University Counseling Services Undergoes Significant Changes

UCS Lobby (Nick Telep)

In relation to the student deaths last year, the counseling office at Truman State University has continued its efforts in helping with student concerns.

Brenda Higgins, director of University Counseling Services said UCS is constantly trying to improve student counseling services.

Higgins said they were able to hire two new counselors which will help the waitlist problem they were faced with last semester.

Higgins say the UCS is working on making Truman a JED campus.

A JED campus is a program funded by the Jed Foundation that helps schools improve their mental health services on campus.

The JED program includes a mental health survey that will be administered to students tentatively before homecoming.

The survey process includes forming a team of students to work with the Jed Foundation on developing better counseling services for Truman.

The program will be funded partly by the UCS and the Department of Student Affairs.

Higgins said the process in which students make appointments to UCS will be changed.

Previously, students would make an appointment to come in for a screening, and later come in again for an intake.

Higgins said now the first appointment students schedule serves as both the screening and intake, and students are automatically assigned to their counselor.

Although UCS is actively making changes, meeting mental health needs on campus is still a challenge.

Higgins said while they were able to hire two additional counselors, demand continues to grow every year.

Truman’s location also makes it difficult to meet the needs of every student as there are not many outside form of assistance.

UCS also faces the various negative comments that come out about their services, though they do always welcome criticism.

Higgins said one of the worries associated with this is that student will not seek out help because of the bad things they’ve heard.

Junior Max Copeland compiled some of these negative comments and experiences when he asked members of the Facebook community to describe to some complaints they had about UCS.

Copeland said most of the complaints he got were about the waiting time and the fee that comes with the appointments, which is about $10 per session.

Copeland said another common complaint he encountered was that counselors did not dig deep enough into the students issues.

Copeland plans on taking these issues to President Sue Thomas as well as UCS.

Thomas said she wants to work with students to cause change and she is always interested in hearing what the students have to say.

Thomas said, “I really want to engage in productive conversation,” Thomas said. “Just expressing a complaint doesn’t get us to where we need to be.”

Thomas said Truman is looking hard at the support systems it offers and how it can make them as good as they can be.