Due to an increase in demand for the College’s Counseling Services, students are facing longer-than-usual wait times for appointments with counselors this semester. Counseling Services has responded by adding more hours and introducing new online programs designed to help students manage their mental health.
A student who wished to remain anonymous told The Colby Echo that she feels Counseling Services should be better staffed so that it can offer students appointments when they need them. Although the student was able to easily book an appointment at the counseling center at the beginning of this semester, she was only able to book an appointment once every two weeks when she would have preferred to meet weekly.
According to Counseling Services administrators, the average wait time for a first appointment is currently four and a half days.
However, the anonymous student has spoken to several others who have attempted to schedule appointments in the past few weeks and have been told they will have to wait up to a month to see a counselor. Although this student has had a positive experience with her individual counselor, she feels that Counseling Services as a whole is overwhelmed and understaffed.
Eric Johnson, Director of Counseling Services, believes that there are several contributing factors to the increased student demand for the counseling center this semester.
“The factors … include the ongoing pandemic and the myriad ways it’s impacting students’ lives, social unrest in various communities and its associated stresses, reduced stigma and a normalization for seeking counseling services, and a full return this semester to the rigors of academic life, which presents an additional layer of challenge for our first-year students,” Johnson said.
The demand for counseling appointments is reflective of broader national events and is not endemic to the College. According to Johnson, other NESCAC schools, as well as colleges and universities all over the country have been experiencing a similar increase in demand for counseling resources.
Dean of Students Barbara Moore explained that the College anticipated a higher demand for counseling this semester and took preemptive action by increasing staff resources and investing in online counseling services.
“The counseling team is constantly reviewing new and innovative ways to provide access to services that support Colby students,” Moore said. “While the number of students seeking counseling support has increased, the counseling team has been able to ensure that acute and urgent needs are met quickly and that all students have access to their services.
“In addition to regularly assessing resources and staffing at Counseling Services, we will continue to invest in areas of the student experience that support the day-to-day health and well-being of our community,” Moore added.
The College has introduced three free online platforms designed to support students’ mental health. Two of these platforms, Nod and you.colby.edu, were added to Counseling Services this semester.
Nod is an app that provides students with tips, suggestions, and challenges that are designed to enhance the skills that lead to meaningful friendships.
You.colby.edu is an educational website that provides students with health and wellness information, including links to relevant on-campus resources.
The College first added online counseling options with the platform TalkSpace last year. Through TalkSpace, students are assigned an individual licensed counselor with whom they can text, email, or meet with them via a video session. This service is similar to meeting with an on-campus counselor but with the addition of virtual communication.
Although the College has added new online programs and increased resources for counselors, many students still experience long wait times for appointments. According to Moore, the school will be monitoring the needs of students and making changes to better accommodate those needs.
“Counseling Services has adjusted staffing levels by increasing the hours of our part-time counselors, and [we] will be expanding our group counseling/support options for the spring semester and beyond,” Moore said. “Additionally, Counseling Services is always monitoring students’ needs, and proactively works with outside providers to expand hours as necessary.”
Johnson wants students to understand and use the resources available on campus. Students who need more immediate help with mental health can contact Counseling’s Administrative Coordinator, who will work with the student to connect them with a counselor in a timely manner.
“There are many avenues for getting help on and off campus and we are always available to work with students to figure out solutions for accessing mental health support, but we need to know,” Johnson said.
“It’s important to understand that when students believe they may be unable to get help because Counseling Services is too busy, they may not reach out to us, and we definitely don’t want that to happen,” he continued. “We need to get the word out that we are always available to help through a variety of ways, and that students should never hesitate to contact us.”
Although the increased demand for appointments with Counseling Services has led to longer wait times for some students this semester, Counseling Services remain committed to meeting the needs of the student body.
Students interested in the new online mental health resources can refer to a recent campus-wide email from Dean of the Students Barbara Moore, which outlines the signup process for each option.
~ Veronica McIntyre `24