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Phoenix Forward

Counseling Skills Centers train future mental health counselors

Counseling Skills Centers train future counselors.

We all seem to have that one special friend — who won't judge us or spill our deepest secret, and who always has thoughtful advice and a shoulder to cry on.

While these types of friends are valuable, sometimes we need the support of a professional counselor to work through the issues that are troubling us. Counselors are trained to help us move past what we're going through and guide us toward appropriate solutions to our issues.

Their training requires more than just developing a sympathetic ear and offering sound advice. It involves studying curriculum that addresses how people process information and feelings, interact with others, and react to their environment and other people. The true value of this instruction actually comes with understanding how to apply those concepts to a real-world setting, which is the basis of the six Counseling Skills Centers* at University of Phoenix.

The true value of effective curriculum actually comes with understanding how to apply concepts learned in the classroom to a real-world setting.

Each of the Centers serves as an essential learning and training experience for future counselors, as well as a safe environment where clients can get help with personal or professional transitions, unexpected life events or ongoing struggles. Counseling services offered at the Centers are part of the in-house practicum program in the Master of Science in Counseling degree program. Within the program’s 10-week practicum, student counselors provide counseling free of charge for adolescents and adults within the local community who can benefit from shorter-term counseling in areas such as anxiety, work-life balance, personal growth and relationships.

"Practicum is a best-practice training environment," says Dr. John Nixon, Counseling Skills Center clinical director at the University of Phoenix Las Vegas Campus. "We give [counseling students] the best possible experience that'll benefit them by giving lots of direct supervision and professional mentorship. Thus, they enter their field-based internships with skills preparation on par with interns from the most established and respected traditional institutions."

While the mission of teaching best practices across all Counseling Skills Centers is the same, how each Center is structured varies by location.

"University of Phoenix structures the counseling program and Counseling Skills Centers in a way that reflects what the profession requires for licensure in that state where the program exists," says Nixon. As an example, he said Nevada doesn't recognize national certification; only individuals licensed as Clinical Professional Counselors, marriage and family therapists, and other master’s or doctorally prepared practitioners can practice professionally, and therefore serve as clinical supervisors for student counselors at the Centers.

These clinical supervisors, who are also University of Phoenix faculty members, review video-recorded counseling sessions and clinical documentation with the student counselors. This can help students determine strengths and weaknesses as potential practitioners, and teach them to manage case documentation.

These skills are particularly crucial as some of the Centers are seeing a surge of clients. Nixon says public funding cuts are threatening the existence of community-based mental health services — ironically when more people need them due to the toll the economy has taken on their livelihoods, families and self-esteem. "With fewer community resources available, word has gotten around quickly about the Centers," he says.

This boost in demand for counseling at the Centers means more opportunities for student counselors to learn how to become more effective counseling professionals — at a time when people need them the most.


*Counseling Skills Centers are available at select locations within six University of Phoenix campuses — Phoenix Main, Utah, Southern Arizona, Las Vegas, Detroit and Southern California.