New Leaf Clinic expands substance abuse counseling services to the community

  • New Leaf Clinic:
    New Leaf Clinic:  provides substance abuse assessment and counseling services to students at William & Mary. The clinic has expanded now to offer its services to those in the Williamsburg community.  
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Residents of the greater Williamsburg area who are facing legal consequences from substance abuse can now seek confidential substance abuse treatment through the New Leaf Clinic, housed in the William & Mary School of Education. Staffed by graduate students in the counseling training program, the clinic provides counseling at no cost to William & Mary students and at minimal cost to community members.

Although referrals for substance abuse treatment can be made by any agency, one of the strongest ongoing partnerships has been with Colonial Community Corrections (CCC). The clinic directors have been working to reinvigorate this partnership, leading to an increase in referrals of people on probation or parole for drug offenses.

"As part of the adjudication process, both for the courts and their remediation, they are referred to New Leaf," explained Clay Martin Ph.D. '18, the outgoing co-director of the clinic. While Martin worked on his doctoral counselor education program and saw clients at New Leaf, he was also reaching out to CCC leadership to strengthen ties between the two entities.

New Leaf students currently provide three options for substance abuse counseling — the New Leaf six-session program, the BASICS program for university students, and an Alcohol Skills Training Program (ASTP). Community members can be referred for either the six-session program or ASTP, which is a seminar-style education program that serves groups of 5 to 12 at a time. The counselor interns who see clients at New Leaf are trained in motivational interviewing and supervised by faculty.

"I found out that at one point in time the relationship was strong enough that there was a fee for service plan," said Martin, who gave a presentation to CCC leadership to refamiliarize their staff with the clinic’s offerings. His planned brief presentation turned into a 40-minute question and answer session.  "It was a welcome reconnection. They were very engaged and very interested. The number of referrals from CCC has mushroomed and broadened."

The fee-for-service approach has been reinstated, with the expectation that clients from the community pay nothing, $10, or $20 for the six counseling sessions, depending on their income.  All fees go to support the work of the clinic. The New Leaf Clinic will provide a certificate of completion after the six sessions finished that can be shown to a judge or a lawyer, with the client’s permission.

Alex Hilert Ph.D. '20 and Katharine "Kat" Sperandio M.Ed. '14, Ph.D. '19 are this year’s co-directors of the clinic, which is overseen by faculty director Daniel Gutierrez, assistant professor of counseling at William & Mary. Hilert facilitates the on-campus referrals and outreach, while Sperandio will handle referrals from the community.

Sperandio, whose doctoral work focuses on substance abuse treatment, spent the summer working in a methadone clinic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she worked for two years after completing her master’s level training in counseling. Sperandio emphasized the value of strengthening community relationships to encourage people who need substance abuse treatment to seek it at New Leaf.

"No matter how difficult or embarrassing it may seem to reach out for help with substance abuse issues, we can help you get better. There is a way out," added Martin.