By Becca Robb | Echo
For students emerging from spring break, the pressure of finals and graduation may seem like too much to bear. Some will turn to the Counseling Center for help. But if they do, they may be greeted with a wait-list more than a month long.
Caroline Poland, interim director of the Counseling Center, said that the number of students seeking counseling grew over the past decade. However, the number of counselors fell behind the increasing demand. In fact, Poland said the Center's staff shrank this year, forcing them to offer fewer service hours than usual.
Junior Josh McElroy said he's been waiting since January to have a session at the Center. He attended a session before and thought the staff was friendly, but he couldn't get a later appointment when he requested it.
"(I've been waiting) a month and a half," McElroy said. "I don't know if they forgot or what."
Senior Ashlee Gerig said she thinks if students' needs are pressing, they should be able to see a counselor in less than a week. If the issue is less serious, Gerig said, waiting a week is more reasonable.
One issue with a longer wait time is that students' needs change between the day they request an appointment and the day they actually walk into the Counseling Center.
"In a few weeks, you'd probably have moved on from whatever you were feeling, because feelings kind of change a lot," freshman Micah Stewart said.
Sophomore Brooke Mackenzie said she saw a counselor regularly last year, but when he didn't return this year, she was placed on the waitlist.
"I went through some really hard times this year, and losing that stability of a person to help guide me was hard," Mackenzie said. "It's frustrating because I had asked early on for an appointment. . . . I know it's not the Counseling Center's fault because they are short-staffed and there are more and more students (asking for appointments)."
Ultimately, Mackenzie was paired with a different counselor who Mackenzie thought was friendly but not a good fit for her. She suggested using an assessment to match students with counselors who would be best suited to them, in order to maximize each session.
Poland agreed that having fewer service hours has led to difficulties with availability. In 2014, about 30 percent (150 out of 497) university counseling centers reported an active client wait-list, according to the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors Annual Survey.
The situation is not ideal, but the Center is working on ways to remedy the issue for next year, according to Poland.
Though Poland didn't say if they are hiring more counselors, she said they are implementing a group counseling format next year along with the current individual sessions.