Counseling for Credit: Students Provide Mental Health Support to the Community


By Gabrielle Fellows


Inside of the Beeghly College of Education, counseling graduate students are doing their part to combat the lack of mental health services offered on campus and in the community.

Even with the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion, many people still do not have insurance that covers mental health services, or if they do, they come with extremely high copays. Many schools, Youngstown State University included, offer something called a community counseling clinic, a program that pairs graduate counseling students with people who are in need of mental health counseling.


The students work under the supervision of licensed professional counselors. Using this method, the CCC is able to offer counseling services for as low as $1 per session for community members.


The clinic is located on the third floor of the Beeghly College of Education and has been in existence for approximately 20 years.


Victoria Kress, professor in the counseling department and director of the Community Counseling Clinic, said the clinic receives a mixed population — many are students from YSU, but a lot of people come from neighboring communities as well.


“We are working with a diverse clientele of people from different economic backgrounds, who are dealing with a variety of life challenges that can include grief and loss, relationship concerns, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress,” Kress said. “There is a great need in the Youngstown community for the services that the center offers, and it’s a privilege to be able meet those needs.”


The graduate students who counsel most of the patients that make appointments with the CCC do not get paid, but instead gain valuable experience in their field.


Jake Protivnak, chair of the department of counseling, special education and school psychology, said students have to complete a semester of supervised counseling in the Center prior to internships.


“It’s a great way to help out counseling students to sharpen their counseling skills, because they receive live supervision,” Protivnak said. “A counselor is supervising their counseling session via recording device, so they can provide in the moment advice.”


Matthew Paylo, director of the counseling program, said that the CCC gives graduate students a first hand experience for what it would be like to work in an outpatient counseling center.


“These are new counselors, so often students will come in with situational stressors, or things that are difficulties that they’re currently dealing with, whether it be academic or relationship [based], and the graduate students can help them deal with the issues,” Paylo said.


Kress said that the center has six specialized counseling suites – four suites for individual, couples, or group counseling sessions, an expressive arts room and one fully equipped play therapy room – for students and faculty conducting counseling sessions.


“The CCC is doing all sorts of cutting edge things to better treat our clients and train our students,” Kress said. “I’m glad that we’re able to bring in a diverse range of practices under one roof. Every day that I go into the office I feel excited about the good work we are doing, and the ways we are supporting our community.”


Those who are interested in setting up counseling sessions should call the clinic in advance.


Students interested in pursuing a graduate degree in Addiction Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling, and Student Affairs/College Counseling within the Department of Counseling, Special Education and School Psychology can find more information at

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