Counseling Services Sees Influx of Student Visits

Madison Reynolds

Many colleges across the U.S. are seeing an increase in demand for student counseling services, and the College of St. Scholastica is included in that national trend. According to Tad Sears, director of the Student Center for Health and Wellbeing at CSS, the counseling center has had a 10 percent increase in the amount of student counseling sessions this past year.

So what has changed that has caused counseling centers across the nation to have so many more student visits? Teresa Aldach, Coordinator of Counseling Center and a Counselor at CSS, said that it is due to a variety of different reasons, including how the stigma surrounding mental health has been decreasing.

“[This] is a terrific change for all of our communities that the stigma is coming down. Students are more apt to seek out services when they are met with a struggle, and that’s wonderful that this has happened … but it has resulted in an increase in demand for our services” said Aldach.

“I also truly believe that students are under more stress. We live in a very fast paced society now, and there’s just a lot of social stressor, financial stressors, and all kinds of other stressors that challenge students even more as they work on their goal of completing their degree” said Aldach.

According to the recent Boynton College Health Survey done at CSS, it was found that 35 percent of CSS students have a hard time managing high levels of stress, and 23 percent of CSS students have been at some point in their lives diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. In addition to that, Aldach said that Counseling Services now see more students with anxiety than with depression.

“We see a wide variety of concerns coming into our center. Anything from adjustment as a first year college student, and the stress associated with that … relationship issues … roommate issues … working with lots of different issues. But historically our most frequent presenting concern was depression, or mood disorders in general. We saw a change in that, like many colleges and universities. Over the last four years, anxiety has surpassed depression as the primary presenting concern,” said Aldach.

The Counseling Center has had to make some changes in order to accommodate the influx of students. Sears said that students now have a 12 session limit per academic year. He added that CSS was was one of the last Minnesota private colleges to implement such a limit.

“If a student comes in for a crisis, for a variety of reasons, those kinds of meetings don’t go against the twelve session limit. For a great, great. majority a student’s, I would have to say ninety five percent of our students, that twelve sessions works just fine,” said Sears.

The first session a student has with a counselor doesn’t count towards the session limit as it’s purpose is getting information about the student and what type of help they require.

Another thing that is changing is that the Counseling Center will be utilizing group work more as a way to see more students, but in a different way than just one on one sessions. It is also a way for students to feed off of each other, and learn from each other as well.

Aldach is running an anxiety group starting next week that has gained a lot of student interest.

“It’s going to be a group that meets for six sessions. I cap it at ten students, and we had a lot of interest, so we do have a full group starting. It will meet six different times for an hour and a half. At each different meeting I am introducing certain kinds of coping skills to help with how you cope with anxiety, how you decrease the anxiety and how you improve your coping skills,” said Aldach.

Sears also said that he plans to start a grief group for students

“We are looking at different ways to meet students needs around the different challenges they’re experiencing in their lives through doing group work. And we can continue to explore the different type of groups that will meet the growing demand,” said Sears.

Tad Sears mentioned that even though Counseling Services are busier than normal, they are still able to get students in quickly and efficiently.

“We’re pretty proud of getting students in quickly. We have always worked really hard at trying to get students in for that initial session no later than a week from when they call. And we have been able to do that, though it’s becoming more and more challenging … we’re committed as much as possible to get students in as quickly as possible, because when students call we want to respect that they’re calling for a reason and we want to be able to talk to them as quickly as possible. They had the courage to reach out and ask for support, because it can be difficult to take that first step and we want to honor that by getting them in as quickly as possible to talk to somebody,” said Sears.

Aldach commented on how students have access to great counselors in Student Counseling Services.

“Saint Scholastica can feel really confident in our counseling services office. We are really lucky to have counselors in our office that have been doing this work a very long time. We have very seasoned staff back here, decades and decades of experience in college mental health. I feel really proud of all of the staff are very different so students can find a counselor that they can really connect with. All of us just come with a lot of experience” said Aldach.

To schedule an appointment with the Student Counseling Center, call Diane Swanoski at (218)-723-6085. Student Counseling Services are always free and confidential. They provide psychotherapy, counseling, and psychiatric services.