Counselors in Training: MSUM Program Helps Students Grow Skills and Offers Support to Community

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By: Alison Ziegler, ziegleral@mnstate.edu

 

MSUM offers many opportunities to not only its students but also the surrounding community. One of the ways it does this is through the use of the Community Outreach Center (COC) on campus.

The COC has been up and running for over ten years. It was started due to a $100,000 grant that was gifted to the psychology master’s program. The grant allows students to fulfill their practicum requirement and provides easy access to counseling services for those both on campus and in the Fargo-Moorhead community.

Kelcie Richmond, a 24-year-old student from Fargo, North Dakota, is in the counseling master’s program at MSUM. She provided some insight on the sessions taking place at the Community Outreach Center.

One way the COC helps with the master’s program is by allowing graduate students to conduct “mock” or “trial” therapy sessions during their master’s program schooling. According to Richmond, there are five grad students currently completing their practicum at the COC, and there are usually between five and seven who take advantage of the center in a given semester.

The practicum itself, which is required to be 150 hours, is only one of the requirements for graduating from MSUM’s psychology master’s program. There is also a 170-hour internship that must be completed.

The COC is open to both students and community. It is free and insurance is not necessary.

“Usually about 70 percent of our clients are students and 30 percent are from the community. We see all ages, from young children to older adults,” Richmond said.

With most of the clientele being students, posters or fliers are passed out around the time the center opens each semester. There are also professors who offer either class credit and/or extra credit for attending sessions at the COC.

Dr. Brenda Koneczny, an assistant professor in MSUM’s psychology department, is known for offering the COC as an option for extra credit in some of her classes. She has taught many different psychology courses, including General Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Personality and Psychology of Food and Eating.

“I think [the extra credit option] relates the most and fits best with that class,” Dr. Koneczny said regarding Developmental Psychology. She likes to keep the program “open and optional” so no one feels pressured to go to the sessions. Dr. Koneczny requires students to go to three counseling sessions, either individual or group sessions, to earn the extra credit.

“This is a way for the undergraduate students to help the graduate students hone their practices and counseling skills,” she said. Dr. Koneczny believes students who go through minor ups and downs and daily stresses can attend these types of sessions.

Both Dr. Koneczny and Richmond shared that after students participate in a few sessions they often choose to continue.  Dr. Koneczny said that a former student told her that doing the counseling sessions inspired them to want to become a therapist.

The COC is located in Lommen 113. The center is open at different hours depending on the semester. This semester it is open Tuesday through Thursday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Students can make an appointment by phone or through email. The number for the Outreach Center is 218-477-2513 and the email is counseling@mnstate.edu.

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