Counseling Services announces summer updates

Over the summer, the College’s Counseling Services announced several changes to their organization and operation in response to community feedback. In a presentation made to the Student Government Association (SGA) last November, the counselors spoke about the growing pressure and increasing demand for counseling services in colleges across the country. They stressed a 2012 study from the National Alliance on Mental Illness that found that more than 25 percent of all students are “diagnosed or treated professionally by a professional for a mental health issue,” following the study, colleges are becoming more aware of how large the need for counseling on campus really is.

In an interview with the Echo, Director of Counseling Services Eric S. Johnson made clear that students on Mayflower Hill are not exempt from the growing need for counseling. “As far as Counseling Services numbers go, we saw 377 students for individual counseling last year. We saw many more students if you include group counseling, consultation and other services we provide,” Johnson said.

Johnson described some of the most important changes that were made to his department over the summer, both in terms of physical layout and administrative positions. One of the new hires is Administrative Assistant Alissa Benziger, whose job will address the stress that many students reportedly encountered in past years while trying to schedule an appointment. Previously, students were only able to schedule appointments through an online portal, which Johnson noted could seem impersonal and unsettling for a distressed student. Under Benziger’s umbrella, community members are now able to make appointments either by phone or in person at Counseling Services.

Alterations made over the summer also dealt with issues that arose as a result of the physical layout of the Counseling Services’ offices. In the past, students complained about the close proximity to the Health Center waiting room and open space of the counseling center, which compromised the privacy of a student who might need to feel comfortable with disclosing sensitive information to a counselor. New renovations make it so the office is extremely compartmentalized and students have direct access to the counselors’ offices. Additionally, there is now a waiting room exclusively for students seeking counseling.

Johnson also said that Counseling Services “is engaging the broader Colby community, faculty, staff and students, in prevention and early intervention efforts through initiatives such as mental health gatekeeper trainings. We are expanding our collaborations with key staff, departments and offices, as well as student leaders in our prevention efforts, examples include Campus Life, Dean’s office, Health Services, SHOC, Active Minds, Athletics, to name only a few.”

Johnson said that despite the recent emphasis on outreach to campus groups, the department is still trying to “increase the number of students we see as individuals.” Also, instead of mostly catering to students reaching out to the counselors when they are in need of help, the department hopes to advance their focus on “prevention” work too.

Despite these changes, Counseling Services is still the target of many complaints on the Hill. A sophomore spoke about her own negative experiences with the College’s counselors in an interview. After having a rough adjustment during her first semester on campus, she approached counseling services to see if they could adjust medications that she was previously prescribed in high school. She was prescribed new medication by the Health Center that produced several adverse side effects. She then described returning to her psychiatrist at home and receiving much better support in comparison to what she received on campus, and ultimately reported feeling much better. She says that she “feels that the amount of support [Counseling Services] provides is lacking and that she would’ve had a good freshman year had they been more supportive.”

Counseling Services is expected to continue to strive this year to better support the campus community and evolve in connection with the needs of its most important clients: the students.



Corrections: September 30, 2015

A previous version of this article suggested that students can arrange appointments with Counselors at the Health Center, students are unable to book these appointments with the Garrison-Foster Health Center.

A previous version of this article stated that students are able to receive prescriptions  from Counseling Services, Students must be prescribed medications by the Health Center.

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