Wait times for Lauderdale counseling services decrease

Lauderdale Health & Counseling Center hired three new counselors in February, causing wait times to decrease by 82 percent for students. Wait times now average around four days. (Jenna Harbus/Staff Photographer)

The wait time for Lauderdale Health & Counseling Center has decreased significantly since spring 2016, when Lauderdale was overwhelmed with appointments at the end of the semester. Students previously found wait times to be excessively long.

Lauderdale wait times have been reduced by as much as 82 percent, according to Administrative Director for Student Health and Counseling Dr. Erin Halligan-Avery. This decrease in wait time was made possible by the appointment of three new counselors in February. There is now one 10-month, general practitioner therapist and two clinical case and crisis counselors.     

The clinical case and crisis counselors are available daily to meet with students who have either made first time appointments or who are walking in to see a counselor right away, according to Clinical Director for South Village Counseling Services Dr. Beth Cholette. Following the initial meeting, the counselors then refer students to therapists and other wellness resources should they choose to continue counseling.    

“With them not seeing students on an ongoing basis, we’ve really been able to manage and get students in as needed,” Cholette said. “Really, there’s no wait time. The only wait time is when a student doesn’t want to be seen that day.”

Students who choose to pursue further counseling with a therapist or general practitioner can expect a wait time of around four days, down from the 23.75 day wait time in 2016, according to Halligan-Avery. Problems came about in 2016 due to difficulty in keeping pace with the demand for services, as this demand has only increased over the past 20 years, Cholette said.    

Lauderdale will also offer more support groups and seminar workshops for students to utilize. Among these are Recognition, Openness and Insight workshops, which offer a holistic and mindful approach to stress management across three sessions. 

Other resources include the three wellness rooms on campus, located in Onondaga Hall, the MacVittie College Union and the Lauderdale Health Center. A massage therapist has also been contracted to give 15-minute chair massages to students at the Union every Wednesday.

“We’re trying to create these wellness spaces all over campus where students can relax,” Halligan-Avery said. “Mental health is also stress, and maybe you don’t need long term therapy, but you might like a program that could help you feel less stressed.”

Reception of the new services has been very favorable so far among both students and faculty, according to both Cholette and Halligan-Avery. 

“The students that have used our services love it, but the wider campus still has the view that they can’t get in as quickly,” Cholette said. “We need to get the word out more that you can get in and be seen right away.”

Mathematics major sophomore Jack McAlevey noticed significant changes in Lauderdale’s services even in the fall 2016 semester.

“I was really satisfied with the services I got and also it was really easy to schedule an appointment,” McAlevey said. “I did it in the beginning of the semester so that may have helped, but I just called and had a counseling appointment in two weeks and then we followed up, so it was not difficult.”

Going forward, Lauderdale aims to continue to provide as many resources as possible for students to meet their mental health needs, according to Halligan-Avery.

“It didn’t feel good for any of us to not see students as quickly as we wanted to,” she said. “It was as painful for us as it was the students that we couldn’t meet with in a timely standard. So, the fact we’ve adjusted our model with the three new therapists has done wonders for our ability to connect with students.”