I wanted to thank The Daily for recent coverage of the closing of the OU Counseling Psychology Clinic and program. I especially wanted to thank you for publishing the beautiful editorial letter about the impact of our services. The author captured the essence of what we try to do in caring for our clients and trying to help them live with hope, justice, peace, courage and love, which means ultimately with greater health and life capacity.
This has been a sad and difficult time for all of us affiliated with the counseling psychology program and the clinic. We have been training psychologists and offering mental health care for both OU and the general central Oklahoma community since 1966 and have had a nationally recognized program and clinic over these years. More importantly, we have been a part of serving our campus, community and state by providing trained psychologists to serve in Oklahoma.
I also would like to thank President Boren for his recent authorization of one new full-time psychologist position for Goddard. That is a valuable step in the right direction for serving the needs of OU students. Goddard Health Center serves as the primary site for OU student mental health services. Goddard has an outstanding staff who have a profound commitment to serving the OU community. However, historically, my experience has been that Goddard does not have the resources needed to fully meet the needs for mental health services at OU, and even with one new psychologist there will still be a large need for services.
Historically, this is where the OU Counseling Psychology Clinic helped to partially fill a gap. The clinic has typically been able to see clients right away for an initial appointment and has no set limit on how often or for how long someone may receive services. The clinic has been able to see both students and the general public without regard to insurance coverage or financial considerations.
Over the 16 years I served as director of the clinic, our clients have been, on average, approximately one-third OU students and approximately two-thirds people from all over central Oklahoma. At our previous peak operation, we saw about 200 clients per week, thus nearly 70 students were seen weekly for counseling and psychological services. We received many referrals from Goddard over the years and have always had a strong professional relationship with Goddard. As mental health concerns continue to increase among college populations, and as our state continues to underfund mental health services, the clinic has become a vital resource — perhaps more now than ever before.
I was brought back from retirement this year specifically due to the retirement or resignation of all the prior faculty from the counseling psychology program. I was informed that the doctoral counseling psychology program would be phasing out and closing, and that the clinic would also close. From what I am told, the OU budget has suffered under reduced state funding for education, and the decision to close the Counseling Psychology Clinic was based on the lack of available funds to fill the faculty positions.
The clinic has served as the primary training site for the counseling psychology program, and without the counseling psychology program admitting new student counselors and staff, the clinic cannot operate. While myself and our doctoral students are deeply saddened by these decisions and have advocated for alternative options, at this time the decisions for closure have been formalized by the administration.
The real impact of these closures, however, is that hundreds of OU students every year will have less access to mental health services, even with the additional Goddard staff. And any additional Goddard staff will have no impact on the general public in the central Oklahoma community at large, who are also losing an important mental health service.
The university, state and prospective graduate students at OU are losing a high-quality, nationally recognized professional psychology training program. Everyone who has cared deeply about the counseling psychology program and clinic has advocated as they knew how to see them saved. We failed. For that, I am deeply sorry.
There are many of us who refuse to give up hope that somehow these programs might be revived. But come what may, I would like to encourage everyone to continue to advocate for greater access to quality mental health services for our campus, community and state, as myself and our doctoral students are committed to doing so. It has been an honor and a privilege for us to have helped serve OU and the central Oklahoma community for the past 52 years.
Terry Pace is a licensed psychologist, professor emeritus and director of the OU Counseling Psychology Clinic.
The Daily welcomes letters to the editor and guest columns from the OU community. To submit a letter or column, email email@example.com.