing affordable services.

“Our goal is to serve the community in any way we can and take as many clients as we can because we know the services are needed,” said Mueller. “We believe in providing ease of access to the unemployed, working poor, immigrant and refugee populations in our neighboring communities.”

Antonia Mueller directs mental health services for people in need by overseeing the new Lewis and Clark College Counseling Center, which is geared to providing affordable services.

The new center, which provides services to all social classes, races, sexual orientations, nations of origin, ethnic groups and genders, also provides students within the Graduate School of Education and Counseling the chance to learn from experienced professionals through intensive training and supervised counseling sessions.

“Students learn from the expertise of faculty members who have been in the field for a long time and are sensitive to cultural backgrounds who are onsite providing supervision to students and future generation of counselors,” said Mueller.

”We do live supervision with students before they graduate, so they can be ready in the field right when they graduate so they can provide services to clients from a diverse background.”

According to graduate student Rico Garcia, 25, the center has a strong social justice perspective.

“It allows us to address social economic status, racial inequality, sexism, homophobia, ablism, ageism, and understand how this interacts with our community and our clients,” he said.

“You can’t just treat the client’s symptoms. You have to address the epidemiology of the problem or situation that brought them in.”

Currently, Mueller said there are over 30 students involved with the center, where they receive supervision and education from eight faculty members.

Although the center is not a crisis intervention facility, and does not offer medication management, the clinic has three programs offered, including a marriage coupling and counseling program, mental health counseling, and co-occurring and addiction counseling. “Encompassing all that in one center is a unique service to the community,” she said.

She added, the center strives for a diverse faculty and array of counselors.

“One thing we are working on right now is increasing our services for Spanish speaking clients,” she said. “Not only are these individuals dealing with economic pressure and downfall, but they are also dealing with power struggles, being a minority and oppression.”

So we try to work within this community because we can help empower relationships by providing a safe and nurturing environment, said Mueller.

“We have faculty members who are themselves Hispanic, and they feel like they can provide the expertise and knowledge to students to help them go out into the community and provide a high level of care.”

She added that the location of the center, which shares a building with the Confederate Tribes of Grand Ronde, was chosen to ensure individuals from throughout the metro area could easily access their resources. “We are right on a bus line and bike route with free parking,” she said. “It was really important to us to make sure we are accessible easily by public transportation.”

Although she said there are many aspects of the center that she is proud of, Mueller said the most exciting aspect is that the college is deepening their already existing connection with others.

“This is Lewis and Clark’s opportunity to really give service to the community,” she said. “The center offers a safe and nurturing environment at low cost, so we can serve people who normally don’t have access to these services.”

The Lewis & Clark Community Counseling Center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is not an inpatient or emergency care facility. For more information about the center call 503-768-6320 or visit http://graduate.lclark.edu/clinics/community_counseling/.


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