Weeks-long wait times for Counseling Center therapy causes students to deal with stress themselves; UO seeks fee increase to help
Last year, the UO Counseling Center experienced a 31 percent increase in the number of individual therapy appointments. This has led to longer waiting times for some students — sometimes up to weeks.
University of Oregon sophomore Lauren Alejo is one student who has dealt with long wait times at the Counseling Center. Last year during winter term, she visited the Counseling Center to help deal with anxiety from being away from family and friends.
The UO Division of Student Services and Enrollment Management proposed a $7 per-student per-term increase to the Student Health fee for next school year. The proposal was presented and discussed at the Tuition and Fees Advisory Board meeting on Jan. 23 in the Johnson Hall boardroom.
This year the Student Health fee is $191 per student which makes it the second highest fee that UO students are required to pay in addition to tuition.
Alejo said that when she met with a therapist from the Counseling Center, she was not given a time frame for how long it would be before she could begin weekly individual meetings. She did not want to wait to begin individual therapy, so instead, she asked how she could deal with her anxiety by herself. Alejo deals with anxiety by spending time with her friends, meditating and exercising.
But Alejo said that despite the long wait times, she’s still glad she visited the Counseling Center for help.
“I feel like even if there is a waitlist that they could still provide me with resources that could help me,” said Alejo.
When a student first calls the Counseling Center for help, an employee will set up a 15-minute phone assessment that is usually scheduled within 1-3 days. After the assessment, students can set up an in-person assessment that occurs within a week or two. The wait time can be longer or shorter, depending on availability of therapists. At the beginning of the calendar year, wait times tend to be shorter because students have just arrived back on campus.
“We are here to figure out what is most helpful for individuals,” said Joseph DeWitz, clinical director at the UO Counseling Center.
Finding solutions, increasing fees
The portion of the Student Health fee increase for the Counseling Center would be used to cover labor costs for the staff needed to provide the increased demand in services, according to Roger Thompson, vice president of Student Services and Enrollment Management, in a written proposal for TFAB.
Last year, the UO Counseling Center hired five new therapists: two replaced staff members no longer at the counseling center and three filled new positions, according to DeWitz.
The student health fee funds the UO Health Center and Counseling Center. In the Health Center, it primarily funds the facilities, payroll and operational expenses related to providing patient care. For the Counseling Center, the fee provides funding for therapy, crisis support and other support services.
“I would be ok with them increasing the fee,” Alejo said. “As long as they’re doing something to help the students.”