Training Adaptations as a Result of COVID-19

Spring 2020

Wake Forest University students were asked to leave campus following spring break in March 2020 due to the national outbreak of COVID-19 and the need to keep our campus community safe. In light of this, University Counseling Center staff, including interns, began working remotely from home, offering teletherapy for students located in North Carolina and other states that are allowing teletherapy practice across state lines during the pandemic. Our psychology interns were able to continue providing individual and group therapy, develop and deliver virtual outreach programs, and offer support groups and workshops to students who may not have been eligible for therapy based on their physical location. All of these activities counted toward direct client service hours; however, there was a reduction of direct service hours as a result of the pandemic. All regular supervision continued to take place in a virtual format and the UCC staff provided additional emotional and professional support for our interns during this scary, challenging, and uncertain time. I am happy to say that both of our interns completed the internship year as planned and have moved on to begin their postdoc positions.

2020-2021 Training Year

In July 2020 the UCC welcomed our current cohort of psychology interns. We adapted the vast majority of our orientation activities to a virtual format to ensure the safety of our staff and interns as had been recommended by the state of North Carolina. While students have returned to campus for the fall semester, the UCC will continue to provide services via teletherapy until at least May 2021. The Counseling Center is a vital resource for students on our campus, so we will have a physical presence during normal business hours for the fall semester with staff members rotating into the office in small teams to reduce exposure to germs. Similar to all UCC staff members, interns have been given the ability to choose how often they will be on campus, including the option not to rotate onto campus for personal, health, and family reasons. UCC staff and interns are considered essential employees in that we are expected to continue offering services to students remotely; however, we have adapted our services to address the demand for services this fall. We are offering assessment, referral, and short-term, solution-focused therapy for most students accessing our services. We are also offering a large number of therapy and skills groups via teletherapy, which our interns co-lead with senior staff members. Interns still have the ability to work with clients with more severe presentations, marginalized identities, and/or barriers to access off-campus therapeutic services for ongoing, longer-term therapy as well. We also continue to provide 24/7/365 support for students in crisis, conducting risk assessments over the phone or via video conferencing, developing safety plans, and referring to the local emergency rooms for further evaluation if needed.

We anticipate being able to return to our regular on-campus work and our previous model of service delivery in the summer of 2021 or whenever a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available. In the meantime, we have developed effective ways for our interns to continue receiving the clinical and administrative experience they need to be very competitive candidates for postdoctoral employment. Our hope is that our training program will return to normal, in-person operations prior to the arrival of our 2021-2022 cohort of interns.