I was working hard on the sequel to my best-selling psychology textbook, I was forced to make a skip in the series last issue. Apologies. As the reader may recall, in the first part of this series, I mentioned that the a later part would focus on Counselling Services' staffing issues.
Counselling Services' Main Office has an even more extreme problem with under-supply than Health Services. CS does not list how many counsellors they employ on their website, but the number is not nearly enough to see the large number of students who request services in a reasonable time. Students often must wait more than a month for their first appointment. To their credit, CS has realized this and has started running "Client Assessment" appointments, which are essentially triage sessions. The goal of these appointments is to direct inquiring students to the resources CS feels are best suited to that student's needs and answer questions. However, while running such meetings may benefit many students, it may also be putting up additional barriers that prevent an already under-served population from receiving care. CS does not make it clear on their website exactly who comprises a "Client Assessment team" or more than an extremely vague description of what exactly the meeting involves. Since so little information is available about these meetings it's impossible to comment fairly upon them. One might think, however, that in the interest of transparency Counselling would divulge more about what a student can expect to be asked at one of these assessments.
Counselling also doesn't indicate how many of their counsellors are licensed psychotherapists, marriage/family therapists, social workers, etc. Since CS often runs study skills workshops and other events that mostly amount to "Remedial Life Skills" it would be interesting for the student body in general to know how much of CS's "employee quota" is spent on mental health services and how much is spent telling students to study more than 2 hours for their finals and to take breaks.
One of the reasons CS has such a high demand is that once a term's fees are paid, receiving services there is essentially free. That is not the case for anywhere else in town except the inpatient ward at Grand River Hospital. The graduate psychology program offers sessions for the (comparatively) low maximum price of $75 a session through the Centre for Mental Health Research. The fees are sliding scale, which means that a student who wants to receive services there pays what they can afford. The catch is that a student will receive therapy from a supervised trainee in the Clinical PhD program. The CMHR does not have any full time mental health professionals on staff for treatment. There are probably many students who shy away from this service for the same reason people avoid teaching hospitals. Nevertheless, it remains an option for those who have some extra cash, need help, and don't believe that this service is of lower quality. As well, this service will not take students with any mental health problem with a psychotic component. The CMHR does not mention any wait time problems.
CS also lists two large "consortia" in the community, Mosaic and KW Counselling. Both are sliding scale. Both these services are far from campus. Neither Mosaic nor KW Counselling appear to take clients with any sort of psychotic involvement. So it appears that if you have any of the schiz- family or major depression with psychotic features, you are going to have to wait for Counselling Services or look elsewhere in the community. There certainly are private therapists working in KW (though you wouldn't know this from asking Counselling) but there doesn't appear to be any readily perusable directory available to students. Creating one might help ease some of the strain on Counselling Services.
It seems that for students who are financially stressed or have any disorder other than depression, anxiety, or a moderate eating disorder there are no options other than waiting at the mercy of a campus service which is forced to bifurcate its staff between providing treatment and recommending using different coloured highlighters.
by Richard von Krafft-Ebing