CMHC Standardized Patient Program

What is a standardized patient?

A standardized patient, also known as an SP, is an individual who has been carefully trained to portray the historical, physical and emotional features of an actual counseling client. Many of the SPs are professional actors with excellent improvisation skills. This means the SPs react and respond in real time to the student, creating a counseling session experience comparable to real life. SPs have been used as an important part of health science program curricula since the 1960s.

How does the CMHC program use SPs?

The UWS clinical mental health counseling (CHMC) program uses SPs as a valuable teaching tool in the pre-practicum course. Students are able to connect with SPs from the comfort of their homes via video conference technology for these sessions. This unique opportunity allows students to:

  • Better understand the structure and flow of a typical counseling session
  • Practice counseling skills in a safe environment
  • Complete a new patient intake and conduct subsequent follow-up sessions for the same case over several weeks
  • Develop interpersonal and communication abilities while building rapport with a client


Each counseling SP encounter is designed to teach or assess skills appropriate to the student’s level of training. These simulations are standardized as much as possible to provide the same information and a consistent learning environment for each student. For example, multiple SPs may be trained to portray the same client, so each student is able to have the same learning opportunities.

Want to learn more?

Watch the video segment below to see Dr. Michelle Rose, CMHC director, working with an actor from the standardized patient program. View the full SP counseling session here.