Last semester, there was an average three-day waiting period for students who requested counseling services at the College, a problem met with severe student backlash. Nearly 600 students signed the “marble slabs petition” written by Erin Hanson ’18, which asked that Psychological Counseling Services (PCS) meet the needs of students by hiring more diverse, particularly queer, therapists as full-time College staff members.
To confront this severe understaffing, the Health Center recently hired two additional staff members on a part-time basis, including Celia Hilson, an advanced postdoctoral clinical fellow and a woman of color, and Stephanie Buchanan, a psychotherapist.
According to College Council Co-President Caitlin Buckley, there is no longer a waitlist, and Wendy Adam, the new director of PCS, maintains that therapists are readily available for students who need them. “Students in need of services can just call the Health Center and talk with Kim Tremblay, our administrative coordinator, to schedule an appointment directly with a therapist,” Adam said.
Students in need can set up immediate appointments at the Health Center by phone or email and will receive either individual or group therapy, depending on the discretion of the therapist. The staff is trained in many methods of treatment including dialetical behavior therapy (DBT), mindfulness practice, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery and yoga. In addition, there are psychiatrists on campus who can prescribe and manage students’ medications. For those who feel less inclined to trek to the Health Center, there is also walk-in psychological counseling called “Let’s Talk” in Paresky 212 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at specific times.
In addition to the services offered by the Health Center, the Mental Health Committee sponsors semesterly “You Are Not Alone” events which offer support and solidarity to students through communal storytelling and honest discussion.
Despite these many services and recent changes, many members of the student body are not yet satisfied.
“Unless the Health Center decides to hire long-term staff … students won’t be able to develop and maintain the kind of long-term relationships with therapists that are really beneficial,” Hanson said.
Within higher education, understaffing in psych services is not an issue exclusive to the College. According to STAT, many other colleges and universities also reported shortages in counseling services, with institutions such as Davidson reporting a wait time of up to one week, Carleton a wait time of up to 10 days, Cornell a wait time of up to two weeks and Brown a wait time of up to two and a half weeks.
Hanson believes that the College has avoided tackling the issue of wait times since the students who most need PCS tend to “disappear off campus … by taking time off, transferring or being sent home for help.” Hanson and many other students hope that the campus will continue to do its part to better serve the students it claims to serve.