UTRGV Counseling and Training Clinics are open to the community at no cost

UTRGV graduate student Erika Perez, at left, and Director of Counseling and Training Clinics Celinda Quintanilla, shown here at the clinic on the Edinburg Campus, are part of the university’s community collaboration efforts. The two clinics – the other is on the Brownsville Campus – provide mental healthcare at no cost for area residents and allow graduate students like Perez to hone their skills while on the path to licensing. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)

By Cheryl Taylor

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – SEPT. 21, 2016 – UTRGV’s Counseling and Training Clinics, as part of the university’s commitment to the community, help residents receive mental healthcare at no cost and allow graduate students to hone their skills while on the path to licensing.

Pharr native Erika Perez, one such graduate student, has been working toward licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors for the past two years.

“The clinics really are a treasure for the community,” she said. “Clients of all ages come to the clinics for all sorts of mental health reasons. It might be counseling for depression, anxiety, grief, marital issues, anger management or behavioral problems, to mention a few.”

UTRGV’s community counseling clinics – one on the Edinburg Campus and one on the Brownsville Campus – are open to the public at no charge.

Celinda Quintanilla, director of both Counseling and Training Clinics, said clients learn about UTRGV’s clinic services through a variety of channels, including doctors’ offices, school nurses and counselors, community agencies, health fairs and Tropical Texas Behavioral Health.

“Also, people know about us through social media and old-fashioned word of mouth,” Quintanilla said. “Our clients are split about half and half, between children/adolescents and adults. They can be as young as 6, and our eldest client to date has been 78 years old. We find we work with most clients on average about 12 sessions.”

From Sept. 1, 2015, through Aug. 31, 2016, the two UTRGV clinics saw more than 500 clients, providing almost 3,500 sessions.

As a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor, Quintanilla, along with two others, oversees the LPC-Interns, such as Perez, throughout the process of accumulating practicum hours with clients at the clinics.

“When we interns are with a client, we are watched by one of the supervisors on video, in real time,” Perez said. “Then we come right out of a session and receive immediate feedback.”

Achieving the LPC begins after having earned a bachelor’s degree – Perez’s was in psychology – and then a master’s degree from an accredited program in the Counseling LPC Track. After passing the National Counselor Exam (NCE), a prospective LPC becomes an LPC-Intern, during which time the intern must fulfill 3,000 hours of requirements.

Aside from practicum hours with direct client counseling at a clinic such as UTRGV’s community clinics, interns must fulfill a range of other required indirect hours, including session preparation, attending workshops and other professional development programs.

When she was a graduate assistant, Perez worked on research projects with several faculty members in the Department of Educational Psychology, and during this time she began to explore career possibilities other than becoming a guidance counselor with a public school system.

“In particular, I credit Dr. Stephanie Brickman (UTRGV professor of Human Development and School Services) for guiding me in the direction of pursuing my LPC,” Perez said. “I decided to take the extra time, and I know it was the right decision for me. I feel certain I will be able to make a substantial, positive impact in people’s lives and potentially impact generations.”

Perez’s employment options are now more varied; possibilities include being a mental health counselor in a hospital, with a county health clinic, in a contract capacity with a school system or in private practice.

The UTRGV clinics are open during the week, in the afternoons and evenings. Perez sees clients in the evenings, allowing her to work full time during the day. Since the opening of UTRGV in fall 2015, she has been a full-time instructor of UNIV 1301: Learning Framework, the course required of most first-year students.

“I love teaching UNIV Learning Framework,” she said. “I am passionate about working with young adults. I feel I connect with the students during this transition to independence, and this class helps guide them to embrace that independence in a positive way. They are learning to become accountable and take ownership of their ideas as they identify their roles in the community.”

Perez said her goal is to establish her own private practice in the Rio Grande Valley.

“I am bilingual, and I have many hours of experience providing counseling sessions in Spanish. There is a high need for mental healthcare in the RGV, and I feel it’s a perfect fit for me to serve here.”

For more information on the UTRGV Community Counseling and Training Clinic, contact:   


UTRGV Senior Writer / 956-882-8787

UTRGV Director of News and Internal Communications / 956-665-2742