Counseling Center overwhelmed with students in need

By Sarah Mitchell

The Counseling Center at the Student Health Center has a hard time scheduling appointments for students because of the amount of clients it receives yearly.

Statistics show college students are at risk for depression. According to the American College Health Association, 45 percent of women and 36 percent of men felt so depressed during college years that it was difficult to function.

Dr. Jean Cunningham, assistant director and chief psychologist at the Counseling Center, said the center provides help with a variety of issues.



“It’s important for students to recognize that we deal with very basic, normal, everyday life problems like adjusting to college and getting along with roommates … all the way up to serious, chronic mental illnesses,” she said. “We deal with the full array.”

The services at the Counseling Center are confidential to everyone within the university as well as parents, Cunningham said.

Thirty-two percent of college students have received counseling in their lifetime, according to a study conducted by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University.

Brad, a junior from Naperville studying cinema, said he attended weekly counseling sessions last semester and being placed with a counselor took longer than he had hoped.

“To my understanding, it was just because they didn’t have enough people on staff because so many students go there for help,” he said.

Like health services at the Student Health Center, the Counseling Center charges a $6 fee at the door.

Brad said he was happy with his experience at the center, and the fee was not a problem for him.

“I did not find the price to be bad, especially compared to the outside resources,” he said. “I hope the price doesn’t stop anybody from getting help.”

Some students say they do not receive enough information about the Counseling Center.

Amrita Biswas, a graduate student from India in molecular biology, said she was unaware there was a Counseling Center on campus. Biswas said she thinks counseling services on campus is a good idea and is not sure why she didn’t know these services exist.

Cunningham said during the Counseling Center’s hours of operation, a counselor sits on duty with an empty schedule and takes same-day appointments with students who need immediate help.

“If somebody needs to talk about a troubling situation once, they can sit with a counselor on duty and it doesn’t take anything other than one call to the Counseling Center to set that up,” she said. “Or, if somebody is having an emergency and needs to see someone right away, they can see that counselor on duty.”

Cunningham said seeing the counselor on duty is a good way for a student to decide whether or not he or she would like to seek help regularly.

Tayler Celey, a sophomore from Bloomington studying psychology, said she is interested in becoming a counselor because she enjoys the idea of helping people. She said she thinks receiving counseling is a good idea for anyone.

“Even if it’s not to correct a problem, it’s a good idea to go in for counseling to get a better understanding of what’s going on with your emotions,” she said. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to.”

Cunningham said the main therapy services include individual counseling, couples’ counseling and group sessions with up to eight other students.

Greg Steinsdoerfer, a teaching assistant of psychology and counselor, said the Counseling Center allows clients only 12 therapy sessions a year unless the student meets special requirements. If a student needs more than the permitted sessions, a counselor will make a referral for a therapy service in the community.

According to a study conducted by the John Hopkins Children’s Center and the University of Maryland, 12 percent of college students said they had thought about committing suicide and 1 percent said they had planned or attempted suicide during college.

Counselors can work with the psychiatrists in health services to get medication for students that need it, Cunningham said.

Antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Steinsdoerfer said he thinks students who have been prescribed medication for diagnosed behavioral disorders should seek counseling.

“I always think medication is most effective when combined with counseling,” he said. “In my personal opinion, counseling and healthy lifestyles are more effective than just medication.”