By Rachel Magin
This term, Union has implemented a new policy at the Counseling Center. For the remainder of this year, students will be limited to 12 sessions with a counselor. Starting in the fall of 2014, students will be limited to 15 sessions per academic year. These limits have been put in place because every year more and more students decide to take advantage of the resource. On the Counseling Center’s website they state that “over 80 percent of individuals seeking services from the Counseling Center have been seen for less than 15 sessions per year.” In addition, they state that if someone requires more care, they will work with them to make sure they receive it.
There are many things that stand out to me as problems with this new policy. First and foremost, the school needs to hire more counselors! The new Wicker Wellness Center cost $2.3 million to build. Don’t get me wrong; I love that building. However, I believe that students would rather get the services they need than have such an extravagant building. If the school hired one or two more psychologists instead of putting so much money into construction, then the Counseling Center might have been able to see the students that need help without setting session limits. The school continues to redo buildings and build new ones rather than focusing on improving the quality and availability of the services they provide inside of them. Students deserve to be able to see their therapist for as long and as often as they like, if they and their therapist decide it would be beneficial. Although I believe the new building is incredibly helpful and a really nice change, it is not as important as the people that work there.
Although 80 percent of students only see counselors for 15 sessions or less, there are 20 percent who see them for more sessions. Many of these students have built relationships with their therapists and enjoy continually seeing them. Their counselor is someone who they trust and who provides another set of ears during the week. The students might not currently be suffering, but seeing the therapist every week allows them to prevent future problems. A therapist is not only meant to help with huge life problems; they are someone with whom to discuss even the little things. This type of therapy can prevent problems from escalating and can keep people mentally healthy in the long run.
We do not go to a large school. Most of us chose Union in part because it is small and gives us more individualized attention. We pay a lot of money for that individualized attention. Those 20 percent of students who benefit from more therapy deserve to be able to see their counselors when they need to. If the school hired more staff, then that would be possible. In addition, I believe that the lack of therapists means that therapists must see more students. It is incredibly draining to be a psychologist and you can do a much better job if you see fewer people and get to know each of them better. If more therapists were hired, then the current therapists would not have to strain themselves as much and would probably be able to provide better services.
Lastly, though I believe the fact that the Counseling Center is getting more use is good, I also think the school should try to figure out why these numbers are increasing. What are the reasons for the sharp increase of use of the center? What is causing students to feel as though they need additional psychological support? If the school addressed some of the main problems for which students are going to therapy, maybe a session limit would be unnecessary.
Of course, these new policies are not the counselors’ fault. I know that they work extremely hard to provide excellent care to Union’s students. In fact, it is very impressive that more and more people are using these services. It means that the stigma around mental health is going down and word is getting out about the quality of the care students are receiving. I don’t know what the therapists are paid, but I’m sure they deserve more.
The problem lies with the administration and whoever decides how money should be spent on campus. Before we construct new buildings and book more entertainment that looks good on a brochure we need to hire the personnel necessary to support Union’s student body. This includes counselors, professors and others who come in daily contact with students. We as students should have a say where the money goes. Since these decisions directly impact us. We are the ones who live here!