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Future therapists and pharmacists gain real‑life experience at Cougar Health Services

Two students have a conversation at a table.
Doctoral interns like Dominic Schmuck, shown meeting with a student last year, bring a variety of life experiences and identities to Cougar Health Services. Photo by Sarah Page, Division of Student Affairs.

Recent Washington State University graduate Dakota Mauzay is feeling relaxed and confident heading into his new job at the Counseling and Testing Center at the University of Idaho.

Mauzay completed a doctoral internship in June at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) in WSU’s Cougar Health Services and believes that training prepared him well for his new position as associate professor. The internship concluded a multi-year training regimen at CAPS, where he started as a practicum student.

“I am very proud about the way I’ve been trained by CAPS and the clinical psychology program,” he said. “You receive training for a broad range of situations, while at the same time, the program allows you to find niches or areas of special interest.”

Cougar Health Services provides critical training for future therapists like Mauzay, who served as a doctoral intern during his final year of school. The CHS pharmacy also provides valuable training for beginning and advanced students in WSU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPPS).

These experiences are beneficial to both the interns and WSU undergraduate students: the interns have opportunities to practice what they learn in their classes, and the undergrads get the benefit of therapists who understand their struggles, since the interns were recently undergrads themselves.

Training is a passion

CAPS will welcome five first-year practicum students this fall. Each student will spend six hours a week conducting individual therapy sessions with students, assisting with initial consultations, leading workshops, and participating in community outreach.

“Our primary mission is clinical service delivery, with training being a very clear second,” said assistant director Jane Barga, who leads the department’s training. “This is a way we can contribute to the profession and have a key role in the development of students, which is a lot of fun.”

For most students, the practicum is their first opportunity to provide therapy to real clients, and the CAPS staff is passionate about helping them learn and grow.

“When you see actors portray therapists in movies, they make it seem so easy, like all you have to do is talk to and listen to people,” Mauzay said. “It is actually very anxiety-provoking at first because you feel a lot of pressure to perform well and solve all of your patient’s problems.”

For everything the practicum students do, professional staff are there to observe, provide feedback, and offer encouragement.

“It is amazing and rewarding to see the growth of the students between their first week of the practicum to the end of the semester,” said Kayla Zeal, CAPS psychologist and practicum coordinator.

Interns bring diversity

In addition to practicum students, CAPS is accredited by the American Psychological Association to train doctoral interns. Every year, students from around the country apply for one of CAPS’ four intern positions. A new cohort began working in July.

The doctoral interns work full-time for a year and provide therapy, help with initial consultations, meet with students in crisis, co-facilitate group sessions, and conduct community outreach. They also assess students for ADHD and learning disabilities.

“We especially appreciate the diversity the interns bring to our department in terms of their varied life experiences and identities, their ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, as well as their different clinical experiences,” Barga said. “WSU students absolutely benefit from that.”

A robust experience

The CHS Pharmacy will host three Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience interns this fall, each of whom will do a six-week rotation in the clinic.

Anjie Bertramson, director of the Office of Experiential Services at CPPS, said the rotations provide hands-on experiences that allow students to apply accumulated knowledge from coursework, learn from their preceptor mentors, be part of the teams caring for real-life patients, and get involved in day-to-day pharmacy operations.

“The experience provided by Cougar Health Services is very robust and allows students to gain a better understanding of the health needs of college students,” she said.

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