Bridging the Gap: Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Underrepresented Collegiate Students at Psychology Training Clinics

Nickolas D. Frost, Stephanie R. Graham, Alyssa M.Ramírez Stege, Tiffany Jones, Tyson Pankey, Elizabeth M. Martinez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Mental health treatment utilization on college campuses remains disproportionately low among under-represented (UR) students (i.e., racial/ethnic minorities, first-generation college students, and students from low-income families). Additionally, UR students report that factors including stigma, long wait times, and costs are barriers to accessing treatment. Given these trends, new methods to bolster the utilization of counseling services among UR college students are needed. Concurrently, there is a call for psychology training programs to increase their efforts in preparing health service psychologists to work with culturally diverse populations including UR students. Psychology training clinics may be an additional resource on campuses that can be useful in meeting both of these needs. We present a program evaluation of 4-year partnership between a counseling psychology department training clinic and an academic division serving UR students at a large Midwestern university. Two quantitative metrics, including service utilization hours by UR students (2,020) and direct service hours accrued by clinical trainees (1,266), highlight the benefits of the partnership. A social justice framework and implications for training programs interested in developing similar partnerships are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-144
Number of pages7
JournalTraining and Education in Professional Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Community support specialists. The community support specialists (CSSs) were advanced counseling psychology doctoral students (usually in program year 3–5) who themselves identified as ethnic minorities, and expressed interest in working with diverse groups. Only ethnic minorities were considered for CSS because we sought to create a funded training opportunity for minority trainees within the counseling department. Equally important, the ethnic identity of the CSS was hypothesized by our division partner to play a critical role in CSS integration into the student community and creating credibility of services. CSSs applied through a formal application and interview process, similar to a practicum application process. The CSSs were appointed as 12-month program assistants funded by the division overseeing the scholarship programs and were supervised by the department clinic director and clinic staff (e.g., other faculty supervisors). CSSs met the individual mental health needs of students within the division as a) therapists at the training clinic, b) visible members of the student community (i.e., graduate students of color, liaisons to the academic division), and c) a resource to division staff and other frontline student support staff. The CSSs consulted with division program staff to advocate and provide psychoeducation related to students’ mental health needs, conducted outreach events to decrease anonymity of CSSs, and developed presentations for division students on different mental health-related topics.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020. American Psychological Association.


  • college mental health
  • psychology training clinics
  • social justice training
  • underrepresented students


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