Advancing Social Justice through Transformative Practice
An immigrant woman experiences domestic violence. An 80-year-old man fears eviction from the nursing home that has been his home for a decade. A family from a war-torn part of the world fears that deportation is a death sentence.
These people, and so many more like them, face complex legal, psychological and social issues, and lack the resources to pay for the professional services they need.
Enter the Interprofessional Center for Counseling and Legal Services of the University of St. Thomas. Working collaboratively, students from the university's schools of Law, Professional Psychology and Social Work strive to meet the needs of underserved people as they gain valuable real-world experience in their chosen fields of study.
A note from the IPC Co-directors
Professional schools in American universities offer discipline-specific clinical services and training in law, psychology and social work. The Interprofessional Center for Counseling and Legal Services at the University of St. Thomas is among the first in the country through which faculty, staff and students from law, psychology and social work collaborate to help clients in need. At the same time, students from all three disciplines gain practical experience working on real cases, learning skills that will serve them well in their future careers.
Through the IPC, students from the School of Law, the Graduate School of Professional Psychology (a school of the College of Education, Leadership and Counseling) and the University of St. Thomas/St. Catherine University School of Social Work can help people and communities who face complex legal, psychological and social issues but lack the resources to pay for the professional services they need.
Under the guidance of the center’s faculty and fellows, law students represent and assist underserved populations of the Twin Cities in ten practice areas: elder law, immigration, community justice, consumer bankruptcy, bankruptcy litigation, federal commutations, federal appellate, immigration appellate, misdemeanor defense and nonprofit organizations. The social work and psychology clinics are supervised by licensed faculty from their respective schools. With extensive client interaction, the center provides unparalleled opportunities for experiential learning. Student connection to clients is deep, and the work is often intense. Through their work, students develop a distinctive link to the community that is in harmony with the University of St. Thomas mission.
In the center, students from all three schools frequently work together, learning the collaborative skills critical to successful practices. Problems addressed range from health care issues to political asylum to bridge building with community stakeholders and problem solving in distressed communities. At the same time, these students are learning the practical skills that will serve them well throughout their careers.
In June 2012, the center moved to its new location in Opus Hall on the Minneapolis campus. In addition to raising the IPC’s visibility both in the university and the community, the new space facilitates even more of the interprofessional collaboration that is the center’s hallmark.