Letter: SCS Director on programming

By Letter to the Editor

We commend the Maroon’s decision to publish a quarter-long series on student health last fall. The article, “Student Health Series Part III: Counseling and Mental Health” (11/19/13), was especially welcome news at the Student Counseling Service (SCS). We embrace every opportunity to get the word out to the University community about our services. And to be sure, Jaganathan’s article contains a great deal of useful information. The paper’s choice of subheading, however (“After six sessions, students were told that their counseling could no longer continue at the SCS.”), is unfortunate because it could give readers the impression that this is a common experience at the SCS. It isn’t—and if even one student who could benefit from our services chooses not to access them out of fear that they will have such an experience, this would be a most unfortunate outcome.

It is critical that the student body have accurate information about the SCS and what we do. We provide a wide array of vital services to the University community. These services include individual, couples, and group counseling, as well as psychiatric evaluations and ongoing medication management. We have several specialty programs, including our Academic Skills Assessment Program, our ADHD Assessment and Treatment Program, and our multidisciplinary Eating Disorders Treatment Team. We run off-site drop-in counseling hours through our Let’s Talk program. And we provide expert consultation to University faculty and staff. Many students use our services—in fact, over 18 percent of all eligible students last year. And they did so without having to wait. No matter how busy we get, we never maintain a waitlist. That means that if you are in crisis we will see you right away. If you aren’t in crisis we will offer you an appointment within a week—usually sooner.  If you are in crisis and it is after hours, you can consult with an on-call counselor 24/7, 365 days a year.

Students who require ongoing medication management can be seen at the SCS throughout their University careers. Students who require short-term counseling can also be seen at the SCS. When students require longer-term counseling, or more intensive treatment than the SCS can provide, we work with them to find off-campus providers or programs.

The SCS is staffed by a talented and dedicated group of clinicians, administrators, and support staff who care deeply about students and understand that students’ emotional well-being is critical to their overall functioning, both academic and otherwise. And while we are proud of the work that we do, we are always looking to do better. This is why we ask every student who accesses our service to let us know (anonymously) about his or her SCS experience on our Patient Satisfaction Survey. And this is why we regularly post the survey results on our website.

Unfortunately, and despite our best efforts, there are students who need our services but aren’t accessing them. Sometimes this occurs because a student is unaware that our services are available. Other times this occurs because a student has misperceptions about the services that we offer. The Maroon’s choice to run an article on the SCS is most helpful with the first situation, and I hope that this letter serves to help with the second.

—David Albert, Director of Student Counseling Service