James Simms knew he was taking his career in the right direction as soon as he met his first client at Central Michigan University's
Psychological Training and Consultation Center.
The PTCC is where CMU psychology students get clinical training with real clients.
"This type of training is the most important part, because that is what it is all about," Simms said. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native is entering his third year in the clinical program.
"All of the research and studying we do is to better the treatment of psychological difficulties and disorders," he said. "Learning how to actually do treatment with people in need is the purpose of our profession."
Top CMU psychology experts and researchers supervise clinical psychology doctoral students who are training at the PTCC by treating clients from the university and throughout mid-Michigan. Simms has treated people with depression, low self-esteem, attention deficit and hyperactivity, and more.
One in five adults in the United States experiences a mental illness, and nearly 60 percent of these adults don't receive mental health services, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The center at CMU offers outpatient mental health services at minimal to no charge to clients whose mental health needs might otherwise go unmet. It has a general clinic and a psychological assessment clinic, and it also offers these specialized programs:
Trauma and Anxiety Disorders Clinic
Center for Children, Families and Communities
Learning Acceleration Clinic
School Psychology Clinic
Doctoral students provide all clinical services under psychology faculty guidance.
Cheryl Chakranarayan is in her third year of the clinical psychology program. She has trained in the assessment lab and anxiety clinic. Chakranarayan will train in the neuropsychology clinic next year.
"Working at the center is essentially doing therapy with training wheels. Although there is a steep learning curve at the beginning, there also is support from supervisors and staff," said Chakranarayan, who is from Pune, India.
Students see an average of five clients each week. Training closely with faculty mentors helps set the CMU program apart from other clinical programs, said Amanda Lopez, PTCC director.
"Our students will follow faculty through the program, and the faculty will guide them toward that career path," she said. "Not all clinical psychology programs have that level of mentorship."
Lopez said students are ready to see clients on their own by the time they finish the training and move onto their internships and careers as psychologists.
The center gives clinical psychology students a wide range of training experiences, and it also fills a need for CMU and area community mental health services, Lopez said. Client referrals come from the CMU Counseling Center and from mental health agencies in many mid-Michigan cities.
"There is a waiting list in the community for mental health services, and I think we will likely see a continued increase in the number of people looking to access the types of services we provide," she said. "We get a lot of people referred because their health insurance doesn't cover mental health services, and they have to pay out-of-pocket for these services."
Simms said training through the center has been integral to his development as a clinical psychologist.
"It has helped me learn how to conceptualize what methods can best help a client with certain issues and how to convey that to clients and transplant science into constructive human interaction," he said.