Tacoma is a Western Washington community of about 200,000 and is located on the water. The Puget (PYOU-jet) Sound flows from the capitol city of Olympia to the very northern tip of Washington State. A few hours northwest from campus are Forks, the Hoh Rain Forest, and the Olympic Mountains. Closer to home is the fun of Seattle, roughly 45 minutes to our north. Cosmopolitan, progressive, and simply beautiful, Seattle is an easy jaunt from a home base in Tacoma.
Tacoma itself is a port town with working roots. Several turn-of-the-century, exposed brick buildings downtown have been transformed from old factories, train stations, and mills into museums, independent movie houses, microbreweries, and the award-winning campus of the University of Washington Tacoma. Due to the speed of this development, there’s been some media attention given to Tacoma’s renaissance. Tacomans have witnessed the addition of everything from a convention center to a glass museum, from light rail to wine bars and bridge building to doggie daycare. What an intern would probably experience for the length of a training year is simply a nice place to live in a beautiful setting.
The city’s population is diverse, with strong Korean American, African American, and Latinx communities to the south and east of campus. Point Defiance Park is a particular source of pride for its old-growth forest, zoo & aquarium, craggy beaches, and scenic five-mile loop through the park.
The University of Puget Sound campus is in Tacoma’s North End neighborhood, a warm residential community that is easy to navigate and, happily, relatively easy to afford. Life in the North End and nearby 6th Ave, Proctor District, Downtown, and Stadium District is eclectic. Minor league baseball, gourmet groceries 24/7, live jazz and folk music, great Thai restaurants, independent films, and the Almond Roca Factory are all in our midst.
Our Campus—The University of Puget Sound
The University of Puget Sound is a national, residential liberal arts college. The undergraduate enrollment of roughly 2,600 students, with a two year live requirement. Though established in 1888 by the United Methodist Church, Puget Sound is governed by an independent Board of Trustees.
Puget Sound students come from most of the 50 states, with approximately 74% of the student body from outside Washington State. Our campus has approximately 29% of students who represent racially and ethnically diverse populations (this number is an estimate as some students identify with more than one ethnicity). Students who identify as Asian-American or Pacific Islanders comprise the largest group on campus, with a strong Hawaiian community. About 90% of our students are receiving some form of financial aid.
Traditionally-aged undergraduates make up the majority of our student population. Select graduate programs complement our liberal arts identity. Approximately 150 grad students are enrolled in Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Educational Administration, Counselor Education, Masters in Teaching, and Masters in Public Health. Graduate students are eligible for counseling services and provide the opportunity to work with clients who are older adults.
The availability of diverse campus groups encourages students to interact based upon some common interest in ethnicity, faith, or sexual orientation. We have 15 student-led cultural heritage and social issue organizations, such as APIC Asian/Pacific Islander Collective, BSU (Black Student Union), Latinxs Unidxs, Hui o’ Hawaii, Hillel (Jewish Student Union), Prism (Queer Student Alliance), and Interfaith Council (IC) to name a few. Of course, there are many student organizations beyond these, and Psychology Interns with a special interest in college student leadership skills may wish to consider affiliating with one of these groups as one of their “discretionary” (non-clinical) training activities.
Our Division—Student Affairs
The Division of Student Affairs (DSA) supports the educational mission of the university, encouraging the development of students as citizen leaders in a global society. We are educational partners with faculty, staff, and students, providing a seamless web of services while role modeling integrity, collaboration, respect for human diversity, fairness, and social responsibility.
As a collective, DSA supports the university’s academic mission by providing services and creating educational opportunities designed to enhance students' ability to develop their full potential.
Vital to reach that potential in this emotionally and academically challenging environment is a student’s physical and mental health, of course. Survey data from our clients affirm that they find treatment not only reduces their symptoms but enables them to cope better on their own in other areas of their lives.
Part of our role is to provide students the experience of managing their own health care needs for the first time. This education may include their learning to make and keep appointments, follow a behavioral or medical recommendation, refill their prescriptions on time, provide the fullest information they feel comfortable with, and come for help before a crisis erupts. Trainees contribute directly to the DSA mission, of course, bringing their talent, background, and tremendous clinical service to Puget Sound students.
Our Department—Counseling, Health, & Wellness Services
CHWS contributes to the Division’s goals by offering primary health care, individual, relationship, group psychotherapy, outreach programs, consulting, crisis intervention, wellness education, and leadership development opportunities.
CHWS Mission Statement
Counseling, Health, & Wellness Services (CHWS) helps the University of Puget Sound students achieve their intellectual, social, and emotional potential by offering professional psychological, and primary health care. CHWS is committed to creating an inclusive environment in which we acknowledge individual differences and affirm healthcare to our diverse student body. CHWS services are integrated, individualized, and aspire to the highest standards.
CHWS prioritizes student development by emphasizing health promotion strategies, providing acute care, and the treatment of existing conditions that can interfere with student learning. CHWS supports the Puget Sound mission to “…assist in the unfolding of creative and useful lives.” In so doing, we help students develop skills that foster lifelong health: the knowledge and confidence to be one’s own health care advocate and the ability to function effectively as a self-aware individual and community member.
Our staff is multidisciplinary. Health Staff (Physician Assistants, Registered Nurse, Medical Assistant, Consulting Physician, Consulting Psychiatrist, Registered Dietitian) and Psychology Staff (4 Licensed Psychologists, 3 Doctoral Interns, and 2 Practicum Counselors) work in tandem. Rounding out our team is a Medical Receptionist, Bookkeeper/Technologist, and a crew of 8 student employees. This merging of mental and physical health offerings enables interns to collaborate on treatment planning and outreach with medical practitioners for a more holistic college health perspective.
CHWS staff are regarded as powerful allies to the LGBTQIA+ students on campus; members of the Psychology Staff have developed and advised student groups related to gender, sexuality, and assault prevention. CHWS frequently receives requests for a sexual education program fondly referred to as "Banana Over Sex." This is a fun multidisciplinary outreach opportunity for interns typically co-presented by members of the counseling staff and medical staff.
The Psychology Staff as a group sees about 20% of the student body each year. A Psychology Intern could see anywhere from 30-70 different therapy clients during the training year, depending upon how they manage the number of sessions they offer each client and how many brief or crisis contacts they happen upon as they cover the clinic’s Recommendation Referral hours. This will naturally vary by the theoretical orientation and developmental needs of each intern and the severity of the clinical presentations they have on their caseload. CHWS has no session limit, but we typically see clients every 2 weeks; thus, long-term weekly counseling is not what we offer our students. We are “well-utilized” (very busy) during most of the academic year, so we do remain attuned to when we might reasonably terminate therapy with each client. Still, we do not have an arbitrary upper limit. Psychology Interns will find that they do have a few clients they treat through most of the year and need to be adept at quickly establishing rapport and assessing needs at intake, as they will have just a few contacts with some clients.
About 60% of Puget Sound students are female and 40% male, common in liberal arts settings. Students of color present at CHWS in proportion to their numbers on campus. We are reaching out to minoritized students with more intention. This includes outreach events, tabling, and offering an intercultural support group.
Clients are most often being treated for moderate levels of distress and psychopathology. In our opinion, this is an exceptional opportunity for trainees to deepen clinical effectiveness, as clients are neither too compromised to engage in “talk therapy” nor too high-functioning to change as a result of it. Because both clinical and developmental issues are most often at play with our clients, an intern’s ability to perceive relational and developmental issues is quite important.
The most frequent issues students present with are depressive disorders (major depression, pervasive depressive disorder), anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety, social phobia, panic disorder), trauma and stress-related disorders (PTSD, adjustment disorders), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders, substance use disorders, bipolar disorders, and developmental concerns such as bereavement, sexual trauma recovery, cultural/religious/sexual identity problems or relational problems. We work with students on characterological issues that may be holding them back, but it’s relatively rare for the primary diagnosis here to be a personality disorder.
As is true for most university counseling centers, presentations range in severity from “access to a new insight or behavior” to a suicide attempt or psychotic episode. The client needs a range in chronicity from response to a recent loss to coping with long-standing mental health concerns. It makes sense then that the number of sessions ranges from a single consultation to extended treatment with some case management.
Enrolled Puget Sound students are eligible for services. In some cases, we assess that a student’s treatment needs could be best served in the community, and we refer them on. We do not provide clinical services to faculty or staff. Still, we frequently work with these constituents, providing consultation and crisis response to assist them in their interactions with distressed students.