The mission of the Psychological Services Center (PSC) is two-fold: 1) to make culturally-competent, evidence-based services accessible to those in our community and 2) to train graduate students in the Clinical-Community area to be competent and caring clinicians under the supervision of our faculty members. As the COVID-19 pandemic began to make the temporary closing of the PSC look increasingly imminent, we recognized we were presented with a significant challenge to our mission of service and education. It was especially critical that we continue supporting individuals under our care, particularly during a time of such unprecedented stress and change to all our daily routines. For the first time in the history of the Center, we took the opportunity to expand our service capabilities by embracing the use of telehealth service delivery.
Traditional therapy and assessment services involves student clinicians meeting with their clients in a face-to-face setting within the safe confines of the therapeutic center space. The “work” involved in therapy and assessment is, by nature, interpersonal. It involves the building of a relationship, trust that your clinician always holds your best interest in mind, and consistent mutual dedication towards moving towards relevant goals and away from unhelpful ruts. In the span of less than two weeks, we endeavored to move this relationship to a secure, online video-conferencing format. This transition would mark a major change in the way that both our clinicians and clients experienced their services.
In addition to ensuring compliance with all relevant policies and procedures, the PSC staff also educated the faculty supervisors and graduate student clinicians about how to best meet their clients’ needs virtually. We worked to make the transition as easy as possible for those engaged in our services, waiving all session and assessment fees as we moved into uncharted territory.
One issue that remained important to us was to continue to be available to connect anyone who called in with referrals to services. To this end, PSC Office Manager, Sara Dubson, remained accessible via telephone and email during routine clinic hours, even while working from home. PSC graduate student assistants, Amanda Gold, Dustin Haraden, and Andi Lee Quesbarth continued to hold their virtual “on call hours” throughout the spring semester.
While every week brings us small victories and new hurdles, I am certain that the success of the transition could not have come together without the dedication of our Clinical-Community graduate student clinicians and center assistants. They are at the heart of what we do, and they boldly carried the PSC into our “new normal.”
Although much uncertainty remains about the transition back to campus, the PSC is well-equipped, perhaps now more than ever, to adapt to the changing needs of our clients as well as our trainees.
Additional information about the PSC can be accessed at https://psc.illinois.edu/.
Amy Cohen, PhD
Director, Psychological Services Center