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Sound minds and sound bodies

  |   Kristen B. Morales   |   Permalink   |   Spotlight

When a local middle school student was expelled because of his classroom misbehavior, the only problem the school identified was in his actions — he fought with other children and was generally disruptive. School personnel referred him to the Center for Counseling and Personal Evaluation in the College of Education, where an assessment found the student had a learning disorder affecting his ability to read and write.

After several sessions with UGA counselors, the student admitted that when called upon in class, he would misbehave rather than show his difficulties in those areas. The counseling center's staff recommended teaching and learning methods to accommodate his disability, setting him on a path to a brighter future.

There are hundreds of cases like this in which the center has had a powerful effect on people's lives, said Linda Campbell, a professor and licensed psychologist in the counseling and human development services department and director of the counseling center for the past 18 years. It's also a shining example, she said, of the university's three missions coming together under one roof: teaching, research and service.

"We start with training students to be psychologists and counselors. The students need clients with whom to develop their skills and competencies, so the service component takes shape," she said. "Then it's only natural to collect information on the progress of the clients; therefore, the research component is formed."

The center has served Georgia communities for more than 40 years. It provides professional services for a wide range of emotional, interpersonal and educational concerns. Services include individual, group, couples, child and adolescent counseling as well as assessments for learning disabilities, developmental delays, attention deficit disorders and general psychological evaluations.

And because the center offers a broad scope of services and its fees are on a sliding scale, it's an asset to the entire state, Campbell said. The staff works closely with public and private schools, technical and higher education institutions, and community and health agencies to provide counseling and evaluation services.

"The center has earned a reputation for quality service in schools and communities statewide, which is the reason individuals are often referred to us," said Campbell.

People seek help primarily for relationship and couples issues, depression, anxiety, anger management, adolescent and child behavioral problems, said Campbell. Because of demand, it has increased its assessment services for learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, developmental disabilities and general psychological evaluations. The center is also known for its innovation. While many universities across the country have counseling or health centers to provide student services, very few have department-training clinics, and even fewer have training and collaboration across professions, according to Campbell.

That's part of the reason the college's graduate program in counseling has ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report for the past 16 years.

"The trainees at the center are graduate students in psychology, counseling, pharmacy and nursing," she said. "Our students collaborate on client cases to diagnose and treat the whole person, including behavioral and mental health status, and identifying medications that may affect the client's overall health condition."

For example, Emily Bryant, a fourth-year doctoral student in counseling psychology, works 20 hours a week as the center's assessment coordinator as part of her assistantship. The experience in the counseling center has helped her both as an educator and a counselor.

"I have improved my psychological assessment skills immeasurably," Bryant said. "I've also had the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant, and because of these experiences, I have improved my abilities as an instructor."

Another collaboration brings students from several schools into the field. Campbell and Bernadette Heckman, an associate professor in the Department of Counseling and Human Development Services, direct a research project with the College of Pharmacy in which students from both colleges provide services to employees of Clarke and Walton counties. The UGA students travel to worksites where they develop wellness plans for employees who may have diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and other physical health conditions. UGA counseling students work with those employees on how they can decrease psychological barriers to better health such as lack of motivation, family pressures, depression and time management.

UGA faculty in the College of Education, the College of Pharmacy and Georgia Regents University's nursing program participate in staffing client cases, engage in consultation and supervise students on clients' treatment plans.

Student training is now recorded and stored on digital video so faculty and students can review and critique the students' clinical work thanks to technology innovation approved by Craig H. Kennedy, dean of the College. This is in place at both the Center for Counseling and the UGA Speech and Hearing Clinic.

"Through its service, training and research, the Center for Counseling continues to contribute to the health and well-being of the people of Georgia," said Campbell. "That is our goal, and that is our mission."

© University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602