UW Counselling Services cut appointment availability

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by Alice Zhao

Counselling Services has started following a guideline of allowing only six sessions per individual, down from ten.

Dr. Walter Mittelstaedt, Director of Campus Wellness, said he thinks students’ problems can be solved in six sessions or less.

“There has been work done in counselling services to understand the typical patterns which led to the finding that most students were getting four or fewer sessions by just their own choice and from that we reached the conclusion of most issues being resolved in fewer sessions,”

Students may get access to more than six sessions on a case-by-case basis, Mittelstaedt said.

Those students still have access to single sessions or walk-ins, which they can use anytime.

Even though counselling services is nearing full strength and full services such as individual appointments, group therapy, and peer support groups are provided to the students, the wait to see a specialist is quite long.

In some cases, students have had to wait for a month to get an appointment.

“I got onto the waiting list the last term and had to wait close to a month to get an appointment. I know people who have had to wait longer.

“Even though I appreciate the system I don’t feel like using the services provided by the university,” a second-year UW student, who didn’t want to be named, said.

“I had to wait for two weeks to get an appointment and that is when I had my midterm and it wasn’t going to sort my problem, but I didn’t get help when I needed it most. They can do a lot better managing the situation maybe,” the student said.

A third-year UW student, who also didn’t want to be named, stated that it’s important to not blame the counsellors and the mental health professionals providing the service as are really helpful. But by the time they get to the appointment, the individual’s mental health has further deteriorated.

Last year, Counselling Services invested $1.2 million to hire more mental health professionals as there are currently about 80 of them providing help and services to students.

With over two weeks in waiting time to get through a counsellor, this guideline is partly brought in to reduce wait time “but also related to giving the message that we think that many problems can be dealt with in this period,” Mittelstaedt said.

“In terms of waiting lists, they fluctuate as they do in all health settings but we can confirm that students facing an emergency are seen the same day, and urgent cases are seen within three business days,” he added.