The Whitworth Marriage and Family Wellness Center opens Wednesday, Oct. 9, offering affordable marital counseling services to both Whitworth and the Spokane community at large. Douglas Jones, director of the Whitworth Marriage and Family Therapy Wellness Center and visiting assistant professor of education, said he will help oversee the work of graduate students in serving at the center.
“We’re excited,” Jones said. “I love doing the supervision work I do. It’s probably my favorite thing I do. Being able to watch our students grow as professionals, it just energizes me.”
The center will serve Whitworth students who are not able to use the counseling center, especially graduate students and continuing studies students, Jones said.
The center will be a place for graduate students in the Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy degree to gain experience in therapy and counseling, Jones said. The students will work as unpaid interns as a part of their graduate work, he said.
“The clinic is two-fold,” said Roberta Wilburn, associate dean of graduate studies in education. “Number one, we are providing essential training opportunities for our graduate students. Then, we are providing a valuable service to the community that is low cost, easily accessible.”
The center has been in the works for five to six years, Wilburn said, and emphasizes the affordability of the services provided.
Graduate students are not charged a fee other than instruments administered to them while outside clients are charged a $25 fee. Undergraduate students are not allowed to use the center without permission from the counseling or health services on campus unless they are seeking premarital or relationship services.
Other local Spokane therapy centers can charge $200-$300 per session, Jones said.
“I am continually impressed by what Whitworth offers to the community,” Media Relations Manager Lucas Beechinor said. “There is such a strong focus on preparing our students for work outside the classroom, and engaging in the community in really meaningful ways.”
The center opens in the midst of the Spokane City government’s struggle to fund counseling programs, Wilburn said.
Spokane has experienced government funding cutbacks for counseling in the past few years, according to the Washington Policy Center. One area of cuts has included the layoffs of school counselors and therapists. Fifty-five counselors, six psychologists, seven occupational therapists and five specialty educators were terminated from Spokane public schools in May 2011, according to the Washington Policy Center.
“Sometimes counseling is considered an extra service, whereas actually, it should be an essential service,” Wilburn said. “If you can get people functioning effectively, and dealing with their issues and problems, then they are able to be productive citizens, they are being good employees, and those kinds of things.”
Whitworth students who are thinking about getting married or engaged can take advantage of the center’s premarital and pre-engagement counseling, Jones said.
“Premarital counseling is so important,” Jones said. “Couples that go through premarital counseling have a much lower rate of divorce than couples who don’t.”
From 2000-2009, marriage for couples ages 25-34 has dropped by 10 percentage points in the United States, according to the Population Reference Bureau.
“Marriage is obviously not something you just want to jump into, so figuring out what issues there are and what areas you need to grow in is really important,” Jones said.
Eighty-six percent of young adults in the U.S. believe that their marriage will last all of their lives, according to a study conducted by The Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults.
It is part of Whitworth’s mission to make sure students are prepared for this step, Jones said. Sometimes, this means addressing problems that aren’t always related to student life.
“Because we have a military presence in this town, we have a lot of family issues relating to deployments and redeployments home, and issues with Post Traumatic Stress,” Jones said.
The operators of the center hope to help families who are struggling with economic stress and anxiety, Wilburn said.
“We are trying to help couples stay together,” Wilburn said. “We are trying to help dysfunctional families become functional.”
Elizabeth Jacobs Staff Writer
Contact Elizabeth Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: A correction was made to this story regarding the usage and fees of the center for Whitworth graduate and undergraduate students. Graduate students are not charged a fee other than instruments administered to them while outside clients are charged a $25 fee. Undergraduate students are not allowed to use the center without permission from the counseling or health services on campus unless they are seeking premarital or relationship services.