Where therapists — and their clients — are in training

Glenna Anderson, the Southern California Counseling Center clinical director
Glenna Anderson, the Southern California Counseling Center clinical director, in her office in Torrance.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

The Southern California Counseling Center was founded in 1966 by a group of people who wanted to give folks around the Mid-Wilshire area the opportunity to talk it out — whatever it was they were going through.

Psychologist Hans Hoffman and psychiatrist Ben Weininger equipped volunteers — homemakers, retirees and other working professionals — with basic counseling skills. Weininger would set up a “dialogue in the streets” stand and charge 50 cents for a brief therapy session, to draw attention to the great need for affordable talk therapy services.

The Southern California Counseling Center is now one of the most well-established counseling centers and therapist training facilities in L.A. Pre-licensed therapists, who are unpaid and supervised by licensed professionals, provide therapy to clients for a low fee.

The approach of choice at the counseling center is cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps clients recognize and change negative or unhelpful thought and behavior patterns. But counselors there tend to draw from a range of theories in their work, said Glenna Anderson, clinical director of the center. Remaining true to its original counseling roots, the center doesn’t diagnose clients with mental disorders, which means it’s a bit more casual than clinical therapy, Anderson said.

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The center also trains its counselors in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, also called EMDR, a form of psychotherapy designed to alleviate stress associated with traumatic memories.

“We recognize that communities that need the most support have experienced the most trauma,” Anderson said. “Being able to offer this therapeutic technique that directly addresses that trauma just made sense.”

In 2018, the center opened its first satellite location in Watts, a historically disenfranchised neighborhood in South L.A. with a dearth of mental health resources, on the campus of Watts Labor Community Action Committee. The Watts center aims to help adults and young people in the area overcome the harm of violence, racism and generational trauma.

“A lot of people come back, and give back, to the center,” Anderson said. “The vast majority of our supervisors are alums, teaching their clinical skills to the next generation.”


A list of crisis hotlines, low-fee and sliding scale counseling, support groups, and mindfulness and meditation services

Sept. 22, 2022

Southern California Counseling Center: Therapy for adults, couples, families, children, EMDR. Groups for parenting, teen LGBTQ youth, community mindfulness and compassion, rage resolution, relationship support, seniors. Average sliding scale fee paid is $22 per session. Locations in Mid-Wilshire and Watts, including 5615 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles. (323) 937-1344.