Counseling continue services despite primarily operating virtually

Chatwan Mongkol, Associate News Editor

As students are heading toward their final weeks of the semester without a spring break, Quinnipiac University’s counseling center is ensuring that students can access mental health services despite some obstacles due to a hybrid setting.

Director of Counseling Services Ariela Reder said the counseling center has not been able to operate fully in person since COVID-19 hit in March 2020. It was fully online in spring and summer of 2020, but it has been hybrid since the fall 2020 semester.

While Reder said it was a steep learning curve for counselors during the transition, it posed more challenges for students seeking services.

Emma Kogel 

“It took some time to get used to this different way of being where the counselor is because counseling is a very intimate process,” Reder said. “Some of the challenges have been actually for students, more than us, in finding private spaces to have their counseling appointments.”

Since students could not go in person, Reder said some held their sessions at different places like their cars, reserved study rooms or even when they were walking.

Even though many reports show that online instruction during the pandemic impacted people’s health and wellness, Reder said the number of students seeking counseling services in this academic year remains consistent with prior years.

However, there was a significant increase last summer when COVID-19 was new as the counseling center normally did not work with many students during the summer.

Although there have been students seeking counseling services as a result of mental health issues from the pandemic, the common reasons remain the same.

“The truth is, in that regard, most things haven’t changed meaning anxiety (and) depression are still our top two reasons why students are coming in,” Reder said.

While other colleges and universities such as Yale University, Columbia College Chicago and Salisbury University are facing problems with understaffing in their counseling centers, which led to difficulty for students to get an appointment, Reder said this is not the case for Quinnipiac.

Reder explained that last spring, the counseling center implemented a same-day-appointment policy, which gives students a good chance to talk to someone the same day unless they reach out near the end of the operating hours. Reder said it was rare for students to be on a waitlist because their schedules do not align with the staff’s.

Despite the university-wide budget cut last year due to COVID-19, the counseling center did not lose any staff, and the department’s cut did not impact its operation.

“We did have some concessions that we made,” Reder said. “But they were not student-facing. It’s everything we could to make sure that whatever budget cut we had did not affect the services that we provide to students.”

Spring 2021 was the first semester without any spring break for students. With self-care days as a replacement, some students said it was not a good idea since the university placed those days during midterm and final weeks. Others said it was not enough, and the lack of break could lead to academic burnout.

To help students with that, philosophy professor Rebecca Bamford said she makes sure her students know of the mental health resources on campus, and that she is available for them.

“I encourage students to stay in touch with me about their individual academic and learning needs and work with my advisees on their individual advising needs,” Bamford said.

Management associate professor Julia Fullick-Jagiela also said her office door is always open for students who want to chat or vent, and she makes sure to learn what students want.

“I listen to the pulse of the class and pickup on cues — sometimes we just need a workday during class time for students to catch up on assignments,” Fullick-Jagiela said. “I also emphasize the importance of asking for help when you need it — that asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.”

As final exams are approaching, Bamford said she is trying to help students manage their workloads.

“I am also looking into adjusting assignments where I reasonably can in these final weeks, while still supporting students’ academic development and learning opportunities, all within ongoing pandemic restrictions and requirements,” Bamford said.