Counseling adapts with COVID-19

Services have adjusted to feedback, students still seek improvements

BY JOSEPH COTTON, Campus News Editor and Alex Budzynski, Managing EditoR
Photo courtesy of
Xavier’s Counseling Services have continued to respond to students’ feedback so as to more effectively meet the changing needs of students during this atypical semester. They have hired more staff, including a full-time Black counselor, and they have promoted their Let’s Talk drop-in hours.

As classwork continues to pile on, race relations rise, the presidential election comes to a head and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the nation, Xavier’s counseling services have adapted to meet the need for mental health support in some ways, but has struggled in others.

Housed in the Health United Building (HUB), Xavier’s counseling team is a group of clinical psychologists and counselors who can help students address a number of
concerns, including: depression, grief and loss, anxiety or stress, relationship problems, substance abuse, recovery from abuse and more.

One notable issue is that Counseling Services have been at their capacity for a
large portion of the semester. Students explained that it is not uncommon for those in
need of counseling are unable to schedule a meeting with a therapist for at least a month.

For some, the university’s cost-free therapy is their only option to deal with the impending stressors of this semester. However, many students still feel as though Xavier cannot fulfill that goal with the resources that they have.

“Counseling Services is OK for short-term things,” junior Emily Hoose said. “There
is nothing particularly bad about it, but it is mostly for people who are otherwise fine
but are dealing with general stress from life.”

One way Xavier’s counseling services are working to combat this is by offering
15-minute Let’s Talk sessions, where students can walk in and talk to a therapist. The
program operates on a first-come, first-serve basis and is available on Mondays from 9
a.m. to 11 a.m., Wednesdays 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Fridays 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

This program is also meant to be a resource for students who are facing academic, personal or professional challenges as a result of COVID-19. Until recently, the center’s
phone played a few minutes of automated COVID-19 protocol messaging before directing their call to counseling services.

This message has been removed after students expressed concerns that the
long, impersonal message would deter students seeking

Even though problems concerning accessibility have worsened during COVID-19,
several students explained that there were issues before the pandemic.
Junior Olivia Steenberg echoed the sentiment. “I felt like they put me with someone who was generally unequipped,” Steenberg said. “Beyond a surface level, they
really don’t do much.”

“They are more reactionary than anything. They just react to the problem without dealing with anything long term,” junior Amber Brooks said. “It feels like they are trying to move you in and out.”

They went on to say that Counseling Services should be more upfront with the services they can provide and be honest when with the services they cannot. Hoose also agreed with their sentiment. Another notable concern raised by Black students is a lack of representation among the HUB’s counseling staff.

“Especially at a PWI, most African Americans come from a background of family members that didn’t attend college”, said junior Hawa Gai, “So the amount of pressure
that is applied… tends to be a lot because we fear failure”.

Jamie Baxter, director of counseling services, pointed out that the office sponsors a group called Removing the Mask. It’s purpose is to create a space for non-white students to express their experiences and form community together. They discuss topics such as stress management, self-care and peer connection.

Recently, the university also hired Black therapist Vonda Williams, who is employed on
a full-time basis. She has had previous experience work- ing with college students and
aims to be a resource for those who do not feel a White counselor can understand their experiences. It is expected that the hiring of another therapist will also improve waiting times for counseling services.

Students in need of support are encouraged to call Counseling Services at 745-3022 to
schedule an appointment. An after-hours therapist is available 24/7 by contacting Xavier’s Campus Police at 745-1000 and asking to speak with the therapist. Students can also use the national Crisis Text Line by texting 741741 to be connected with a trained
crisis counselor 24/7.