WMU News

Campus counseling center gets new director, expands efforts

November 5, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- A Western Michigan University center with a long history of community service has a new director and has launched an initiative to expand its impact on communities in Southwest Michigan.

Dr. Bruce P. Hackworth, a counseling psychologist with a long track record of service in Michigan community mental health work, has been appointed as the first full-time director of WMU's Center for Counseling and Psychological Services. The center, which was founded in 1964, has provided counseling for nearly 5,000 area residents over the years, while serving as a training site for graduate students preparing for counseling careers as well as a site for faculty and student research.

Hackworth's appointment to head the center, which is part of WMU's Department of Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology, is part of a drive to expand the center's focus and begin providing services through contracts with area social service agencies, insurance companies and local courts.

"We want to explore new avenues for providing service, expand our research efforts and continue to provide our students with clinical experience that reflects the reality of the workplaces they will soon enter," Hackworth says.

Dr. Joseph R. Morris, chairperson of the Department of Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology, says expanded contact with community agencies and service providers will enhance the overall level of training the department provides and the caliber of graduates available to work in area agencies.

"Stronger connections and collaboration with community agencies will mean those agencies will have better clinicians working for them in the future," Morris says. "We want to build a culture that will better facilitate research and broaden our students' experience. These are things we have to do to maintain the department's leadership in the mental health professions."

The center, Hackworth notes, provides an intermediate step between the classroom and a professional field experience for master's and doctoral students in the department. Students, working under the supervision of faculty members who are professional counselors and psychologists, provide counseling and other services such as vocational testing and psychological assessments. Since its inception, the center also has served as a center for research in the field.

The center has served clients ranging in age from 7 to 74. The majority of clients are female and depression is the most common problem treated. Other commonly treated mental health problems are anxiety disorders, adjustment disorders and relational problems. Clients are seen by counselors an average of six to seven times.

The center was directed from 1986 until 1997 by Dr. Robert L. Betz, professor of counselor education and counseling psychology. As the center's first formal director, he oversaw center operations on a half-time basis in addition to teaching. He has returned to full-time teaching and still is an active part of the center's teaching activities. For years, he notes, the clinic was the only place in the area offering mental health services to clients at no cost.

"Our mission was always to provide service to underserved members of the community while serving as a training site for our students and furthering the body of research in the field," says Betz.

While the mission remains intact, there will be changes to the way the center operates that will enhance and improve all three elements, says Morris. A minimal sliding scale fee-for-service plan for individual clients, similar to the payment method other campus service providers use, will likely be adopted to help the center become self-supporting. Other avenues of support, such as contract work with agencies, will also help put the center on a firmer footing while it provides service to the community.

Hackworth's major duty in his new role as director is to implement such plans and to expand the center's contacts with mental health providers in the area. He also is charged with a variety of other duties such as assuring the department meets and maintains accreditation standards, computerizing the center's client records and developing a doctoral level practica in assessment to give students more experience in using psychological test batteries when working with clients with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder or other diagnoses.

Hackworth comes to the University from St. Joseph, Mich., where he served as the chief executive officer of the Lighthouse Behavioral Health facility. Previously he worked at Benton Harbor's Riverwood Center as a programs manager in Outpatient and Prevention Services and in a number of other capacities. He also has experience as an employee assistance counselor for a Chicago firm and as a community mental health worker in Lansing. Since 1992, he also has been a field instructor for WMU's graduate social work program.

Hackworth earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and master's degrees in family studies and social work, all from Michigan State University. He earned a doctoral degree in counseling psychology from Andrews University.

For more information about the center and its services, persons may contact Hackworth at (616) 387-5119.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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