The USDCC functions as an integral part of the University. Our clientele are students, the majority of whom are young adults undergoing life transitions and developmental change. Our role as a University Counseling Center is to attend to the academic, psychological and developmental aspects of students' concerns. Consequently, developmental factors are stressed in our training.
The USDCC serves as part of the USD Wellness Area, which also includes the Center for Health and Wellness Promotion, the Disability and Learning Differences Resource Center, and the Student Health Center. We work together as a multidisciplinary team to serve the general wellness needs of the USD student body.
The internship follows a practitioner-scholar model of training. Training components reflect the interdependent nature of the practice and the science of psychology. We emphasize the role of the psychologist as an educated, thoughtful and introspective helper. In our training program, we emphasize the importance of self-awareness as a way of optimizing each trainee’s professional effectiveness. Critical thinking, thorough assessment, and awareness of and appreciation for human diversity are hallmarks of the services we offer, and our interns are expected to implement such skills in every aspect of their duties. We embrace diversity in its broadest sense, including but not limited to ability status, acculturation, age, culture, ethnicity, gender, language, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.
The program is structured with an initial period of intern self-assessment in collaboration with close supervision. At the onset of the internship, careful observation is utilized to assess interns’ strengths and growing edges; as the internship continues, interns typically have more autonomy. Independent thinking and self-appraisal are fostered so that by the end of the internship, trainees are prepared to serve as entry-level professionals.
Attention to skill development is prioritized; we focus upon models of service delivery that are important not only at universities, but also in a wide array of settings in the general practice of psychology. Short-term services, clear assessment, outreach to underserved populations, and crisis intervention are emphasized in the services we provide and the skills obtained by our interns. Diversity factors are emphasized heavily in training. Greater understanding and awareness of diversity is promoted through didactic teaching, experiential exercises, and through supervisory attention. In addition to the generalist training we offer, we encourage interns to develop their individual goals and interests through group activities, optional rotations, and mentoring.
Collaboration with other offices on campus, and an understanding of the student’s academic life, is critical to the work of a counseling center psychologist, and as such, we offer a unique form of interdisciplinary work to our interns. Interns commonly have the opportunity to work with professors, academic deans, residence life, and many others.
In attempting to balance the art and the science of therapy, we view scientific skills as a process and way of thinking in addition to being a source of knowledge about what “works” in therapy. We encourage students to view their conceptualizations of clients as hypotheses to be tested, and modified as client information confirms or disconfirms the ideas. The focus on science as process does not eliminate the need for awareness of scientific contributions that inform our clinical approaches. Awareness of outcome research and empirically based interventions are critical skills in intern development. We also encourage students to be good consumers of such research, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of empirical projects. As is possible in our day-to-day activities, staff model scientific activity, whether it be through keeping abreast of current research issues, engaging in scientific and theoretical professional writing, or occasionally in conducting research.