Couseling and Testing Center (CTC) Director Greg Lambert doesn’t want students to sit on a waitlist for their first appointment for more than a week.
“We see every student who schedules an initial appointment,” Lambert said.
Every year the University of Idaho CTC sees more people, including about 11 percent of the UI student body, who make appointments faster than the center’s staff can grow.
Lambert said these increases are not unique to UI’s counseling center.
“There is increased demand for counseling centers around the country,” Lambert said. “The increase has been a steady climb for the last 10 to 15 years.”
According to the center’s data, the center has seen an overall 12 percent increase in the number of students who scheduled at least one appointment with the center each year.
“It used to be slow at the start of the year as people got to know our center existed,” said Sharon Fritz, licensed psychologist at the center. “Now, we’re busy right from the start.”
Lambert said there are a variety of reasons counseling centers are seeing more people. For one, he said people who want to see a counselor are becoming more aware that the CTC is available to them.
For another, he said the stigmas that have kept people from realizing they want to see a counselor are decreasing through information and advocacy.
Fritz said stigmas have also been diminished by a greater need from the students.
“Rarely do I meet a student who is just going to school anymore,” Fritz said. “They’re working or in a relationship or have family issues or are dealing with less financial aid.”
She said with advances in technology, students not from the Moscow area tend to remain better connected with their home communities than students did in the past and don’t get to know their new community as soon. She said this results in more homesick students.
Lambert said the contentious presidential election had no significant effect on the number of appointments that were scheduled at the center.
“People aren’t coming in just about the election,” Fritz said. “But the people who came in, we heard from a lot about the election.”
Lambert said the center has added a new faculty member to the staff every year for the past few years.
Lambert said although keeping up with staffing is important, there are other ways counseling centers can cope with the higher demand.
The International Association of Counseling Services recommends counseling centers keep one full-time faculty to every 1,000-1,500 students. Lambert said the center’s nine full-time faculty maintains a ratio 1 in 1,280 students.
Lambert said special programs that approach mental health differently than general one-on-one counselors can help alleviate the burden on the counseling center.
He said the center has plans to hire or promote a clinician to serve as a case manager to handle walk-in appointments and work with the community.
Lambert said the center already does a variety of preventative community outreach through its programs. These activities have included community screenings that Lambert described as “sophisticated self-evaluations” to help people determine if they should see a counselor.
He said he would also like to see a group counseling program set up to help more students at once who may not need one-on-one help. Lambert said for most, group sessions are just as effective as one-on-one sessions.
Nishant Mohan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NishantRMohan