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Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

SFSU counseling takes another hit with possible clinic closure

After years of service, Peggy H. Smith Counseling Clinic doors are put on pause
Sean Young
The Peggy H. Smith Counseling Clinic provides students with counseling for a variety of issues. Located on the second floor of the Student Services building, the clinic will pause services at the end of the academic year. (Sean Young / Golden Gate Xpress)

A 40-year partnership between two San Francisco State University counseling departments seems to be on the verge of dissolution, jeopardizing the future of a student counseling clinic. 

Located in the Student Services building, the Peggy H. Smith Counseling Clinic provides in-person and virtual services to 80-100 students yearly. The clinic offers free weekly counseling through the semester of up to 16 sessions for various issues, including interpersonal relationship difficulties, substance abuse, anxiety and depression.

“This is a rare resource for our BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ community, first-generation college students or most marginalized students who are experiencing housing and food insecurity and are unable to pay for transportation to go off campus, or they are uninsured or underinsured,” said Yolanda Gamboa, PHS clinic coordinator.

The staff comprises graduate counseling student trainees seeking licenses to become family therapists and professional clinical counselors. Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) supervise the staff and review applications for new graduate students, selecting five to six candidates per year.

Before the start of this semester, Gamboa asked about moving forward with recruitment for next year when she received an email to not move forward as the program would be on pause. Since receiving that email, Gamboa said there have been no further announcements.

“We don’t know what that means [for the future of our services],” Gamboa said.

Rick Nizzardini, a clinic counselor faculty member, believes that the campus will lose additional counselor trainees and counseling services with the pause of the clinic. He also noted that CAPS now only offers six counseling sessions to students per academic year — down from 10-12 sessions in 2008.

Fourth-year student Atzeli Ramírez stands outside the Student Services Building on Feb. 13, 2024. (Sean Young / Golden Gate Xpress) (Sean Young)

Gamboa explained that CAPS case managers will no longer have the option of referring students to the PHS Counseling Clinic, leaving students with fewer options on campus.

Atzeli Ramírez, a fourth-year student at SFSU double majoring in cinema and political science, reached out to CAPS last year when she needed help finding a new health provider. Having been in therapy to treat her depression since she was 13.

“I was really scared because I’ve heard horror stories of campus resources being horrible. I was already at a low point in my life, and hearing these horror stories — I didn’t have a really high expectation going into CAPS,” she said. “I kind of thought that they would just get me in and try to get me out.”

Luckily for Ramírez, she felt immediately supported. Her counselor helped her sort out her insurance so that she could get with a new provider and also ensured that Ramírez knew other resources were available.

“That really stuck with me,” she said. “To feel so validated and so seen and to have the help I received from them was amazing.”

As a first-generation Hispanic student, Ramírez also used her experience with CAPS to help her with her family. “Part of me didn’t want to let my parents down to a certain extent because they did everything they could to make sure I had a great childhood,” she said.

“They said that the biggest thing in breaking generational curses was having the courage to do it, and that was also something that stuck with me that felt really validating and it gave me the push I needed,” she said.

Ramírez realized how important campus resources are and she worries that other students won’t be able to have the same experience as her.

“It was just really eye-opening how important campus resources are and to know that there’s going to be students out there that aren’t going to be able to have that same experience really makes me sad,” she said.

According to Gamboa, the pause in services will begin at the end of the academic year. A plan has yet to be established, but she believes the Peggy H. Smith Counseling Clinic will not return in the same capacity.

“The same thing happened with our Prevention Education Programs at CAPS. It disappeared,” Gamboa said. “The campus later developed Health Promotion and Wellness, but the connection with CAPS is not the same.”

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About the Contributor
Sean Young
Sean Young, Campus Editor
Sean Young (he/him) is the campus editor for Golden Gate Xpress. He is a journalism major with a minor in California Studies. Originally from the small town of Sebastopol, Sean now lives in San Francisco. Before transferring to SF State, Sean studied journalism at Santa Rosa Junior College, where he was editor-in-chief of the college's student publication The Oak Leaf News. In his spare time, Sean can be found watching sports, listening to his vinyl record collection and reading the latest news from The New York Times.

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