Portland State University College of Education is pleased to announce that Sarah Williams is the new Director of the PSU Community Counseling Clinic which serves students, as well as the greater Portland community. She will continue to teach in the counselor training department, as she has done for the past five years, and will also supervise third-year interns and clinic staff.
“The Counselor Education Department has been incredibly fortunate to have Sarah as a colleague over the past few years, and we are delighted that she is now a full-time member of our department,” said Dr. Rana Yaghmaian, Chair of the Counselor Education Department. counselor training department. “The Community Counseling Clinic is central to our department’s training model and our ability to contribute to the university’s mission of letting knowledge serve. As we continue to provide low-barrier mental health services to the Portland metro community and unique educational opportunities for our students, I am confident the clinic will thrive under Sarah’s leadership.
Williams is an experienced clinical supervisor and counselor specializing in dialectical behavior therapy. She first served in PSU’s counselor education department as an adjunct faculty member in 2017, teaching undergraduate and graduate students. While teaching at PSU, she also previously served as the Director of the Multicultural Training Institute at Lutheran Community Services, Northwest. She brings years of hands-on experience in teaching, counseling, program development and sustainability to her new role as Clinic Director.
“I love teaching and I’m a teacher at heart,” says Williams, who studied elementary education before earning her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Argosy University in Egan, Minnesota.
It was in Minneapolis that she began her career as a counselor at The Bridge for Youth, working with youth in crisis, exploited and homeless. After eight months as a 24/7 on-call counselor, she was hired by the organization as a family counselor to earn her licensure hours and later became a clinical supervisor. She continued to do community and clinical work in Duluth before the big move to the West Coast with her husband and two young children.
Portland called them. It’s the city they chose to call home in order to be near both sides of their family, scattered from Washington to California. And that’s where she founded her private practice, which she maintains.
“My students appreciate that I bring a connection to real-world experience,” says Williams. “I also bring an understanding of the counseling profession. Historically, we have had a very high opinion of our positions as experts, but we must be humble in the work that we do. Our clients are the experts in their stories and should be treated with respect and humility.
She looks forward to expanding the clinic’s outreach efforts, as well as group therapy offerings, serving at least 120 clients. All ages, individuals and couples are served by the clinic, and it is not limited to students or those attached to PSU. Its sustainability plan won’t sacrifice affordability. Currently, the clinic charges a $15 fee with a sliding scale for those who need it.
“The goal of the clinic is to provide people with access to counseling with as few barriers as possible,” says Williams, who intends to emphasize continuity of care.
In addition to the focus on sustainability, Williams will bring expertise in program development, such as culturally appropriate peer support training. She is also ready to strengthen on-campus partnerships with the Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) and the School of Social Work.
“We want to make sure everyone knows about us,” she says, “and continue to grow the clinic.”
Advice has been offered online via telehealth during the COVID pandemic, but will return to in-person sessions in the fall while also maintaining telehealth offerings. PSU Counselor Education Department courses will also resume in-person instruction for the 2022-23 academic year.