BCC working to address increased student need

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November 15, 2019

The Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC) has seen an increased demand in students seeking help, especially for anxiety and depression, The Brandeis Hoot reported last week. To address this increased demand, the BCC will hire a new full-time therapist along with maintaining current therapy programs, according to the Director of the BCC Joy von Steiger.  

The BCC’s increase in use is consistent with centers across the country and is seeing a 10 to 30 percent increase in demand, von Steiger wrote in an email to The Hoot. The total number of students being seen by the counseling center increased by 8.4 percent last year from the previous academic year, jumping from 1035 students being seen to 1122. 

This year, 315 more students sought help at the BCC for a first-time evaluation, according to data presented by von Steiger at Brandeis’ last Faculty Senate meeting. That 315 student increase would be a 50 percent increase from 631 students in the 2017-18 academic year to 946 students in the 2018-19 academic year. 

“This increase necessitates innovative, creative ways of caring for our students that look at forms of care other than individual therapy,” wrote von Steiger to The Hoot. 

The BCC has also increased session lengths from 30 minutes to 50 minutes from the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic year because the BCC wanted more time to work with and help students with their needs, wrote von Steiger. 

The current model the university is using to treat student patients is not meeting the increased demands of students’ needs, which is why the BCC is responding with increasing staffing and reviewing models of care. Vice President of Student Affairs Raymond Ou and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Kim Godsoe are working with the Brandeis community to review the mental health needs on campus to make recommendations regarding a change in the models of care, wrote von Steiger. 

The university may change its counseling model to mimic those of other institutions that set session limits or create a biweekly model for therapy treatment, said Ou in a recent Faculty Senate meeting, though these plans are not definitely set in place. 

The BCC has several programs that can help Brandeis community members, including community therapy, healing circles and Resilience, Information, Skills and Experiences (RISE), wrote von Steiger to The Hoot. RISE provides small groups with Brandeis faculty and counseling center clinicians where students can learn time management, goal setting and skills to cope with stress.

Creating a sense of social integration and belonging, wrote von Steiger, is crucial to decrease stress and depression.

“We will continue to offer treatment to students who are in need of short term therapy and stabilization,” wrote von Steiger to The Hoot. “We will be offering students who are stabilized or who have reached their treatment goals referrals to the community or an opportunity to do further work at the center in group treatment.”  

The BCC will also hire a new full time therapist, said von Steiger, which is part of President Ron Liebowitz’s springboard funding plan to stabilize Brandeis before launching a large fundraising campaign.

“We will be hiring a new full-time therapist at the center who will help us to address current clinical needs,” wrote von Steiger to The Hoot. “In order to enhance our capacity to be accessible to all students, we will be prioritizing candidates who are from underrepresented communities.”

Students seeking help most often come to the BCC with anxiety and depression, The Hoot reported last week. These conditions are common, von Steiger said, especially among young adults.

“Depression and anxiety are mental health conditions that are often the result of ongoing stress related to trauma, a sudden negative event or events in one’s life, or chronic overwhelming stress related to daily living and coping,” von Steiger wrote to The Hoot. “Long term stress and strain can cause many health problems, among them mental illness. Living in today’s world is especially stressful for young adults.”

The BCC is making it a priority to develop a clear scope and model of care, said von Steiger, to respond better to student needs.

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