Counselors Overcome Challenges

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The new staff of the College’s counseling services center are trying their best to fulfill the responsibilities of their predecessors with limited resources and time.

Kyle Bishop is the College’s Assistant Director of Counseling Services. (Photo by Kevin Baier)
Kyle Bishop is the College’s Assistant Director of Counseling Services. (Photo by Kevin Baier)

This year, the College hired a new counseling team for the counseling services center which includes Director of Counseling Services Mary-Jeanne Reynolds and Assistant Director of Counseling Services Kyle Bishop. They replace Counselor Shawn MacDonald and Psychiatrist Christine LePoutre, both of whom left last year. Reynolds, although new to the job, says her prior experience allows her to be comfortable in her position “I was a director of a counseling center at a college like this size before…so I wouldn’t say I’m learning the job, but I’m learning the environment and the students.”

The counseling service center, located within the health center, deals with mental health on campus. According to Reynolds, the center’s services include individual and group counseling, referrals to outside psychologists, psychological assessment, outreach, preventative work, and prescriptions for psychiatric medications through their psychiatrist. The center also holds events, such as mental health screenings for depression and suicide prevention training for psychology students. Counseling services is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, but is not open on Saturdays or Sundays.

According to Bishop, the only thing a student has to do to get counseling help is to make an appointment at the health center. Bishop also said, “If [a student] is in a crisis they can walk in, and if there’s a therapist available we’ll see them on the spot.”

Although the center provides a myriad of services, some believe that the counseling services center many not have enough resources to handle the College’s student population. Along with Bishop and Reynolds, the counseling services center includes Counselor Mary Haugaard, Wellness Advocate Candice Daniels, and an outside psychiatrist who prescribes medications. However, according to Reynolds, these three counselors see upwards of 35 to 40 students regularly, and have more than 200 open case files. In contrast, Assistant Professor of Psychology and part-time Clinical Psychologist Debbie O’Donnell only has two current clients, which is her “typical load.” This large patient load is even worse in light of the fact that the counseling services’ psychiatrist is only available four hours a week on Tuesdays. The counseling services center also cannot hire student volunteers because of the confidential nature of patient information.

Mary-Jeanne Reynolds joined the Health Services counseling team this year, becoming the Director of Counseling Services. (Photo by Kevin Baier)
Mary-Jeanne Reynolds joined the Health Services counseling team this year, becoming the Director of Counseling Services. (Photo by Kevin Baier)

Finding the resources and time to provide these services is also a problem. According to Chris True, assistant vice president of Business and Finance, the counseling services center currently has a budget of $151,000 for fiscal year 2008, $33,000 less than last year. O’Donnell said, “From my perspective, they’re having to do a lot on limited resources.” She added, “I think that the college should be investing more resources in the center because I think it is such an important service.”

Regardless of these limitations, Reynolds is confident in both the center’s ability to handle even a large-scale traumatic event and in the relationship the counseling services center has with other counseling centers in Maryland. Reynolds said, “Depending on the level of event, we would call other people to help us out.”

According to Tom Botzman, Vice President of Business and Finance, there are currently no plans to expand the counseling services center’s staff. However, that doesn’t mean that the center doesn’t want to increase its presence on campus and provide more support for students. Reynolds said, “I’d love to do more outreach and more preventative work and have more availability for students, and we’re still building all that.”

Part of it may just be getting the word out about this service on campus. “I think the counseling service provides an extremely valuable service,” said O’Donnell. “I think it is definitely something that students should be aware of.”

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