Training Opportunities at the CU Aging Center

The CU Aging Center (CUAC) is a community-based nonprofit mental health services facility administered by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS). It is currently the only community-based, university training site and community agency and addresses practicum and predoctoral internship training requirements provided at the CU Aging Center. Clinical training with adults and older adults is intensive and comprehensive and experience is gained in all core Psychological Service Centers. Advanced proficiency is achieved in neuropsychological assessment and psychotherapy skills.

The CU Aging Center offers a Postdoctoral felllowship in clinical psychology with a specialty in geropsychology. Comprehensive and unique experience is gained in integrated healthcare, neuropsychological theory and assessment, and caregiver and family services. Program support from Colorado Heath Foundation and the Osteopathic Foundation is gratefully acknowledged.  Please call (719) 471-4884 for details.

The CUAC provides approximately 12 training rotations that are organized into the following four service centers.

  • The Memory and Cognitive Assessment Clinic: Comprehensive Neuropsychological Evaluations are conducted to help determine the etiology and functional implications of cognitive disturbances. Each evaluation requires approximately 6-10 hours of interview, testing, scoring, interpretation, and report writing time. Students on the evaluation team are involved in the testing, interview, or group supervision regarding the case. Comprehensive supervision of all assessment procedures is provided either through observation by video feed to adjoining room or with the supervisor directly in the assessment room. Students are provided immediate feedback. Feedback sessions are scheduled with every client (and family as appropriate), and these sessions are completed by the supervisor and students together. Clinical findings are translated into practical language to aid mental health and medical professionals, and family caregivers, in making decisions about treatment and care. Referrals originate from a variety of sources including physicians, nursing homes, Silver Key Senior Services, Pikes Peak Area Agency on Aging, attorneys, probate court, and Adult Protective Services. The evaluations help identify difficulties in independent functioning that compromise safety and well-being, support behavioral health workers in treatment planning, and assist the courts in determining decision-making capacity. Psychological evaluations are also conducted to provide information on individual personality dynamics, presence of major mental illness, differential diagnosis, and treatment plan recommendations. A system is in development to seamlessly integrate assessment results with treatment plans and facilitate clinicians’ work with caregivers and older adults. This will also help guide necessary lifestyle adjustments and ease transitions.

  • The Aging Family and Caregiver Services Program: This collaborative program with the Area Agency on Aging focuses on assessing and treating the factors contributing to distressed caregiver families and assists with referrals for other supportive services within the community. Primary services, all available at no cost to clients, include comprehensive caregiver assessments and up to six problem-solving oriented psychotherapy sessions to help implement caregiver treatment plans. In addition, the program offers consultation and resource information for the caregiver(s) and a psycho-educational support group. Educational seminars and community presentations to increase public awareness are also offered through this service.

  • Psychotherapy Service: CUAC staff psychologists and student clinicians offer individual, couples/marital, family, and group psychotherapy for older adults experiencing psychological disorders including depression and anxiety, adjustment to illness and loss or other life stress, and family conflicts. Supervision is conducted weekly, usually in individual meetings with the student or in small groups. Supervisors support a wide variety of psychotherapeutic approaches including psychodynamic therapy, behavioral therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and family systems therapy. The CU Aging Center uses the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) to classify and diagnose psychological problems. Psychological evaluations (including the MMPI-2, MCMI-III, PAI, PAS, TAT, BDS-II, BAS-II, Incomplete Sentence Blank, and diagnostic interviews) are administered through this service center and the Clinicians in the Community service center.

  • Clinicians in the Community: A comprehensive range of programs link clinicians at the CUAC with agencies serving older adults, whose shared goal is to improve the quality of care and quality of life through coordinated services.

At-Home Mental Health Service Program. The CUAC continues to collaborate with Silver Key Senior Services, a provider of non-medical essential services to home-bound older adults. This grant-funded project is helping to both identify and treat frail, home-bound elderly who are at risk for physical and/or emotional decline. Silver Key Senior Services funds a half-time liaison to assist with coordinating referrals from the Silver Key staff to the CUAC. The first 20 visits are provided at no cost to community seniors. This collaboration also involves an educational inservice program for the Silver Key staff to better equip them to identify older adults at risk and to appropriately facilitate a referral for CUAC in-home mental health evaluation and care. The CUAC expanded this training program from 2 to 6 modules at the request of the Silver Key director and staff and continues to modify in-services to meet the current needs and concerns of Silver Key staff members. As community ‘gatekeepers’, these staff members who see homebound older adults regularly in the course of providing Silver Key services are in the best position to identify concerning circumstances and possible decline in their clients. Twice monthly meetings with the clinical team, including the Silver Key liaison, ensures that vulnerable older adults identified by Silver Key staff members are referred for the in-home mental health services they need to remain independent for as long as is safely possible.

Integrating Mental Health Services with Primary Care
. In August 2005, we initiated an integrated behavioral health and primary care program at Peak Vista Community Health Clinics, developed by CUAC staff and Dr. Brian DeSantis (an expert in the Integrated Care model) to increase access to mental health care. The CU Aging Center clinicians developed brief depression and anxiety screenings for older adults seen in Peak Vista Senior Health Clinics that are administered as a routine part of the primary care appointment. Two CUAC Geropsychology Ph.D. student clinicians are based for ten hours each week at the two Senior Health Clinics and an intern is available for 5 hours each week at the South Clinic, giving older adults immediate access to mental health services when their initial depression screen indicates a need for further evaluation.

This program offers opportunities for the physician to consult with an on-site geropsychologist and advanced clinical student to assist with complicated differential diagnoses and coordinating geriatric medical and mental health care. This integrated program has also afforded graduate student clinicians the opportunity to participate in a progressive approach to mental health care that is reaching a greater number of older adults in need of services, but who might not otherwise access them.
An integrated approach to the early detection of mental health disorders naturally extends to the early detection of cognitive impairments which was integrated into the Peak Vista Senior Center North in November, 2007, via a CUAC developed self-administered computerized memory and psychological screen.

In June, 2009, the CUAC partnered with the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) Program to launch a multidisciplinary training rotation. Interns and advanced doctoral students provide behavioral health services (10 hours per week) to PACE clients as part of a comprehensive program that includes medical, Nursing, physical and occupational therapy, social work, recreational and milieu therapy, and family consultation all in a day program to help elders maintain independence in the community.

Externships - 5th year.

The Resource Exchange, an externship for doctoral students where they spend 10 hours a week engaged in direct clinical services for adults with intellectual disabilities, designing and implementing individualized behavior support plans, using an Applied Behavior Analysis approach, and participating in supervision with a psychologist in the community who has expertise in working with individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities. Systems and interdisciplinary team approaches are a strong focus of interventions at this setting. UCCS externs also attend trainings on how to provide quality services for individuals with intellectual disabilities and are each required to prepare a presentation on a topic relevant to case managers and other staff working with these individuals.


To learn more about training at the CUAC, contact Dr. Mike Kenny via email at mkenny@uccs.edu or
by phone at (719) 471-4884.