PSU grad students counsel people in crisis

Three PSU graduate students are counseling interns at the William Temple House this spring. The women help provide free counseling services to people in crisis, and are getting real-world experience dealing with clients.

Graduate internships are the first opportunity for counseling and social work students to act as counselors in a clinical environment. The students are working under the supervision of professionals at the William Temple House while meeting with clients and performing all the duties related to carrying a professional caseload.

The William Temple House, located at NW 20th and Hoyt Street in downtown Portland, was established in 1965 by the Episcopal Mission Society. It offers professional, individual and family counseling at no charge, as well as emergency material and financial assistance to people in crisis.

Counseling services at the center are supported entirely through grants and private donations. PSU students interning as counselors come from a variety of backgrounds and function in every way as professional family counselors, according to Philip Moore, director of public relations for the William Temple House.

Intern Candise Nokes is completing her master’s degree in social work and has worked as a drug and alcohol counselor. She says the internship is broadening her horizons. “I’m working with couples and families, and dealing with a broader range of issues, rather than just relapse prevention. What I didn’t expect was the quantity of dual-diagnosis clients [with psychological and substance abuse problems]. Yet there are more and more people with psychological problems who resort to alcohol and drugs to make them feel better.” As a result, Nokes said, she has to look at the addiction and underlying psychological problem.

Colleen Hammer is completing a master’s degree in social work and has also worked as a counselor in the Portland area. The work she is doing at William Temple House is similar to experiences she has had before, but more clinical and intensive.

“It was my assumption that because counseling services at William Temple House are free, there would be more emphasis on basic issues. That isn’t the case,” Hammer said.

“There’s a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, making the clients an interesting mix.”

Cathy Walker is a former civil engineer working on a master’s degree in psychology while interning at William Temple House. Walker is experiencing the greatest difference between her previous career and counseling.

“I’m more of a people person and being a counselor means working with people a lot more than in engineering,” Walker said. “However, both engineering and counseling require analytical ability, and that remains the same.”

Moore emphasizes that the William Temple House deals more with “adjustment” cases. “We don’t handle chronically mentally ill patients, like schizophrenics,” he said.

“We deal more with obsessive/compulsive disorders, or suicidal people, or anger management. We also handle family issues, like disassociation, where kids aren’t relating to their parents.”

Internships at William Temple House last approximately one year and are based on a certain number of hours required by PSU. The center gets new interns nearly every term but is limited to 15 interns at any one time. Interns from PSU have helped counsel needy people at the center for over 30 years, and participants often continue on as professional counselors at the William Temple House. “The vast majority of our counselors are former interns,” Moore said.

The William Temple House is unique in the Portland area because it receives no federal funding. “Federal funds are often targeted at a specific person or situation. It offers very little flexibility,” Moore said. “Since we don’t get any federal funds, we’re not limited about who we treat.”

According to their Web site, the William Temple House is dedicated to protecting self-respect and preserving the self-sufficiency of people in need, without regard to race, gender, age, marital status or religious affiliation. For more information on social services, check out their Web site at or contact them at (503) 226-3021.