Student Wellness associate director says same day counselling appointments better for students
Humber College students say they wait too long for counselling sessions that are too short. However, Jacqueline Anderson, associate director of Student Wellness and Development, says that the system currently in place is an improvement over the old one.
She says that the counselling service is rooted in “evidence-based practice” and “operational needs of the program.”
“Before, integration, counselling, and health services were located at different parts of the North Campus. The appointments were made in advance when counsellors had the ability to accept a new student,” says Anderson. “Before same-day appointments, there was a high rate of cancellations and no-shows for the pre-booked appointments.”
The counselling, health, and accessible learning services were then integrated to form the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre in 2015. According to Anderson, this change improved the service dramatically. She says that the service improved referrals between services, improved outcomes of the students’ health and academic goals, and improved communication between services.
Same-day appointments were also added in 2015. The Associate Director says, “same-day appointments increase access to appointments and eliminate waitlists, [for example,] other post-secondary institutions have a three to six-week waitlist to see a counsellor.”
Anderson acknowledges students’ complaints about the same-day appointment policy. “Same-day appointments fill up in times of stress. If an appointment is not available with a counsellor, students are offered some choices, [whether] to see a mental health nurse, and/or call Good 2 Talk, [a post-secondary student crisis helpline]. The mental health nurse assists with triage of students in crisis, and they can assist in referring students to counselling services, as per their assessment,” she says.
She has also heard complaints about the short time caps. However, according to Anderson, “fifty-minute appointments align with standards of clinical practice.”
An article by Susan Leviton, a licensed therapist, points out that though appointments are only fifty-minutes, the client does get a full hour. The extra ten minutes is used for the client’s benefit to write notes about the session and keep records up to date. The therapist may also use a couple of those minutes before sessions to remind themselves of the themes from the previous session.
In 2017, the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre also introduced therapeutic groups led by Humber College’s counsellors.
Anderson says Healthy Minds for Stressful Times, one of the therapeutic groups, “assists to create access to services outside of the Student Wellness and Accessibility Service, and we also have an upcoming Therapeutic Writing Skills Workshop running on March 26. The two groups are self-referral, and students do not require pre-registration to attend.”
She believes that Humber College’s counselling service is the first of its kind. Anderson adds, “Humber College was one of the first colleges to integrate counselling, health, and accessibility services in one location. Students who come to the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre receive holistic, student-centered care that assists a student to improve academic and health outcomes.”