At a program anniversary event, faculty from BYU’s Marriage and Family Therapy program took time to ask themselves “What have we done?” In academia, impact is measured by publications, performance ratings, and research achievements. This time, however, they decided to look further, at the less measurable standards of impact. One clinician mentioned walking across campus at a different university when someone came up to him, recognized him, and said, “You saved my marriage.” How does one measure that kind of impact? Thinking of this impact, Dean Barley of the Comprehensive Clinic looks to the future, saying, “We will continue to learn how to do better what we do, what health looks like, and how to help people get there, so we can accomplish frankly the purpose for which we are on the planet: to get back to Heavenly Father.”
That’s the spirit and overall purpose of BYU’s Comprehensive Clinic, which is located on the east border of campus, across the street from the Creamery. In the seventies, members of various disciplines within BYU had the idea to consolidate psychology, marriage and family therapy, and social work into a building designed to provide hands-on learning for students as well as service to the community. Barley explains, “one initial vision was that the academic side could do development of theory and practice, and they could help in the creation of training modules to be used by LDS family services…Cross referring and interdisciplinary research and services, that was the idea.”
The Clinic provides students excellent training in clinical psychology, marriage and family therapy, and social work. Unlike BYU Counseling Services, which is designed especially for BYU students, the Comprehensive Clinic focuses on the uninsured and underinsured members of the surrounding community. Over 100 students and 30 supervisors take on anywhere between 850 to 1,000 cases a year. Graduate students provide the therapy under the careful supervision of their faculty supervisors, who are also licensed therapists.
To receive access to these services, potential clients call the Clinic and are scheduled by the receptionist for a phone intake interview with a graduate student. These interviews last 20-30 minutes and are designed to assess the client’s needs and eligibility for care. As a training institution, the clinic is careful to not exceed what they are able to offer; more extreme cases are referred to an appropriate clinic elsewhere. Clients have access to therapy sessions as well as psychological assessments. Sessions are typically $15, though the client can negotiate with the therapist if that is financially challenging. The purpose of the Comprehensive Clinic is to help those in the community who struggle to receive help through normal clinical routes while providing excelling training for the next generation of therapists.
The clinic isn’t just a place of practice though, as many faculty are conducting research in a wide variety of subjects: positive psychology, autism, obesity, violence in relationships, anxiety, marriage therapy, stress, trauma, and adolescent development, to name a few. The Comprehensive Clinic is the intersect of these diverse fields’ academic and applied endeavors.
While explaining the function and operations of the clinic, Dean Barley shifted in his chair and began to speak more candidly: “The end goal of all we do is to create a heavenly family, and when we are all done, if things go well, we will be back together.” There was a clear empathy in his voice as he continued, “This is a beautiful and applied setting. How can we help those who are struggling—individuals, couples, and families—across a lifetime span to help us accomplish life’s real purpose?” For Barley, the Clinic is the “crown jewel” of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, taking all of the theories across multiple disciplines and consolidating them into a place of true care. Barley says, “In this setting it’s: ‘Things aren’t going well, let’s get you healthy again so that you’re thriving and not just striving.’ So, we have a noble purpose here.”
When one walks the halls of the Clinic, it is clear that this noble purpose is at the forefront of all that the Clinic tries to do. There are several rooms where the actual therapy sessions take place, each designed to be relaxing for the clients and educational for the students. Beautiful photos hang on the wall, toys for children fill cubbies, and comfortable atmospheres make an environment that encourages healthy and productive therapy. There are also rooms dedicated entirely as spaces for students to work, study, and relax. The faculty and students who spend much of their day in this building are dedicated to improving their skills and providing the best possible service to people in the surrounding community.
With the arrival of COVID, the Clinic was forced to transition most of their care to online meetings, which was an adjustment. However, this has had the unforeseen benefit of allowing them to access clients in a broader geographic area. Where once only those in Utah County were able to meet for regular appointments, the introduction of teletherapy sessions has allowed for a more expansive coverage. The Clinic will continue to operate online for as long as is appropriate, after which a decision will be made on how to move forward and improve access to these services for the community.
If you or someone you know in the community could be helped by the services of the Comprehensive Clinic, please contact them through the resources provided below. They are happy to get you the care you need.