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Monday, April 9, 2018

COE Counseling Center Helps Clients, Future Counselors

From left to right: Dr. Nellie Tran, Dr. Juan Camarena, Dr. Letty Pileski and Letti Estrella
Having problems with your spouse, children, or at work, but don’t have the means to pay for a counselor or family therapist?

The Center for Community and Counseling Engagement (CCCE) can help.

Operated by San Diego State University’s College of Education and located in the heart of City Heights, the Center provides counseling services to individuals, couples and families in San Diego. The cost for services is based on what clients can pay, making them available to more low-income people and families.

“Because we are able to provide services on a sliding scale, we never turn away a client,” said Dr. Nellie Tran, director of research and development at CCCE. “We really pride ourselves on being able to help communities that have been underserved…on being able to provide access to mental health services to all those who need of services.”

The Center offers services, which are completely confidential, primarily in English and Spanish but also has some appointments in other languages including Arabic, Somali, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. It also has an art and recreation room for children and their families.

At the Center, clients can expect to receive services that are culturally competent by trained graduate students and interns with similar cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Dr. Juan Camarena is CCCE’s executive director said he is proud to be able to offer services that take into account the history and experiences of the counselors and clients and how they mirror or are different from each other.

“If I know my history enough…I can then be really clear on helping the person that is sitting in front of me (whether) it’s a client, a trainee or a student,” said Camarena. “Number one is self-awareness and what that looks like and number two is taking a critical eye to what we’re doing, actual services we’re providing.”

Camarena added that CCCE’s management team is also a reflection of two of the biggest ethnic groups in the City Heights community. Tran is Vietnamese-American, and Camarena and Director of Clinical Services Dr. Letty Gonzalez Pileski are both Mexican-American.

The Center for Community and Counseling Engagement is also a training facility for pre-licensed trainees and interns who are supervised by licensed therapists and psychologists who are certified by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.

Through a one-way mirror, counselors are observed to make sure they are providing the best quality services. Some sessions are video recorded but only with the client’s permission.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to improve, knowing that cultural competence is a journey. (We’re) constantly looking for ways to make things better and serve better,” Camarena said.

“As a counselor of color, I feel that I get to experience my community and other communities in a very unique way,” said a counselor-in-training. “In this clinic, I am able to give therapy services to clients that look like me as well as people who look different from me.”

Visit the Center for Community and Counseling Engagement website for more information. You can also meet the staff and learn more about the Center by watching this six-minute video.