Mitchell Family Counseling Clinic: Student trainees take on the future of therapy

Administrator Vera Chelyapov and staff counselors Bernice Contreras, and Yvette Nava go over paperwork and plans for the coming week. Photo Credit: Kristine Malicse/ Contributor

This isn’t your average therapy clinic, it’s a teaching program primarily led by assisted grad students. The private practice styled program, gives trainees hands on experience with patients, on and off campus.

This unique approach is what drew Grad Student and trainee Kayla Caceres, to the curriculum; saying the clinics set up allows the apprentice’s adequate time and positions them to hone in on their counseling skills.

Trainees go through extensive coursework and training before seeing patients on their own. The first academic year is spent with students sitting in with other therapists in their sessions, learning theories and practicing therapy with the other cohorts.

Caceres like many of the student therapists at the clinic specializes in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) and sees anywhere from 8-10 patients a week in addition to her classes.

“I feel like in this clinic you really get to hear people’s stories because they come here wanting to share their story with you” she said.

Clinic Administration Coordinator and MFT Trainee, Vera Chelypov, said the clinic operates with the family in mind offering child/adolescent, individual, couples and family therapy.

“It’s a nice place to come, especially if you’re in the valley because it’s linked up to all of these other programs” she said.

The center is connected to the campus literary programs and Family Focus Center which offer additional services like tutoring for kids.

In addition to its CSUN location the Eisner College of community counseling programs can be found at Strength United Family Justice Center, Soledad Charter School, Gault Street Elementary and at Simi Valley’s Samaritan Center.

They’re also working with the Psych education department to solidify a group called “Transitions Up,” which helps those within the autistic spectrum transition from high school to and through college.

Chelypov said the clinic’s programs are fluid and shaped around the current demands and counselor’s interests and schedule, one of which is a new parenting group set to begin after Thanksgiving.

“That was a reaction to the parents that bring their kids here for tutoring,” she said. “The parents came to us and said ‘hey can we get a support group going or something that would help us with parenting?’”

The clinic also runs self-esteem programs for middle school girls, and mentoring groups in schools which teach older students how to mentor younger students as well as art therapy for children (ages 5-9).

Nina Yazdi a second year MFT trainee works with children 6-9 years and families using art therapy said art is an important tool when working with children.

“Art is a way to have a shared language with children,” she said.  “We use their drawings as talking points the help them express their feelings.”

Yazdi said the therapy sessions are done in a group setting to help build their social skills.

“They’re told mostly what to do or not do outside of group,” she said. “So we give them a platform to behave the way they want to and if that behavior causes conflict, we address it and work on it.”

Therapists meet with the parents and child(ren) during an intake session where they are able to see them interact together and go over the parent’s concerns and goals of therapy.

Yazdi said involvement from the parent or guardian is imperative to the child(ren) development and success.

“We’re only with the kids for an hour and a half once a week, it’s hard to change a child’s behavior without involving the parents,” She said.

To stay connected with the child’s progress Yazdi checks in with the parent/guardian bi-weekly to get feedback on how the child is doing in school and home.

The program not only helps the community, it helps its trainees’ see the world around them in a new way.

“It’s taught me to really focus on people’s strengths,” Caceres said. “Even though their lives may be very different from yours and you have ideas about how they should be, that’s not your place and to always sees it from their perspective.”

Although the clinic is by appointment only, therapists are available to meet evenings and weekends in addition to weekdays. Sessions are packaged in a prepaid series of eight for couples & individual therapy. The package rate for couples is $160 but they do offer a sliding scale for those who need it.

For more information on their program or services please call 818-677-2568 or visit http://www.csun.edu/education/mitchell-family-counseling-clinic/