Counselling accessibility evaluated

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Being a student is a full-time job. Not only do students have to be dedicated to their program of choice, but many also have extensive commitments to jobs or extracurricular activities.

Dealing with pressure can become even harder in a new and different environment. To help students with issues regarding mental health, Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) offers free on-campus counselling to its students.

“Sometimes students need to talk to people who will listen and are non-judgmental,” Tracey Watson, a counselling consultant at Laurier, explained.

But how accessible is on-campus counselling at Laurier?

Students seeking counselling have to sign-up for an intake time with a counsellor during a weekday. This system is on a first come, first served basis.

According to Watson, counsellors arrive at the office with a line already forming for the sign-up sheet. After students have signed up, the period of waiting before they can be taken in for an appointment is a week. However, during peak times, the wait could extend to two weeks. Peak times for the office are usually during October to the first of November, also known as midterm season.

“We are busy when students are busy,” said Watson.

Students who seek immediate attention are never turned away and can be seen without an intake form as long as they qualify as being in a ‘crisis’ situation.

During the beginning of the year, counsellors tend to have an average of five crisis appointments per day. This number usually increases in peak times. Last year, from October 22 to November 9, counsellors dealt with 23 crisis situations.

For counselling services, being in a crisis entails danger (to oneself or another), coping with the death of a loved one, having strange or traumatic experiences, or being unable to handle an overwhelming and unbearable situation.

Watson explained that in a stressful situation, students might feel like they are in a crisis, but may not necessarily qualify. In these instances, students are told to come back on a different day.

“If a student is at more of a risk, we prioritize,” said Watson.

If after seeing the criteria students still feel like they need urgent help, they will be seen by a counsellor.

Moreover, students are redirected when their issues cannot be solved using the short-term model. An example would be if a student were struggling with addiction.

Watson explained, “If their treatment goals are long-term, then we refer them to the community.”

Brian Kwok, a Laurier student who has used counselling in the past, said that he was satisfied with counselling at Laurier and found it extremely helpful. He was able to see a counsellor within a few days after filling out an intake form.

“They tried to schedule me in as soon as possible,” said Kwok.

He commented, however, that he knows of a few people who completed the intake form but asked to be referred to outside services because of the long wait.

Adrienne Luft, mental health and student support team leader, explained that students require different assistance. As a case manager, her job is to connect students to outside resources in the community.

“One size doesn’t fit all. It’s okay for students to switch counsellors,” said Luft.

Students may think that they are at fault, she continued, but it would be better to keep looking, even if it is the community or outside resources that could fulfill their needs.

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