Due to increased demand, students seeking help from the College of William and Mary Counseling Center may be looking at extended waiting periods.
“We continue to be able to have an initial meeting with students within a day or two,” Counseling Center Director Warrenetta Mann said. “Once we determine a student’s needs, we begin to work with the most severe first, so that students in significant distress are able to continue to meet their educational goals. At times, this may mean a student who is functioning relatively well may wait a few weeks before beginning treatment.”
Mann said the extended waiting period is a typical and temporary problem that occurs only a few weeks out of a semester. She said that she expects operations to return to normal soon. However, Mann does not associate the problem with either a lack of staff or funding.
“We are actually experiencing steady growth, which means that positions are added every few years or so to keep up with student population growth,” she said. “What we are seeing is the same phenomenon that university and college counseling centers all over the country are seeing — an increased demand for services by students.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 Ph.D. ’06 agreed that student requests for help have been growing steadily. The number of counseling appointments has increased by 17 percent over the previous year.
“That upward trend seems to be continuing in the current year,” she said. “Happily, the funding for our Counseling Center has not been reduced, and the office has been fully staffed since Dr. Warrenetta Mann arrived as the new director at the end of the fall semester.”
Despite added pressure to keep up with increasing demand, Mann is encouraged by the increasing number of students seeking counseling.
“Despite how stressful it can be for students to be on the waiting list and for us as clinicians not to be able to see everyone immediately, I prefer to see this as a positive, rather than a negative,” she said. “It means that there is no longer much stigma associated with asking for help. It also may mean that students who previously would not have made it to college are now able to do so.”
Ambler said that the Center is constantly adding to its staff to keep up with student demand.
“In 2008-09 the Counseling Center expanded its training program to include three full-time American Psychological Association interns,” she said. “As the counseling center moves toward becoming a fully-accredited APA internship site, we have planned for an additional full-time clinical intern for the 2010-2011 academic year.”
Mann said that students can help the center solve this problem by actively seeking out help early.
“Don’t wait until things are really bad before you come in,” she said. “Often a problem in its early stages can be addressed with a limited amount of treatment. The longer you wait and the worse things get, the harder it is to address it and the longer it will take you to feel better.”
Mann also suggested that students with a previous history of mental health treatment or chronic emotional concerns should confront the problem immediately upon entering the College to avoid needing urgent help at a later point in time.
Although the center has not experienced a decrease in funding, Mann said students can help by continuing to donate to the center after graduation.
“Small gifts can help us stock our self-help lending library, or bring in a speaker for additional staff training,” she said.