Local university offers free counseling for community members during summer months

A Waukesha clinic is removing barriers to mental health care by offering free counseling through August.

For the second year in a row, Carroll University’s Community Counseling Center is offering free counseling to Wisconsinites during the summer months.

Shannon Skaistis, clinic director and associate professor in the university’s behavioral health psychology program, said the program was created to address the demand for mental health services.

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“This is also a way to provide services to people who need them but might not otherwise be served,” Skaistis said.

Of the more than 57,000 adults in Waukesha County living with a mental illness, 66 percent do not receive treatment, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Studies show that costs and long wait times hinder people from getting the help they need.

At the Waukesha clinic, clients do not need insurance or proof of residency to be seen. Skaistis suspects the “low barrier to entry” is helping.

“My feeling is that when there are fewer barriers, people are less reluctant to reach out,” he said.

Waukesha County Health and Human Services said in a statement that they are happy to support the university clinic as they see a “significant increase in the need for mental health services.”

“We have seen an increasing number of people across the lifespan seeking mental health support,” the statement said. “CCC’s (Community Counseling Center) commitment to providing free services ensures that mental health support is accessible to some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”

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Professors, along with master’s students in the behavioral health psychology program, staff the clinic. Instead of receiving compensation, students accumulate hours to complete their license.

This is the first time student Abigail Aden has provided direct therapy in sessions with clients. She said it’s a great experience in addition to the coursework.

“Doing this internship will allow me to have real-life experience with patients. And it’s giving me the opportunity to progress in my program,” Aden said.

He has been attending school in Waukesha for five years. She said she has seen the need for affordable counseling services and that the free clinic is a less intimidating way to ask for help.

“It just seems like a very inclusive and open environment for people who want to get free counseling services in our community,” Aden said.

The program ends on August 22. Skaistis said the goal is to help customers find free either low cost suppliers in the community to continue their treatment.

“When I talk to people in the community, they have just expressed to me that sometimes their capabilities are at their maximum. So having another resource is really helpful,” Skaistis said.

The hope is to eventually extend the program to run year-round.

The clinic It is designed for people over 14 years old. It does not offer family or couples therapy or court-ordered services. It is open two days a week and offers virtual and in-person appointments.

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