Over the past three years, Naropa University students and staff have been building a program to make therapy available to all who need it.

The Buddhist-inspired university's Community Counseling Center has more than tripled its client base since its inception in 2015.

Three licensed supervisors staff the center at 3400 Table Mesa Drive and oversee 15 interns who treat low- and moderate-income clients. The interns are third-year students in the Graduate School of Counseling and Psychology.

Several months after the center's inception, it served 45 individual clients. Now, it serves 136, and its leaders are planning for more growth.

"One main purpose is to serve poor and moderate-income people in the community, because even for people with moderate income, therapy is really expensive," said Joy Redstone, the center's director. "If you are attending every week and you are spending $100 or $150 per session, which is pretty standard in Boulder, that's a big impact on people's budgets."

About a year ago, the center was approved to be a Medicaid provider, which expanded its access in the community.

"That also opened the floodgates," Redstone said. "Although our sliding scale is $30 a session, that was still out of reach for a lot of people in Boulder."


Advertisement

Now, Redstone said she'd like to expand access further. She's planning to bring the center to capacity and hire fee-for-service clinicians — such as recent Naropa graduates who've already interned at the center — to treat more Medicaid clients and help to fill "the enormous need" for affordable mental health care in Boulder.

Joy Redstone, left, meets with counselor, Julia Messing at the Naropa Counseling Center.
Joy Redstone, left, meets with counselor, Julia Messing at the Naropa Counseling Center. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

Naropa students spend their first two years in the program taking classes and doing practicum work. In their third year, they're interviewed and placed in community counseling internships. The Naropa Community Counseling Center is fully staffed by Naropa interns, but they supplement the work of many other counseling centers in the area, Redstone said.

The cohort of interns at Naropa Community Counseling Center began in May and will continue through next May, when they'll graduate. They undergo heavy supervision and training throughout the year, and Redstone said she strives to strike the balance between Naropa's compassionate care and the use of scales and other measurement tools.

For example, sessions with clients who agree to it are videotaped so supervisors and interns can watch sessions and provide feedback after the fact. Clients are also presented with rating scales they can use to provide feedback to the interns throughout the year to better shape their care.

"That's a way to help therapists who are so well trained in the compassion and listening, and bring some structure to assessment that's grounded in the best practice knowledge of a field that has been around for a long time," Redstone said. "My goal in this clinic is to marry the things in a way that honors both sides of it."

Intern Laurine YoungJackson chose to attend Naropa after seven years teaching at schools in Georgia and Florida. She's studying mindfulness-based transpersonal counseling, which gives her an avenue to treat the whole person, mind, body and spirit, she said.

Another distinguishing factor of Naropa's program, she said, is that students examine what in their own lives needs healing.

"You do your own, personal work. It's absolutely a parallel process," Young Jackson said. "If I have walked the walk, then I have more empathy for the clients and I understand it."

Cassa Niedringhaus: twitter.com/cassaMN