Counseling and Psychological Services works to address increased student demand

Olivia Manz, Staff Reporter

Demand for counseling and mental health services on campus has increased this semester. The demand has been met by collaborative efforts by Counseling and Psychological Services, the Center for Wellness and Health Promotion and the Student Health Center. 

“We have been providing assistance to those affected by the recent student deaths,” CAPS Director Donna Bender said.

Bender also said that efforts have been made to increase awareness of on-campus mental health programming through freshman orientation programs, a webinar, and collaboration with theWELL and the Health Center, adding to the already high demand. 

“Demand for services has been unusually high at the start of this semester,” Bender said.

She said that longer waiting times are not uncommon. 

“In past semesters there have been periods that waiting times can be a few weeks long,” Bender said. 

Bender said that increasing the number of staff members and incorporating group therapy will help.

“We have been given resources to expand our staff, which has been happening over time, and soon we will be adding at least three more psychologists,” Bender said.

Director of the Student Health Center Scott Tims said that training professionals throughout the university, funded by a three-year, $300,000 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant, will help the university respond to mental health problems students face.

CAPS also shifted its consultations from phone calls to in-person consultations, where students are evaluated before they make appointments for counseling.

“Seeing students in person allows us to get a better sense of the issues the student is seeking help for,” Bender said.

Bender said there is a variety of options for students seeking counseling, including short term or long term therapy, as well as off-campus resources.

“The student might best be served by getting connected with a provider in the community who can work with him or her for a longer period of time,” Bender said. “We also try to direct students to other campus resources that might be helpful in addition to the services we offer.”

CAPS employs seven therapists, two psychologists and five psychiatrists. A similar office at Emory University employs 10 licensed psychologists. According to the Vanderbilt University’s Psychological and Counseling Center, students may wait up to one week for an appointment after a phone consultation.

Bender said CAPS continues to develop more options to address student need. 

“In addition to our mindfulness workshops, we are offering a stress management educational group and a mind-body connection group this semester,” Bender said.

As part of a university-wide effort to prevent and treat life-threatening mental health issues, TheWELL, CAPS, Reily Student Recreation Center and other offices on campus are working together.

“We believe it is important to interface broadly with diverse campus partners to offer programs and services that address directly the kinds of concerns and issues that affect the overall well-being of Tulane students,” Bender said.

Director of TheWELL Lindsey Greeson also said that collaboration is necessary to the success of any mental health prevention services. 

“You can’t ask someone to be well in an environment that doesn’t support mental well-being,” Greeson said.

“All the staff [at the Student Health Center] went through suicide gatekeeper training so that they recognize signs and symptoms,” Tims said. “If you came here to see a primary care doctor and they recognized that you’re struggling, they could get you to CAPS quicker.” 

Tulane is evaluated every other year by the National College Health Assessment, a benchmarking process to compare needs and services to other institutions.

Greeson said that it “looks at different indicators around mental well-being and health in general” and compares Tulane with 270 other higher education institutions. 

“We can say, side-by-side, ‘Is our stress normal or do we have higher levels of stress or disordered eating or depression that we need to prioritize on this campus?’” Greeson said.

Vice President of Student Affairs Dusty Porter said he is confident that health administrators continue to increase programming through collaboration.

“Since I arrived here, I have been really impressed by [Bender’s] work as Director of CAPS and [Tims’] work as Director of the Student Health Center,” Porter said. “They are really collaborating effectively in thinking about how we meet the health and wellness needs of Tulane students.”

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