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CWU School Psychology Graduate Students Helping Local Kids with New Counseling Service

School psychology professor Olivia Holter meets with three students

Assistant Professor Olivia Holter, right, meets with School Psychology graduate students Courtney Deveny, left, Mason Berndt, and Kali Davis in the CWU Psychology Building.


A new student counseling service through the Central Washington University Psychology department has been providing much-needed support for nine Kittitas County youths this spring, supplying free mental health services that weren’t otherwise available to them.

Under the supervision of Assistant Professor Olivia Holter, CWU School Psychology graduate students have been able to offer solutions-based counseling to kids ages 8-17 based on their individual needs. Each child has participated in six to eight sessions over the past two months, and Holter says the program has produced valuable results, for both the clients and graduate students.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work we are doing because we are making a difference in the lives of kids in our community,” she said. “The pandemic has had a large impact on the social and mental well-being of kids, and this service has the potential to help a community that historically doesn’t have enough providers.”

Assistant Professor Olivia Holter, right, meets with CWU School Psychology graduate student Kali Davis.Holter explained that Kittitas County was experiencing a shortage of mental health counselors even before the pandemic hit in 2020. She noted that the lack of service providers is a statewide problem, but the shortage is four times greater here than in other counties.

“There’s a really severe shortage right now, and what that means is providers have stopped creating wait lists,” Holter said. “It’s hard to get in anywhere, and as a result, resources are extremely limited for children in our area. That’s why it’s exciting for CWU to be able to offer these free services to nine kids in the community who really need support.”

Each of the sessions is recorded and supervised by Holter, who is a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist. The class meets every Monday to discuss the individual cases and provide feedback to one another about their counseling methods. 

The goal for the feedback sessions, Holter explained, is to develop “competence” that aligns with the National Association of School Psychologists standards. By demonstrating competence, students then move on to internships, where they can deliver mental health services under further supervision.

“Learning to become a school psychologist is all about taking steps, and all of them are supervised,” she said. “But this program is also about mentoring and helping students prepare for their careers. They have all been doing a really great job this spring, and I’m excited to see at the end of this process how this experience has shaped their learning.”

After the student counseling program’s successful introduction this spring, Holter and her colleagues hope to continue offering the same services next year. School Psychology program coordinator Heath Marrs says the short- and long-term benefits can’t be overlooked.

“There just aren’t that many school psychologists right now,” he said, “and as we come out of the pandemic, we are trying to find new opportunities for our program to meet the growing mental health needs in our community and around the state. We try to offer a lot of variety that prepares our students for what they will be doing in their professions.” 

Media Contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs, David.Leder@cwu.edu, 509-963-1518