The St. Thomas Interprofessional Center for Counseling and Legal Services (IPC) offers services through independent and collaborative counseling and legal clinics responsive to the needs of diverse and underserved populations. Students from the Schools of Law, Professional Psychology, and Social Work provide services under professional supervision grounded in their respective missions, training models, and ethical codes.
- From the Mission Statement
Two main concepts drive the Interprofessional Center for Counseling and Legal Services, independence and collaboration. Due in large part to a concern about maintaining professional independence, the Center is comprised of three independent separate services under one roof, Social Work Services, Psychological Services and the Legal Services Clinic. At the same time, we are committed to interprofessional collaboration within the boundaries of the three primary professions involved.
While much thought has gone into developing the Interprofessional Center and establishing relationships between the programs, we do not have all of the answers. The Center will always be a work in progress. We are a part of a growing movement to provide more integrated services and greater professional collaboration, and we hope to become a model for use by other programs.
The above diagram provides an idea of how services might (or might not) overlap to serve clients.
Types of Service Provision
Independent Legal Services: The Legal Services Clinic takes on clients that do not require, or whose best interests are not served by, collaboration with personnel from Social Work or Psychological Services. Client information is completely protected from access by Social Work or Psychological Services personnel. There may be situations where therapy from Counseling Services is appropriate, but where close collaboration between the Legal Services Clinic and the therapist is not necessary or desirable. A legal client in that situation would be referred for independent counseling services (see below).
Independent Counseling Services: Both Social Work and Psychological Services take on clients for therapeutic work that do not require, or whose best interests are not served by, collaboration with personnel from Legal Services. Client information will be completely protected from access by Legal Services personnel.
Psychological Assessments/Evaluations: Psychological Services has provided psychological assessments for Legal Services Clinic clients, as well as for persons referred from outside agencies. A psychological assessment is an impartial, "arms length," expert assessment. These assessments are sometimes used in legal proceedings. Typically, a psychological assessment is based on a limited encounter between the assessor and the client, and is not intended for therapeutic purposes. In situations involving a Legal Services client, the counselor has no access to the legal file. It is important that the Legal Services Clinic be considered the "client" of the assessor, so that the assessment is covered by attorney work product doctrine. Social Work Services and Psychological Services provide formal and informal capacity assessments, particularly in support of the work of the Elder Law Practice group.
Case Management: Social workers in the Center provide case management services to legal and psychological services clients upon referral from those groups. When working with consenting legal clients, the Legal Services Clinic in essence works as a "host setting," in which the lawyers and social workers act as a fully integrated team. This occurs only after clients are informed of obligations of the social worker, and of the consequences affecting confidentiality under both law and social work ethics. Such clients are considered to be covered, to the extent possible, by the legal rules governing client confidentiality and secrets. Just because the social workers are in one sense "working for" the Legal Services Clinic, this does not mean that they are relieved of their duty to warn or to mandatorily report. In these cases, the social workers will have access to the legal files.
Consultations: We often seek professional consultation or advice from one another, without divulging client sensitive or client identifying information.