Lauderdale expands counseling services to accomodate student needs

Lauderdale Counseling Services will begin the search for three new counselors this semester in order to meet the needs of the increasing number of students who require counseling. In addition, Lauderdale plans to increase the number of group sessions available, increase counselors’ presence on campus, hire a new crisis hotline number devoted to counseling and adjust its crisis service hours. Lauderdale’s extended services resulted from its inability to meet all students’ needs at the end of last semester. Many students who required counseling services were placed on a waiting list and referred to off-campus services unless they were experiencing severe trauma or were found a threat to themselves or the campus.

According to staff psychologist Gene Griffing, the new group sessions Lauderdale plans to implement will focus on six specific areas: coping skills, LGBTQ issues, a bereavement group, self-compassion and expressive arts, Recognition, Insight and Openness (RIO) and mindfulness.

The number of weeks counseling groups will meet and the size of these groups will vary, Griffing said. Clinical Director for South Village Counseling Services Dr. Beth Cholette stated that group counseling will last longer than individual appointments, typically lasting an hour and a half compared to 45 or 50 minute individual sessions.

Cholette believes that there are many advantages to group sessions. “Groups generally meet weekly as opposed to most of our individual work [which meets] biweekly. So one advantage is you get to meet with a counselor every week,” she said. “We’ll also have a variety of groups so they won’t necessarily all be disclosure oriented.”

Lauderdale will also increase counselors’ contact with students, faculty and staff.

“We’re planning on having counselors out on campus, hopefully a couple of hours each week with different little points for people to be able to check in and consult,” Griffing said. “So it wouldn’t really be counseling, but it’d be … real quick check-in sessions.”

Griffing added that faculty and staff can come to counselors with concerns about specific students and their conduct and behavior.

Protocol is the additional crisis hotline that Lauderdale plans to hire. This service will allow students to talk to a counselor at any point during the academic year. According to Cholette, the current hotline available after hours is called Nurse Advice Line, which is mainly used for medical care and is not a distinctive mental health program.

Lauderdale’s crisis service hours will be adjusted from two hours in the afternoon to one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon in order to accommodate for students who need to be seen earlier in the day. Students can call the counseling center when they are experiencing a crisis and based on the level of urgency, they will either have a brief counseling session over the phone or meet with a counselor in person. According to Griffing, with the new hires Lauderdale hopes to expand the amount of time devoted to crises care as well.

These changes have been implemented in part due to the continuous increase in the number of students who have requested counseling services from Lauderdale. Lauderdale experienced a 4.6 percent increase in total appointments last year, with a total of 2,657 appointments last year compared to 2,511 appointments the year before.

Griffing commented that the issues counselors see are also becoming more complex. He stated students commonly seek counseling for anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression.

“More and more we’re seeing students who are showing up to campus who are already taking medications for things that are just way more complicated than just simple college adjustment,” he said.

Education major sophomore Kaylan Ruiz hopes that the changes that Lauderdale is implementing will serve to accommodate more students.

“I know students who have required counseling, specifically one who could not get an appointment last year,” she said. “I think with these changes Lauderdale will be able to meet more of students’ counseling needs to prevent such a situation from occurring again.”