Almost every Fairfield student is well aware of the existence of the Counseling and Psychological Services office on campus. It is discussed in every class syllabus, every Weekender email throughout the semester as well as on posters displayed around campus.
Services offered by this office include individual and group counseling (as well as workshops), crisis intervention, substance misuse and recovery programs. Undergraduate students are entitled to six to eight individual counseling sessions per academic year before being referred to off-campus counseling and therapy. Graduate students are entitled to one individual session (as triage) and are then referred to outside help.
During my time at Fairfield, I have had a couple of visits to both group and individual counseling. In my experience, I have found that everyone who works in Counseling and Psychological Services is lovely. The visits I had were very helpful (particularly during the individual sessions), and the staff was exceptionally reassuring and easy to talk to. There was never a time when I had a visit and didn’t feel better afterward. You can tell that the staff cares a lot about you and your well-being and that they are truly professionals at what they do.
What this office offers to students is great; they help with many different mental health issues that students may struggle with and make high-quality care accessible for students that they may not otherwise have access to. However, the issues lie outside of what the office may have control over. As Fairfield continues to grow as an institution and the number of students increases, I feel that this office will struggle to keep up with the demand unless they are allowed to expand at the same rate as the school.
Many students have found that there is a disproportionate number of counselors for students. During busy times such as midterms and finals weeks (respectively), it is very difficult for students to get an appointment to talk with a therapist. As the number of students increases, it will become even more difficult for students to schedule an appointment.
On the other hand, because students are limited to six individual sessions per year, there is a worry about being able to afford off-campus therapy once they run out. There is a thought of “why should I start something I may not be able to finish?” While some of these referrals are covered by school insurance, every student is in a different situation. Not everyone has access to the kind of insurance that would cover therapy and mental health help. Additionally, for some students, it is difficult to return for a counseling session if a specific therapist has left the institution, which could impede recovery or therapeutic efforts.
Recent communications from C&PS show that there is growth happening now and hopefully more so in the future. New resources such as after-hours mental health crisis support, wellness workshops that help students learn life skills and access tools such as Togetherall—a community support system where students can receive peer support for free. Additionally, students now have the opportunity to use Kognito (also free!), which upon completion, helps students to identify signs of distress in themselves and those around them.
This is great progress, but it is reactive rather than proactive. Proactivity is what is going to help students the most, especially in a situation where the volume of students overwhelms the high-quality care an office is able to provide at a certain capacity.