I would like to expand upon the editorial in the Jan. 29 edition of The Pine Log, “Counseling services not meeting student needs.” The Counseling Services staff appreciates the fact that the columnist recognizes the value that mental health services provides to the campus. We are in complete agreement! We also recognize that students would like more of these services, and we are continuously assessing ways to adjust our service delivery to benefit the largest number of students in the best and most efficient way. It may be of interest to your readers to hear that the phenomenon of an increased demand outpacing resources is not an issue restricted to the SFA campus. University counseling centers across the country are experiencing a similar surge in demand and are developing various ways of adapting to the need.
Two consistent items of feedback that Counseling Services receives are: 1) students want access to more individual sessions, and 2) students want shorter wait times to access those appointments. However, the more sessions we provide to each student, the longer a student scheduling a new appointment will need to wait before being able to see a counselor. In order to provide more services to more students, each student is currently limited to up to four individual sessions a semester, but they may attend a weekly group on an ongoing basis in order to have counseling support throughout the semester. This gives students the ability to schedule appointments within a reasonable time, while giving all students the opportunity to receive ongoing counseling. (Often, students find small group counseling to be their preferred mode of treatment!) For students who anticipate needing services that will exceed the ability of Counseling Services to accommodate, our counselors will discuss referral options and assist them to secure resources that better match their needs. However, a majority of our clients found that by planning their sessions with their counselor and attending a small weekly group, the four-session standard works well for them and affords a larger number of students the opportunity to access services.
Two years ago, Counseling Services was very excited to add two counselors to our staff thanks to funding from Student Service fees. This enabled us to increase the number of attended individual and group appointments from 3,582 in 2017 to 4,818 in 2019. Of course, we would like to offer more; however, additional staff comes at a cost, which could ultimately affect students at a time when the university is very sensitive to students’ financial obligations.
SFA Counseling Services hears you! We continue to discuss ways to increase the services we offer. In the meantime, we are gratified to receive overwhelming feedback that students are benefiting from the counseling they receive here. We encourage students who need our services to contact us for an initial consultation. And, as always, in an emergency, we encourage you to walk in. A counselor will meet with you to assess the crisis and discuss interventions with you.
Counseling Services appreciates your advocacy for mental health. I speak for my staff and myself when I say we wholeheartedly agree, and we remain committed to providing excellent care and support for all of our students.
Sincerely, Jill Milem, M.Ed., LPC-S Director, Counseling Services