Counseling center changes policy

Editor’s note

The Hatchet incorrectly said there has been a policy change at the University Counseling Center regarding initial consultations. There has been no recent policy change. If a student is seeking help for the first time at the UCC, they are typically assigned to a professional for a telephone assessment. For urgent matters, students can still speak immediately and face-to-face with professional staff.

Students seeking help from the University Counseling Center will now complete an initial consultation over the phone, a UCC policy change intended to help meet student needs in less time. We deeply regret this error.

In the past, students seeking an appointment could contact the UCC and set up an initial consultation with a counselor free-of-charge.

Though the new policy may reduce the amount of time the student has face-to-face with a counselor, John Dages, the director of the UCC, said the change was initiated to help students get more immediate assistance with problems.

“The phone interview process has greatly reduced time students must wait for initial consultation, as students now have the ability to speak with a counselor within 24 hours for non-emergencies,” Dages said.

Dages said the UCC has seen a stark increase in the number of students seeking guidance this year, but declined to give numbers on the increase.

“The group counseling program is expanding, and the number of group sessions has increased 50 percent from last year,” Dages said. “Individual appointments continue to increase each year, as students are becoming more familiar with services provided.”

Although the UCC’s changes are supposed to make the process easier, psychiatrist and clinical professor of psychiatry Gerald Perman said an over-the-phone consultation “should not be a first-line approach. Face-to-face is much better.”

He added that the need for students to call ahead of time could be a barrier for those who want to talk to someone immediately in person.

But Perman also said calling the Counseling Center has potential benefits, allowing students to feel more comfortable by “giving the student the opportunity to call anonymously, before they take the next step of making an appointment, for students who are shy or embarrassed.”

Recent trends show that more college students are seeking treatment for mental health issues. Fifty-six percent of students sought help for normal post-adolescent trouble like romantic heartbreak and identity crises, in a 2010 survey by the American College Counseling Association. Meanwhile, 44 percent of students in counseling have severe psychological disorders – a 16 percent increase from 2000 – and 24 percent are on psychiatric medication.

One senior, who asked to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns, said that after reaching out for help with symptoms of anxiety and depression, his appointment was tedious and stressful.

“I had to fill out a lot of paperwork and this did not set a calming mood,” he said. “I [also] assumed that it would be free, because it is at a University.”

Dages said that while there may be a few complaints about the overall program, the work of the UCC is there to serve the University community.

“Students have been reaching out for help with depression, adjustment issues and stress-related problems, including requests for help with academic-related issues,” Dages said. “GW faculty and staff continue to use UCC as an important source for consultation and to make referrals for students who may need help.”

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