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Counseling unaccredited due to being understaffed

Counseling unaccredited due to being understaffed

Counseling unaccredited due to being understaffed
April 18
10:00 2019

According to the standards set by the International Association of Counseling Services, the UNT Counseling and Testing Services Center is classified as unaccredited due to being understaffed.

The IACS states the ratio of students to professional staff at a larger university should be one professional staff member for every 1,000-1,500 students. UNT has an estimated ratio of one counselor for every 2,023 students.

UNT Counseling and Testing Services could not be interviewed, stating in an email “we’re unable to assist with interviews after the first two weeks of the Fall and Spring semesters due to needing to focus on providing therapy, etc to students.”

In 2016, the Texas Tribune reported UNT was one of six large Texas universities that faced being understaffed and underfunded. The universities examined in addition to UNT were Texas State University, University of Texas at Austin, Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University at College Station and the University of Houston.

Psychology freshman Taylor Seerdan said she sought help through the services during a depressive episode and was faced with long wait times and miscommunications.

“I got recommended to go speak with [the counseling center] and with already having a history with depression, I decided it was probably good to get a therapist on campus,” Seerdan said. “I went for an evaluation and then they said they would get back to me, but something was lost in communication because I never heard back.”

Seerdan said that without having access to steady counseling and while dealing with a serious personal situation, her depression worsened to a point where she felt alone and had thoughts of suicide. However, she said she learned to rely more on herself as well as her support system of friends and family.

In 2016, it was reported that the health professional to student ratio for A&M was one to 2,705. Now, they have a total of 45 mental health professionals bringing the estimated ratio is one to 1,523.

“We had the reputation of it taking six weeks to get in our services when I first became director last January,” said Mary Ann Covey, the Student Counseling Services Director at A&M. “So we completely changed our service delivery model to get people in quicker.”

A&M currently is at a six-day wait period after the initial triage appointment. However, Covey said it is a balance between lowering wait times and facing the loss of availability for ongoing appointments is a task all counseling centers face.

Many centers are primarily funded through student fees.

“Mental health is on everyone’s radar and I think the challenge is to figure out how to fund it,” Covey said. “When you get the numbers of counselors we have, it doesn’t really tell the story. Because of how many people we have, we might not be able to provide the services that are best for that student because of a lack of resources.”

Texas State currently has the capacity for 13 professionals, but has three vacant seats. During the busier times of the semester, wait times for nonemergency cases can be about three weeks after the initial consultation, Associate Director Heather Aidala said.

“We have had an increase in our staff [since 2016],” Aidala said. “We have been able to bring in more part-time contract staff and in some ways, that has helped us maintain services since we have three vacancies right now.”

Aidala said the Texas State University administration is aware of the importance of the center and the concerns regarding being understaffed, and is looking to make adjustments. However, she said even if all 13 positions were filled, their ratio would still be one to 2,974.

“The clinical staff here is a fantastic staff, we have kind of dubbed ourselves a small but mighty team,” Aidala said. “But the demand for crisis appointments does lead to a high potential for burnout in the clinical staff. If we had a larger staff where we could spread that crisis work, it would allow us to continue to provide high quality crisis intervention.”

Despite her experience, Seerdon encouraged others to seek help if they feel they need.

“It gets better,” Seerdon said. “Don’t be afraid to get help. Just because I had a bad experience doesn’t mean you will.”

Featured Image: UNT’s Counseling and Testing Services is understaffed and underfunded. They are unaccredited by IACS standards because of the ratio of professional staff members to students. Image by: Mallory Cammarata.

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Kiara St. Clair

Kiara St. Clair

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3 Comments

  1. LisaUTA
    LisaUTA April 18, 21:43

    I’d be interested to see a comparison to UT Arlington. My daughter seemed to get in quickly there.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Boxer
    Boxer April 19, 03:09

    Universities are not hospitals! You are there to learn, not there to get cured!

    Reply to this comment

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