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Washington State University
CAS Connect February 2014

Psychology Clinic now helping children, more changes to come

For the first time in almost a decade, the Psychology Clinic at WSU is offering services for children and adolescents.

Three doctoral students along with their supervisors provide assessment and treatment to youth under age 18, filling a “strong need” in the community, said clinic director Brian Sharpless. The clinic, which is part of the Department of Psychology, continues to offer an array of adult services, as well.

Marsha Gartstein

The clinic can screen and test children for disabilities and behavioral or mental health problems. Psychologists provide treatment for issues such as attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, unmanageable behavior, and depression. They can also provide counseling to parents.

This is the first year since 2005 these services have been provided at WSU Pullman. Clinicians pushed to add children’s services after the University of Idaho Child and Youth Study Center in nearby Moscow reduced its assessment and treatment for children.

Of all youth who have clinical disabilities, only “a fraction” receive help, said primary supervisor Masha Gartstein, who has been researching and teaching at WSU since 2002. The field of child psychology in general has room to grow, as only about 20 percent of psychologists focus on children, leaving children’s psychological needs underserved nationwide.

An added benefit of the clinic’s new services is that doctoral students can receive training in the field without leaving campus.

The Psychology Clinic is a core part of the psychology department, providing training and research for student practitioners, Sharpless said. “Our graduates are ‘scientist-practitioners’—therapists and researchers who work to integrate both areas of their training.”

Sharpless, a new faculty member who became clinic director in August, aims to increase the facility’s research capacities while also providing state-of-the-art, best clinical practices. He envisions expanding the clinic’s range of services and research potential on par with the psychology clinic at Penn State University, one of only a very few such research clinics in the country and where he was previously on faculty.

Psych Clinic lobby“We already provide a number of therapies at the clinic that are hard to find outside of clinical research trials and even harder to find in rural communities like Pullman,” Sharpless said. For example, the clinic provides such well-researched treatments as prolonged exposure therapy for people with post-traumatic stress disorder, and transference-focused psychotherapy for people with borderline personality disorder.

“These types of therapies require us to pay close attention to changes in patients and to be clinically sensitive. We are set up to do that,” Sharpless said. “In the long run, we want to gain a more sophisticated understanding of what makes people get better through therapy and what makes therapists get better at their jobs.”

Changes in the clinic’s physical space on the third floor of Johnson Tower are also being planned.

When the clinic began offering child services in January, it became the only place in Pullman where people could bring their children for assessment and therapy at reduced fees based on income, Gartstein said. “It’s something we always wanted to do to fill the needs of the community.”

All Washington and Idaho residents can bring their children to the clinic. Families of veterans who live in Washington can use the clinic free of charge. All participation in clinic research is completely voluntary and not required for services.

The clinic is open 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Monday; 8:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Wednesday; and 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Friday. Learn more about the Psychology Clinic at WSU.