New director seeks to make UHCL the 'go-to' for mental health services

September 12, 2018 | UHCL Staff

It’s rare to find someone who already knew in kindergarten that she wanted to get a doctorate, but University of Houston-Clear Lake’s new Director of Psychological Services Clinic Cynthya Campbell Palmer says she’s been clear on her career path since the age of five.

“As a child, I was curious about people’s overall satisfaction with their lives and how their emotions played a role in their quality of life.  I felt as a child I was tuned into people’s emotions,” she said. “I observed many children my age struggling with stressors and difficulties and I could see that their emotions were impacted as well. I often wondered what made people happy and sad. I was the kind of child that talked about problems and liked to find solutions.”

Cynthia PalmerThe pivotal moment, she said, was meeting her kindergarten teacher. “She was an African American woman with a doctorate, and that’s when I learned it was possible to be a doctor in different areas, not just medicine,” she said. “That solidified it for me. We called her ‘Doctor’ and that’s when I knew it could happen for me, too. This had a significant impact on me.”

Although Palmer said she always knew a doctorate was her endgame, she didn’t quite understand that she’d need an undergraduate and graduate degree beforehand. “When I understood that there was something called psychology and that you could be a doctor in this if you went through all your education, I knew it would come together,” she said. “My teacher was the key. Today, I always tell teachers that they really do matter and that their students are listening!”

Palmer returned to Houston after finishing her doctorate in clinical psychology from Loyola University Chicago and working in the field for almost 13 years. “I am so happy to be back in Houston. I feel it’s a homecoming for me because I completed three semesters of graduate courses  here at UH-Clear Lake before I moved to Chicago,” she said. “The classes here set my path. It was such a valuable time for me and it was my foundation to prepare me for my doctoral program. This is where I set my course.”

As the new director and clinical assistant professor of the Psychological Services Clinic, Palmer said one of her primary objectives is to expand the public’s awareness of the resources available in UHCL’s Psychological Services Clinic. “I want this to be the community’s go-to for mental health assistance,” she said. “Because of my experience in the field, I hope to add another  level of clinical expertise to the clinic. One of my goals is to expand training opportunities for students and meet the growing needs for mental health services in the community.”

Palmer added that psychological services are expensive, but at UHCL, graduate assistants are excellent and the fees are calculated on a sliding scale based on family income. “I want to eliminate the myth that students or trainees are too inexperienced to provide mental health services,” she said.

She said that as a training clinic, students are learning the newest and evidence-based techniques while being supervised by skilled licensed faculty members. “There should never be a stigma on seeking and receiving mental health services,” she said.

For more information about UHCL’s Psychological Services Clinic, visit

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