A Community’s Wish Granted

The Irvine Counseling Center and PRYDE Program Receive Significant Grants to Support Orange County's Homeless and At-Risk Youth

Irvine Counseling CenterSince establishing the Urban Initiative, GSEP has placed numerous students in schools and nonprofit organizations in underserved areas through student teaching positions and practicum.

These experiences help students become acquainted with the cross-cultural issues and complexities of urban life, and to apply the lessons they have learned in the classroom to the field. Students are also guided to navigate community systems such as schools, courts, child welfare agencies, welfare departments, hospitals, and other health care agencies. But, most importantly, we teach our students to become empowered to work in unfamiliar territory, so that they in turn may empower the communities.

A great example of this model is our Community Counseling Center at the Irvine Graduate Campus. The center caters to individuals, couples, and families experiencing marital and relationship problems; child and adolescent behavioral, attention, and academic problems; singleparenting, blended or stepfamily issues; difficulty adjusting to chronic illness; grief; stress; postpartum distress; and aging concerns. The center offered low-fee services to approximately 250 clients just last year.

The Community Counseling Center is considered such an important community resource that it was just awarded an $18,000 grant from the HealthCare Foundation for Orange County to support the center’s partnership with Village of Hope, a transitional housing facility for nearly 200 homeless individuals. Village of Hope opened in March 2008 and operates as a part of the Orange County Rescue Mission. The funds will sponsor the Pepperdine University Mental Health Collaborative, enabling additional research, supervision of trainees, and further development of a relationship with Orange County Rescue Mission Health Care Services; the University of California, Irvine Department of Psychiatry; and Pepperdine University to better serve Orange County’s homeless.

“This gift is especially generous during our current economic climate,” said Dr. Duncan Wigg, director of the Community Counseling Center, author of the proposal, and chief champion for the funding and its allocation to the city’s growing homeless population. “We are grateful that the HealthCare Foundation is as committed to supporting our society’s most vulnerable as we are. The six master’s students and three alumni from the GSEP marriage and family therapy program working at Village of Hope have already provided more than 850 hours of counseling services over the last academic year, and we will continue to offer and expand our mental health resources to those in need for as long as the need remains.”

Dr. Duncan Wigg

John De Paola (MA ’97), manager of the mental wellness program for the Orange County Rescue Mission and collaborator on the development of the Pepperdine University Mental Health Collaborative, expressed equal enthusiasm for the opportunity to better aid the residents at Village of Hope and grow its partnership with the Community Counseling Center. “As an alumnus of the GSEP marriage and family therapy program, I enjoy working with the GSEP trainees—things have come full circle. GSEP has taught us the importance of giving back to the community, and that is why assisting the homeless—one of the most marginalized and disenfranchised populations—is so rewarding.”

The GSEP students providing therapy to clients at Village of Hope not only address problems such as domestic intimidation, substance abuse, depression, and anxiety, but they also delve into even more complex issues such as overcoming the effects of chronic poverty and homelessness as it affects an individual’s identity. In addition, students use a multidisciplinary approach to act as client advocates, immersing themselves in the social services and probation systems, assisting clients with regaining custody of their children, helping clients access community resources, coordinating with medical staff and case managers, and negotiating relationships with other residents.

PRYDE community

“Our students are trained to speak on behalf of the residents who would otherwise not have a voice,” Wigg stated. “Moreover, the services offered are consistent with the new legislation recently signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, which emphasizes the provision of mental health services to California’s underserved.” Senate Bill 33 increases the educational requirements of marriage and family therapy programs by 25 percent, mandating additional clinical training with residents living on the margins.

Wigg also noted that the Community Counseling Center is actively pursuing funding that would provide stipends to students and interns interested in this specialized training. “Hopefully, this modest incentive will give the students the support that makes it feasible for them to continue to serve the residents of Village of Hope and wider Orange County area. It is because of the students that many neglected populations with limited health care access are able to receive treatment and improve their lives.”

Not only are Orange County’s homeless supported by GSEP programs, the city’s at-risk youth are as well. As program director for the Pepperdine Resource Youth Diversion and Education (PRYDE) programs, faculty member Dr. Robert Hohenstein oversees the clinical training of and counseling services provided by GSEP students and alumni to youth living in Orange County and the San Gabriel Valley in California.


For example, the PRYDE Youth Diversion program, supported by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department with a grant of $350,700, provides intervention and counseling services to 12-to-17-year-olds who have been cited for their first offense. Then there is the School Mobile Assessment Resource Team (SMART) Campus Crisis Intervention program, operated in conjunction with the Sheriff’s Department, which offers K – 12 students with on-campus crisis intervention services, and the Alternatives to Suspension program, through which suspended students receive evaluation, counseling, and referral services. Similar services are available to elementary and middle school students through the On-Campus Counseling program. The latter three initiatives are funded by the Capistrano Unified School District with $61,500, $50,000, and $152,000 grants, respectively.

In addition, the Covina Valley On-Campus Counseling program, awarded $20,000 by the Covina Valley School District, provides counseling to K – 12 students, and the San Juan Capistrano City Gang Prevention and Intervention Program, which received $54,424 from the City of San Juan Capistrano and is implemented with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, educates and provides counseling to the city’s youth and families.

“PRYDE takes a comprehensive approach to helping atrisk youth, addressing everything from drug, alcohol, and tobacco abuse; gang influences; and personal and family issues, to socialization, communication, and problemsolving skills; judgment and impulse control; and goal-setting and attainment,” stated Hohenstein. “The key reason for PRYDE’s success over the last 10 years is that the approximately 30 counselors that assist us each year have consistently demonstrated the special qualities needed to nurture and motivate the youth. It is because of their dedication that we are able to sustain and expand our efforts to help youth in Orange County and the San Gabriel Valley.”

For more information on the Community Counseling Center, visit: gsep.pepperdine.edu/clinics/irvine

For more information on PRYDE, visit: gsep.pepperdine.edu/pryde

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