In March, during the mid-cycle budget approval process, the College’s Psychological Counseling Services (PCS) received approval to hire two additional full time therapists. PCS is in the process of recruiting for these two positions. This endeavor is part of the College’s goal to grow PCS, and this year alone the College has added over 65 clinical hours per week, or the equivalent of over two full time therapists, as well as contracted two other therapists in January.
In the 2015-16 academic year, 29 percent of the student body utilized PCS, a 13 percent increase from 10 years prior. There has also been an 80 percent increase in the annual number of individual therapy hours that are scheduled since 2009.
“This kind of strategic growth in service is only possible through continued College investment in mental health,” Wendy Adam, director of PCS, said. “Where many college mental health services refer students to external providers, cap the length or number of individual therapy sessions or provide primarily crisis intervention and stabilization services, PCS continues to offer comprehensive, in-house psychotherapeutic and psychiatric care for students, without any caps on service.”
PCS offers psychotherapeutic services such as individual and group psychotherapy, psychiatric services like assessment and medication management, psychoeducational workshops and crisis assessment through on-call phone coverage 24/7 and crisis intervention appointments.
Adam joined the College as director of PCS in November of 2016, the same week as the U.S. presidential election. “I experienced firsthand the unwavering investment of the PCS team and the unquestionably supportive presence of administration across departments, in seeking a solid place for students to flourish, even and especially amidst change,” Adam said. “The strategy we bring looks to meet not only current demand for clinical services, but larger systemic impact within Williams and beyond.”
Not only was PCS approved to hire two new therapists, but last weekend the Board of Trustees also approved a capital project to develop long-term housing for PCS in the renovated Hewat House at 100 Hoxsey St. The renovation project will take a couple of years but will allow all of PCS to reside in the same location and keep them close to medical services, as this house is directly across the street from the Thompson Health Center.
“These significant, strategic increases in medical and mental health staffing over the past few years have created substantial pressure on space at Thompson Health Center,” Adam said.
“With rapid expansion in PCS personnel to meet increasing demand – difficulties arose in accessing appropriate clinical space, resulting in therapy offices spread out across campus, now in four locations (Health Center, Davis Center, Peer Health and First Congregational Church).” The Health Center has also had to relocate several other staff and turn one large office into two, impacting the services as a whole.
“With a residential feel to contribute to student comfort in accessing PCS services, and situated directly across the street from Thompson Health Center, the Hewat House renovation serves an important role in the Health Center’s strategic plans for leadership in whole student wellness and wellbeing services,” Adam said.
“I’m remarkably proud of our ongoing investments in staff and facilities, all of which are driven by our profound desire to see all students thrive because they have intentionally chosen holistic wellbeing over all other attributes,” Steve Klass, Vice President for Campus Life, said. “Our long-term goal is to ensure that everyone graduates from Williams with the tools they need to flourish throughout their lives and that they have the expertise and desire to pay this investment forward into their families and workplaces.”
PCS is also continuing to change their training program, which expanded in 2015 to become a formal college mental health fellowship program that hosts three full-time post-doctorate psychotherapy fellows for two years. The fellows complete supervised clinical hours that are required for state licensure and also partner with Antioch University and Smith so that fellows can get the required internship hours that they need for training.
“Through our training program, Williams can affect macro, systemic changes through the leadership of our training graduates,” Adam said. “While in fellowship, fellows learn crucial curricula and skills necessary in this specialty area, while providing continuous, supervised clinical care for Williams students across two academic years as they achieve required milestones for professional licensure.”
“Future plans for PCS aim to promote wellbeing through multifaceted efforts, while still offering the full array of our current intervention and treatment services,” Adam said. “The past five months at Williams [have] convince[d] me that, together, we can lead, and lead well.”