Counseling center offers help, with limits

Marquette offers a wide range of counseling services, but long-term counseling sessions aren't part of the plans. Photo by Elise Krivit/

Marquette provides several resources for mental health concerns, including a counseling center, student organizations and peer health educators. But members of these groups admit their services can only go so far.

One of the most commonly noticed lapses is in the counseling center’s inability to offer long-term therapy, due to limited resources.

“In order to be able to avoid students waiting several weeks for an appointment, the counseling center provides short-term therapy,” said Chris Daood, assistant director of the counseling center. “Most student concerns are resolved more quickly than this.”

Nick Jenkins, the counseling center’s mental health advocacy coordinator, said while there is no set limit on the number of sessions a student can have at the counseling center, most students only need four to five sessions, at which the counseling may “plateau,” or stop growing more useful for students.

Jenkins said if students need more than 10 sessions, they could refer them to another resource in Milwaukee.

Daood said that many colleges have limits on sessions and a short-term therapy model for reasons similar to Marquette.

But in the 2010 Annual Survey by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, about 15 percent of directors reported having a set limit on the number of counseling sessions offered to students. About a third reported they had a limit, but it was flexible. Half reported having no limit.

According to the International Association of Counseling Services’ accreditation standards, “Every effort should be made to maintain minimum staffing ratios in the range of one … professional staff member (excluding trainees) to every 1,000 to 1,500 students, depending on services offered and other campus mental health agencies.”

Daood said Marquette meets this ratio, employing 12 counselors and seeing about 1,000 students a year — a number that has almost doubled in the last decade.

“This reflects Marquette’s commitment to the mental health of the student body, and having readily available mental health services allows students to address concerns that might be interfering with their academic performance,” Daood said.

He said the most common concerns students present at the center are anxiety, depression and relationship concerns. One of the main benefits of the counseling center is that all information is confidential.

Jenkins said most students first seek help from family and friends rather than RAs or counseling professionals because it feels more comfortable to them.

“If an issue feels uncomfortable … that’s a time I think it would be very beneficial to talk to a professional,” Jenkins said.

Daood said many students are self-referred, but other times family, friends or faculty encourage students to use the counseling center.

Jenkins also serves as an advisor to Active Minds, a student organization that attempts to destigmatize mental illness and holds events to talk openly about mental health.

“I think that sometimes hearing some things from other students makes it easier to address,” Jenkins said. “Active Minds does a great job of getting the word out on lots of issues.”

In addition to the counseling center and Active Minds, Marquette has the Center for Health Education and Promotion, which staffs six peer health educators who encourage to students to take an active role in their health.

Annie Kusper, a sophomore in the College of Communication and a center employee, said all health educators go through training on various health topics including mental health and suicide prevention.

“As a peer health educator I have contacts at the counseling center,” Kusper said. “I know how and who to refer people to if they come to me with a question or concern. I would never be afraid to send someone to the Marquette Counseling Center.”

Jenkins said students can call the counseling center at 414-288-7172 during business hours to schedule an appointment. For on-call services or the after-hours hotline run through DPS, he said they can ask for an on-call counselor at 414-288-6800.