The counseling center has experienced high demand and has little to no availability to accommodate additional student needs, according to the Office of Student Affairs (OSA).
A student who requested anonymity began attending weekly sessions at the center last semester.
“I had only started that last semester, but it was one of those situations where it was important enough that the counselor kept me at the weekly appointments even when it got busy and a lot of people got cut back to every other week,” the student said.
However, the student has been unable to attend any sessions so far this semester.
“I have a chronic illness and I was recommended to seek counseling to talk about stress management and kind of just talk through things because it’s a big emotional burden to have a chronic illness. Especially being a college student and being busy it’s hard to take care of yourself while you’re managing all of that and so it was strongly recommended that I start going over the summer when I went to see my doctor. So that’s why I started going: to manage my health and make sure my symptoms are alleviated by my ability to manage my stress in my day to day stuff.”
The student told The University News that the sessions in the fall helped treat a chronic illness. The News does not normally grant anonymity to sources but is doing so in this case given the sensitivity of the personal medical matters the student discussed.
“It was definitely slow and steady but I definitely saw a lot of improvement so it was really helpful to go every week and get help with the different things I was struggling with, whether it more of the mental or emotional side or more on the physical side,” the student said.
The lack of availability did not just occur this semester.
“[My sessions] were originally 45 minutes,” said the student, “but once they cut back on time it would be 30 minutes but a lot of people would overflow from before because there was another standing appointment before me. So it was usually anywhere between 15 to 20 minutes.”
According to the UD counseling center’s scheduling system, there are currently only two sessions available for 30 minutes in May.
Due to the unavailability of the center, the student seeking counseling help has not received any counseling this spring semester.
“I’ve been checking pretty much every week since I realized there were no more openings that I could do,” the student said.
“We are looking at multiple options to meet the demand and make a sustainable model that provides students access to the services,” said the director of the counseling center, Johnathan Sumpter. “As always, we strive to meet as many students as possible while providing evidence-based top quality treatment.”
Senior Classics major Lydia Walters also expressed difficulty with getting appointments in the counseling center until she switched to one of the few counselors with availability this semester.
“Luckily, after switching to one of the other counselors, I’ve found more consistency in the counseling,” Walters said in a text message. “So while I do think that they cared even when the first counselor kept rescheduling, it made me wonder how swamped they really were.”
“I’m also a big advocate for mental health and seeking help when needed,” wrote Walters, “and it made me a little worried about people who maybe needed to get in sooner.”
The increase in demand for mental health services at UD is not uncommon elsewhere, according to an email exchange with Dean of Students Julia Carrano.
“Like college counseling centers around the United States, we have a large demand placed upon us, due to rising mental health concerns,” wrote Carrano.
The University News asked in an email to Carrano about the constant rescheduling and cancelations that students have faced this semester.
“There are no changes in service currently and so no appointments have been cancelled or are being considered to be cancelled,” Carrano wrote in response.
The center is considering different options to meet this high demand.
“We have a number of opportunities to address this increasing demand,” wrote Carrano, “from expanding clinical hours through the use of practicum and pre-practicum student clinicians, bringing on psychiatric providers, building partnerships across the campus and in the greater community to increase resiliency training for our students, assisting students with insurance to access providers off campus, and exploring limits to the number of free sessions any given student can access in order to provide additional support and open up appointments for new students. Currently we have plans to bring on a practicum student starting this summer; other opportunities are still being discussed.”
Further action concerning the budget of the counseling center will not be addressed until May, according to executive vice president Dr. John Plotts.
“The answer to your question will not be known with any certainty until the FY21 budget is approved at the May Board of Trustees meeting,” Plotts said in an email. “We will know more at that time.”