University Reopening Student-Led Mental Health Services Program

Clinic for Outreach and Personal Excellence to provide virtual counseling starting Aug. 24

UM counselor education interns stand ready to offer telehealth sessions through the Clinic for Outreach and Personal Excellence. The team includes (front row, from left) Elizabeth Broadus, Abby Morales, Samantha Strickland and Carissa Chandler; (middle, from left) Brooke Riley, Amelia Martin, Aisha Newsome (former intern) and Shelli Poole (former intern); and (top, from left) Elle Persekian, Abigail Reynolds (former intern), Abigail McMullan and Mary Hastings Moss. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi‘s counselor education program is reopening its Clinic for Outreach and Personal Enrichment to the public Aug. 24, following a brief closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The clinic, in the South Oxford Center at 2301 South Lamar Blvd., is open Monday through Thursday afternoons by appointment only. All COPE counseling will be conducted by master’s and doctoral students via telehealth and is open to the public, including Ole Miss students, faculty, staff and community members.

Alexandria Kerwin, associate professor of counselor education, directs the Clinic for Outreach and Personal Enrichment. Submitted photo

“This clinic is an essential component of our training programs as it allows students to apply what they have learned in the classroom while working with actual clients under close supervision,” said Alexandria Kerwin, associate professor of counselor education and clinical coordinator. “Before the pandemic, our caseload fluctuated between 50 to 70 clients each semester.”

The clinic started in 2016 to provide an in-house training environment for the counselor education graduate program. Students offer individual, group and family counseling.

“We are also known for our play therapy services,” Kerwin said. “However, play therapy has been paused for the fall semester due to COVID-19.”

Providing opportunities for telehealth is critical to the health and well-being of local communities, said David Rock, dean of the School of Education.

“COPE not only provides an opportunity for mental health support for a variety of clients, including children and adults, but also provides an amazing clinical site to prepare future counselors with experience learning to use virtual capabilities to provide mental health therapy,” Rock said.

“The future of counseling and education has changed and will continue to evolve as we get through this pandemic.”

The pandemic has presented a unique situation in which people from all walks of life have experienced a common trauma of sorts, and COPE provides a place to begin to work through those feelings, counselors note.

“We are striving to create the same sense of security online as we do in person,” said Erica Montgomery, a doctoral counselor education and supervision student from Tupelo. A licensed Mississippi counselor for eight years, Montgomery completed her master’s degree in counseling in 2011 and her specialist degree in play therapy in 2019.

“As most of us know from months of Zoom meetings, online meetings have a different energy than being in person with someone,” she said. “However, our counselors are going through trainings in telehealth in order to provide the most inviting environment possible.”

Montgomery said she expects people to experience more social and separation anxiety as they transition back into the world with one another.

“We have ‘nested’ at home for months and going back into more social situations may be difficult for some,” Montgomery said. “Self-compassion and increased focus on self-care will be more important in the coming months.

“My best suggestion is to be gentle with yourself, accepting how you’re handling the changes and allowing yourself to experience your emotions as they come.”

Anyone interested in becoming a client can email the clinic at, call 662-915-7197 or visit to schedule an appointment.