On the south side of Straub is a small door leading to U.O.’s Psychology Clinic, where clinical students receive high quality training and clients get gold standard, evidence-based treatment. Clinical training begins in students’ second year with a core practicum in which they learn how to provide cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a common type of talk therapy that helps clients identify and correct inaccurate or negative thinking. Next, third- and fourth-year students get a chance to specialize their training in their advanced practicum, in which they are supervised by faculty in their area of expertise.
Clinical psychology overlaps quite a bit with other areas of psychology. For example, working with children and adolescents requires a thorough understanding of developmental psychology. Dr. Ruth Ellingsen, the clinic director, supervises students who focus on providing therapy to this age group. This focus requires them to be flexible in their therapeutic style. While therapy with older teens can function similarly to adult therapy, working with younger kids often calls for a family system approach, encompassing both the child and their parents.
Students can also choose to specialize in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which is supervised by Dr. Maureen Zalewski. DBT is a talk therapy often used to help people with depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorders. Within DBT, therapists help their clients take control of their thoughts, emotions, and relationships by teaching them a set of skills: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal skills.
This fall, two new tracks will be available to students. There will be a 14-week PEERS® group for teens struggling socially. Student therapists will be working with this group to help them learn skills for making and keeping friends. And a new faculty member, Dr. Alayna Park, will be supervising students in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Therapists working within this therapeutic approach help their clients accept their hardships and negative emotions and commit to making changes in their behavior that will lead to better well-being.
All the services offered by the clinic are evidence based. But therapists also tailor the treatment to the individual, taking into account their experiences and identities. In fact, the therapists at the clinic, both students and faculty, approach treatment like they would approach research: evaluating the client and gathering data about them, putting that data together to find the best-fitting diagnosis, and identifying the most beneficial treatment.
When I asked Dr. Ellingsen what she wished more students knew about the clinic, she responded by describing how well prepared and well trained the student therapists are, who often receive wonderful feedback and gratitude from their clients.