By Naomi Overby
Madison Bowers, a freshman at Trevecca, applied for an appointment at the counseling center after experiencing major anxiety at the beginning of November and waited for a response.
When an email came in three days later, she opened it to find she’d been waitlisted and provided with self-care tips until they could find a place for her, which didn’t happen until the last day of the month.
“People had told me early in the semester that the counseling center was filling up fast but I didn’t realize how fast,” Bowers said. “I appreciated the list of tips, but my anxiety was really bad so I wasn’t sure what to do at the time. Since I’ve been attending now it’s been great, but in the moment it was hard to sit and wait.”
While there isn’t currently a waitlist, the center’s availability is decreasing every day as spots fill again for the semester.
Current numbers of how many students are using the center weren’t available as the center is in the process of changing data management systems. In October of last semester, the center reported an 83 percentage increase in student requests for counseling.
“There isn’t a negative stigma to counseling on campus which is great,” said Jennifer Neely, the coordinator of counseling engagement. “That would not have always been the case even five years ago. The fact that we see so many students… we’re the most efficient show in town.”
To problem solve some of the wait during the fall semester, the center hired more interns, extended sessions as late as 7 p.m. on weekdays and put a new policy in place for those who were attending that semester: if a student missed a session without letting their counselor know they lost their spot and would have to be put back on the waitlist if they wanted to attend again. While this policy isn’t still being enforced as heavily now, it may return if the center does see another waitlist.
“It was to be considerate of those who actually need that hour,” said Qunisha McKee, an intern at the counseling center. “It’s always an open door, and if they need to come back later they can, but I’m going to have to take that person off my schedule and open the space back up.”
In addition to more staff and hours, the center’s staff is planning group conversations on campus.
“Along with SWEET events, we’ll be doing two community conversations,” said Neely. “One will be around sexual assault awareness with maybe a panel component. Then we’re going to do an addictions and vices chapel.”
Overall, Neely is satisfied with the work the counseling center has been doing in the physical space they have.
“It’d be awesome if we had more staff, but we’re landlocked in this building,” she said. “We’re even using the porch as a counseling room, and it’s winter. We have heaters and no one has complained yet, but we’re maxed out in capacity.
Despite often operating at capacity, students are overall satisfied with counseling services on campus, according to a survey conducted by the center’s staff.
Out of a checklist of areas the counseling center assisted in, 91.76 percent of students said they learned one or more strategies to solve or cope with problems, 88.1 percent said they gained a greater sense of identity or understanding of self and 82.35 percent said they strengthened self-management skills. Those three areas were the most common answers among the students surveyed.
Bowers said all those categories were applicable to her experience at the counseling center.
“My counselor and I have really worked on managing my anxiety and seeing what causes it,” said Bowers. “It’s been really helpful in balancing stress, social life, and my idea of who I am on a Christian campus in today’s world. It’s the first time I’ve had access to a healthy counseling experience and I’ve been so thankful for it.”