Texas State Counseling Center officials have revised the appointment scheduling process this fall in an effort to better accommodate the growing population of students.
Last year, officials had to turn away about 1,700 students for an initial consultation, according to Kathlyn Dailey, interim director of the counseling center. Since then, center administrators have changed the number of daily consultations from seven to 12 per counselor and have discovered not all the spots are being filled, Dailey said.
“In the past, students had to call first thing in the morning to get a spot, and we would fill those slots and after they were full we would ask (students) to call back,” Dailey said. “To help this, we have made more spots available and introduced a levels system, which asks students to identify their reasoning behind wanting to be seen.”
The new system has three different levels, Dailey said. The first level includes students who indicate thoughts of harming themselves or others. The center puts these students in an on-call slot to be seen as soon as possible.
Level-two students are those who have suffered a recent trauma and will be put into an on-call slot. The level-three classification is for students in need of initial consultations and want to begin counseling sessions.
According to Dailey, the center tries to see students classified as level one or two immediately. If that is not possible, the center generally sees them on the same day of their call. However, if no slots are available that day, they record the student’s name and ask them to call back at a later date, she said.
Students who call a second time should tell the front desk about it, so they can be placed in an on-call slot. This helps the center prioritize better based on the students’ needs, said Heather Aidala, assistant director of the center.
Level-three students generally have traditional concerns such as mild depression, anxiety, relationship changes, difficulty adjusting to college life or trouble with stress management, Aidala said. The center has reduced the amount of clinical time they place toward these appointments, Aidala said.
As of right now, the ratio of full-time counselors to students is one to 2,220. The number is lower than recommended for a university of Texas State’s size. However, it is on par with other universities of the same size, Dailey said. Employees have increased on-call hours to 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. and have started seeing patients over lunches to accommodate the gap in the counselor-student ratio, Dailey said.
As of now, the center has three doctorial interns, three practicum trainees, two postdoctoral residents and seven full-time clinical positions, according to the center’s website. The center has recently hired a new part-time counselor, Dailey said. Student Affairs is reviewing the counseling center’s budget, so additional funds might become available to hire additional staff, said Joanne Smith, vice president of Student Affairs.
“Every area gets a certain amount of money to run their department,” Smith said. “As we see new needs, we make adjustments.”
Counselors are able to meet with twice as many students as last year, since more consultation hours are offered, Dailey said.
“Our staff is dedicated to seeing students succeed,” Aidala said. “We do the best we can with our resources. We have surveys going on now for students that have been to the counseling center and so far, students say they wish we had more time for them.”