By Emi Kojima January 7, 2016
“What initially drew me to PSC was my experience working with PsyD students from CIIS in other training programs in the Bay Area,” says Lani Chow, Director of the Psychological Services Center, the counseling center run by CIIS’ Clinical Psychology doctoral program."
I always thought the CII Students were really incredible—the best of the crop—with their combination of personal maturity and depth, and preparedness to do the work.” By this, Chow means working with clients, being able to form deep and healing therapeutic relationships, and being able to think about people and make connections.
“The students,” she says, “were also just really llkable.” A licensed psychologist for more than 16 years, Chow has been Clinic Director for eight years, serving dual roles since July, when she became the Director of Clinical Training for the PsyD program. Her transition out of the counseling center directorship is scheduled for 2016.
“Being the director of PSC has been the best job I’ve ever had. It fit my personal interests in providing long-term psychological services and working in a community training clinic,” she says. “Both are extremely important to me.” “Lani not only developed a training program, but she also brought to life an impassioned, principled, culturally sensitive ‘way of being’ for our therapists- in-training,” says Andrew Harlem, Clinical Psychology professor. “When a student tells me that something I am teaching accords with what she learned in Lani’s class, I know I am on the right track. What she has meant to PSC can hardly be expressed in words.”
Passionate and Principled PSC and all of CIIS’ clinics have worked hard to ensure that services and fees are accessible “to a broad range of people living in San Francisco,” she says. Though other clinics in the city provide low-cost services, Chow believes that what makes PSC unique is that “we really hold the context of longer-term individualized treatment—a treatment where the provider is getting a tremendous amount of support themselves. That’s rare in most community settings.”
She learned years ago through her work at an LGBTQI community clinic the importance of support and physical spaces for people to reflect on and share their struggles and life stories with those who have had similar experiences. That clinic, which became the now- shuttered New Leaf Services for Our Community, was formed by gays and lesbians to fill a need for services that were specifically inclusive of LGBTQI people, whose only option then was traditional heterosexual community clinics.
New Therapy Groups and Assessments Responding to the needs of underserved communities, Chow designed, in collaboration with Clinic Manager Tori Branch (PsyD ’11), a new set of therapy groups now on offer at PSC. These are safe spaces, says Chow, where people can come together, support one another, and build community.
Among the therapy groups are those for female- and male-identified people; and for people struggling with unusual or extreme experiences such as hearing voices and having visions. The Off the Binary Group, for example, focuses on gender nonconformity; and at the Coming Out Group, LGBTQI-identified people can talk about the coming-out process.
Another recent development is the low-cost assessment services now available at a price that Chow says is roughly “one-third to one-fourth of what people would pay elsewhere for the same set of psychological tests and write-ups.” Psychological assessments, such as the Learning Disability Assessment and Neuropsychological screening, are useful to people who have been experiencing challenges in school, at work, and interpersonally, as the tests can identify areas of strengths and weaknesses and suggest appropriate resources.
“I’m really excited and proud that we are able to offer this service to the community and provide students the opportunity to use their newly honed skills,” she says. Commitment to Students “Lani in her new role as core faculty and Director of Clinical Training continues to make meaningful contributions,” says Mera Atlis, Clinical Psychology Program Chair. “Her easy, congenial manner, sensitivity, and deep commitment to teaching clinical psychology students and young clinicians have been a personal and professional inspiration.”
In thinking about her time directing PSC, Chow says that what she loves most is working with students who are curious and interested, and who want to develop their skill set to help other people.
“Being thoughtful, emotionally available, and able to create relationships that open people up to their own experiences—that’s what happens at PSC. That’s what we do so often and so well, it doesn’t feel like work.”
Emi Kojima is Program Coordinator of the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program.