The University of Phoenix is offering a free service for Tucsonans who want mental health counseling but cannot afford it.

The university offers free psychological counseling at its Southern Arizona campus at 300 S. Craycroft Road.

Students of the university's mental health counseling program perform the services for clients, using their education to gain practical experience toward their careers in the field.

School officials say that students are well-trained in a variety of skills, specializing in psychotropic medications, substance-abuse counseling, family and marriage therapy, and emerging emotional and psychological issues.

"(The program) goes hand in hand with the education experience that the university provides," said Danica Ross, a spokeswoman for the western region of the University of Phoenix.

The program reflects a growing awareness of mental-health needs in Tucson, and the experience is closely aligned with the feel of a private-practice visit, Ross said.

"Recently we've received a tremendous response in providing training for non-mental-health professionals," said Dr. Chad Mosher, the university's Campus College chairman.

The counseling program is appointment-based - the campus is not a crisis center, so the university's services don't overlap with those of other crisis facilities in Tucson. The center has a confidential number for clients to call, and they are called back typically within 24 hours. The counseling students arrange their hours to meet the needs of the clients, so they often make evening and weekend appointments, Mosher said.

To learn more about the University of Phoenix's mental counseling services, visit the campus or call 881-6512.