USU student-to-counselor ratio low

Nationwide, there is approximately one on-campus counselor for every 1,600 college students, according to a survey conducted by the American College Counseling Center in 2010. At Utah State University, that ratio is much more imbalanced, and psychologists are stretching their resources to accommodate what one counselor is calling the largest increase of reported student cases in history.Thomas Berry, a licensed psychologist for USU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), said, “We have one permanent staff member for 2,357 students, and that’s based on approximately 16,500 students up on campus.”The university’s student-to-counselor ratio is significant on its own. Add that to the amount of cases USU psychologists have seen in the past two years and it becomes an alarming number. The ACCA survey revealed that 91 percent of counseling directors nationwide have noticed a trend of increasing psychological problems, and from 2008 to 2009, CAPS saw a 15 percent increase in the amount of student cases. That number was doubled during Fall 2010.”If you compare that to 2010, we had a 31 percent increase to the amount of students coming in,” Berry said, “There’s a lot of different information pointing to the fact that this has been the most stressful time to be a college student in history.”Last week alone, the center saw 134 individual clients, ran nine therapy groups with 8-12 members, and presented several workshops. Undergraduate REACH peers also gave several individual skills coaching sessions. With only seven permanent staff members and very few clients being turned down, the counseling center has little downtime.Berry said of students during this time of the semester, “They get assigned to a therapist, but they might not be able to get an appointment for two or three weeks. That’s not always the case, but we tell students it’s a strong possibility.”According to CAPS’ demographics, the longest wait for intake during 2009-2010 was a whopping 12 weeks long.The length of such waits may be due to the lack of free options in Cache Valley. USU provides marriage and family counseling, and services from the psychology department, but only the center in the TSC is free of charge, and Berry said that they see a much larger range of problems through that service than in any other.They’re also partially due to specific requests, Berry said. Students who look for counselors with certain qualifications must often wait for weeks to get in to see them, and that also limits the options for other students needing help.The sudden surge in psychological cases has many causes, he said. The development of psychological medicines and their resulting impact is one.”There’s pretty much nothing that we don’t see,” he said. “It used to be that students who were relatively suicidal were rare on college campuses. Now it’s quite common.”

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