UB Counseling Services reports increased use of services

Services see an increase in appointments compared to last year

The Spectrum

UB’s Counseling Services department is seeing more students than ever before. 

From 2012 to 2017, the office had a 20 percent increase in the number of students seeking services, according to Senior Director of Counseling, Health and Wellness Sharon Mitchell. 

Counseling Services has a budget of $3.3 million. In the past four years, Counseling Services added four new counselor positions and a full-time psychiatric nurse practitioner, according to Mitchell. The increased demand for services at UB is in line with a national trend. 

During the 2017-18 school year, Counseling Services provided 14,277 counseling appointments to 2,335 students, Mitchell said. The numbers represent a 15 percent increase in how many students the department sees and a 7 percent increase in the number of attended appointments compared to the previous year. 

The office reduced the maximum number of individual counseling sessions per academic year from 14 to 10 in fall 2017 due to more students seeking services. 

For several years, about 80 percent of students seen at Counseling Services attended one to 10 sessions, with the average number of sessions being six, Mitchell said.

“Our mean number of sessions is consistent with national norms, so we adjusted the sessions offered accordingly in order to serve more students,” Mitchell said in an email. “There was not a change in the average number of sessions students attended [after reducing the number of available sessions during the academic year].” 

For schools of 25,000 to 30,000 students, the average number of students who seek counseling is 2,210, according to Mitchell. The average number of total counseling sessions offered each year is 10,192 and the mean staff size is 13 full-time counselors, Mitchell added.

 “While we do have limitations on our individual and couples counseling per academic year, students can attend weekly counseling groups in an unlimited manner,” Mitchell said. “Our counseling center is actually well-staffed compared to other schools our size. At UB, we see more students for more sessions and it is likely because we have a larger staff – 20 full-time employee counselors.”

 The increase in students using Counseling Services makes members of the Student Association executive board happy, since they advocated for more awareness of available on-campus resources.

 Student Association Vice President Anyssa Evelyn said she is glad students are taking good care of their mental health. She said it’s easy to neglect when students are caught up in the hustle and bustle of the semester. 

“I am super excited to see students utilize these important resources because it means they are recognizing the importance of taking your health seriously as a student,” Evelyn said. “A lot of the times, mental health goes to the back burner when you’re a student so I love that students are actually putting this on the front lines of importance.”

Evelyn urged any students who are thinking about seeking help to do so. The services are free for students and can often lead to a happier, stress-free life, she said.

The SA executive board signed a proclamation last Monday that calls for the university to include the phone number for Counseling Services on the back of the UB ID card.

In addition to hiring more staff, Counseling Services added an online therapy intervention tool called Therapy Assistance Online to its website. TAO has several modules that allow students to work on reducing their stress, depression, anxiety and to develop better interpersonal skills, according to Mitchell. 

“Some students prefer the convenience of a self-paced intervention that they can do at times that work for their busy schedules,” Mitchell said.

“Our strategies for providing services to as many students as possible also includes the prevention and education programming that our office along with Health Promotion, formerly known as Wellness Education Services, uses to equip students with the skills they need to better manage their stress, relationships, sexual behaviors, nutrition, and alcohol/substance use so that counseling may not be necessary.”

The office is also cracking down on no-show appointments, which will make it harder for students who miss or cancel three appointments to be seen for the rest of the academic year. Mitchell said there’s a 30 percent student cancellation or no-show rate. The office is focusing on providing help to the students who need it most.

Matthew Rantanen, a junior mathematics major, said he hasn’t attended a counseling session, but would feel comfortable doing so if he ever needed help. He said the increase in students using the office’s services is encouraging, but wishes the office advertised more on campus.

“Talking about your problems is the most helpful thing someone can do if they’re struggling with something, so I’m glad people are getting the help they need,” Rantanen said. “I knew that we had an office but I don’t see a lot of advertising around the campus like flyers. It’d be nice if they could send out emails or advertise on bulletin boards so more students knew where to get help.” 

The increase in students using Counseling Services’ sessions is encouraging for Mitchell, she said. She hopes the trend will continue to increase.

“We exist to promote students’ academic success and overall health and well-being,” Mitchell said. “Therefore, we can be a helpful resource when students need both mental health education and coping skills.”

Max Kalnitz is the senior news editor and can be reached at max.kalnitz@ubspectrum.com