Closing of TCNJ’s counseling clinic leaves clients in limbo

EWING — The counseling clinic on the College of New Jersey’s campus has been a lifeline for many people.

A mother of three whose autistic son’s behavioral and emotional problems took a toll on her marriage and family life; a graduate student who struggles with depression and anxiety but can’t afford her co-pay. There are countless others.

Now, come mid-May, these people will have to find a new place to go.

The college is closing the TCNJ Clinic, leaving more than 100 clients in limbo and forcing some counseling students to look elsewhere for their practicums and internships.

Opened in November 2005, the clinic serves a dual purpose. It offers low-cost counseling and therapy to students, faculty and staff and the community at large, all the while providing clinical interns with hands-on experience in a supervised setting that staff say would be near impossible to find at an outside agency.

The TCNJ Clinic’s interns 

The decision to close was announced in November. Jeff Passe, the School of Education’s departing dean, recommended the move to Jacqueline Taylor, provost and vice president for academic affairs, who studied and accepted the recommendation, college spokesman Luke Sacks said.

The college says the small number of interns combined with high operating costs are the reasons for closing. The clinic costs about $180,000 a year to operate, Sacks said.

“The TCNJ Clinic was created so students in the marriage and family therapy program could accumulate relational counseling internship experience that could not be met by counseling college students,” Sacks said. “With only a small number of interns annually and the high cost of operating the clinic, the college determined that their needs could be met more effectively through off-campus settings.”

But students and clients are hoping TCNJ will reverse its decision, saying it’s a valuable resource for everyone involved.

Jennifer Peck-Nolte, a post-master’s student in the marriage and family therapy program, started a petition on Change.org that has garnered more than 1,200 signatures.

She says the decision was made without input from those affected.

“The request for counseling services on a college campus has been outpacing other areas of growth related to higher education,” the petition reads. “So, why, if the need is so great, is the administration shutting down a valued and highly utilized counseling clinic? The benefit to lives in the community seems to be overlooked ahead of saving a little on the budget.”

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The clinic has had more than 1,300 cases since its inception and averages about 67 visits each week.

Its current clientele includes 58 community members and 50 students, 17 of whom are in the college’s Career and Community Studies certificate program for intellectually disabled students.

Though TCNJ’s free Counseling and Psychological Services is open to all enrolled students, it can only provide brief…

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