One of the many programs in the College of Education at the University of New Mexico is the Manzanita Counseling Center. For 25 years, the Manzanita Counseling Center (MCC) has served as a counselor training facility affiliated with the Counselor Education Program for students at UNM.

The Counselor Education Program prepares students to address the counseling and human development needs of a pluralistic society. Located in Manzanita Hall, the clinic offers free and confidential counseling to individuals, couples and families. Manzanita specializes in areas such as: life transitions, adjusting to change, managing relationship concerns, stress management, family conflict, anxiety and depression, grief and loss, as well as Veterans-related mental health issues. .

“As a hidden gem, the Manzanita Counseling Center offers services not only for students with access to the campus, but also to community members across the Albuquerque metro,” said Clinical Director Doctor Rhonda Neswald-Potter. “We are able to address a range of concerns that the community experiences. If it’s outpatient mental health counseling and if it can be managed in an outpatient clinic, we’re able to take those clients here. There are very few times we turn people away, with the exception of 24-hour emergency mental health issues and counseling services requiring documentation for court-related purposes.”

“This clinic is a wonderful resource for the Albuquerque community, helping people work through the daily challenges of life.” – Jay Parkes, IFCE chair and professor

The Counselor Education Program, which is housed and funded in the Department of Individual, Family and Community Education (IFCE), features an integration of theory, research, practice, and interdisciplinary collaboration. It is intended to prepare counselors who are informed, sensitive to the diversity and uniqueness of individuals, families, and communities, and who will value and promote the dignity, potential and well-being of all people.

“This clinic is a wonderful resource for the Albuquerque community, helping people work through the daily challenges of life,” said Jay Parkes, professor and chair, IFCE.

The UNM Counseling program recruits and retains students who reflect the broad range of diversity found in New Mexico. The program prepares professional counselors and counselor educators to respond to a world with challenging and pressing social problems through social advocacy and culturally-affirmative mental health care. Students graduate with knowledge and skills in core competency areas that include: professional identity, social and cultural foundations, human growth and development, career development, helping relationships, group work, assessment, and research and program evaluation.

Every counseling session at the Manzanita Counseling Center is monitored closely.

From the beginning of the graduate course of study, classroom education is combined with on-site training. These experiences provide the opportunity for students to work in and with various educational and community settings.  n addition to individual, couples and family counseling services, students completing their practicum at the Manzanita Counseling Center engage in diverse counseling experiences such as play therapy, sand tray work and expressive arts counseling interventions.

“We have a great reputation in the community,” said Aaron Smith, doctoral candidate in Counselor Education & Supervision. “I think a big part of that is the fact that we’ve had a lot of students from this program become effective counselors who then go out into the community and do a great job.”

Counseling is provided by advanced graduate students under the supervision of UNM faculty and Doctoral students who are licensed counselors. As part of consent for counseling services, clients sign an agreement to have their counseling sessions at Manzanita videotaped; however, they are professionally destroyed at the end of each semester. Sessions last 53 minutes and are videotaped for training purposes only, with the camera, focused on the student-counselors

Approximately 15 student counselors see clients during an average semester, while another half dozen graduate assistants help with the operation of the clinic including clinical supervision. Sessions are scheduled Mondays (12 to 7 p.m.), and Tuesdays and Wednesdays (9 a.m. to 7 p.m.).  When needed, the clinic opens for additional hours on Thursday mornings. From time to time, doctoral counseling students, both fully licensed and credentialed as professional counselors, may also be available to provide services to clients free-of-charge.

All students participate in group sessions where they discuss cases, conceptualization and treatment planning.

“Students meet in the main conference room as a group for two hours a week in group supervision to work through and discuss cases, conceptualization and treatment planning,” Smith said. “A typical afternoon includes students sitting at stations observing sessions that are occurring, some students might be screening a client, while others may be completing their case notes.”

MCC has about 60 active weekly clients and provides more than 3,000 hours of free counseling to the community annually. “When mental health clinics in the Albuquerque metro area, or even outside of Albuquerque, have clients that can’t pay for whatever reason or no insurance or any other factors, they’ll refer them straight to our clinic,” Smith added.

“When a potential client wants to come for services they call and complete a brief screening,” said Neswald-Potter. “That screening is generally done by a graduate student or a doctoral supervisor who determines if the individual is appropriate for the clinic. If the level of severity is not appropriate for this clinic we then refer them to a different level of care.”

To schedule an appointment, call (505) 277-7311. Prospective clients will be asked to complete a brief telephone screening to determine if Manzanita offers the right level of needed care. Manzanita is open both fall and spring semesters.

For more information, visit Manzanita Counseling Center.