By Lauren Wolters
COVID-19 has brought a few new changes to the University of Findlay’s counseling services as the illness has seemed to bring to everything else. Director of Counseling Services Jodi Firsdon says the first—and most major—of these changes is that all counseling appointments are via Zoom.
Firsdon states that COVID-19 can be easily spread if appointments were held in person.
“Our offices are really small, which would not allow for six feet of distance between us and the students,” Firsdon said in an email interview. “Counselors are often enclosed in their office for about seven hours per day with poor ventilation. This makes it more likely that the Coronavirus could be transmitted.”
COVID-19 regulations make it very difficult for students to make the most of counseling as Firsdon mentions.
“Wearing a mask also hides most of a person’s facial expressions. It is really hard to express to a student our response or to interpret their expressions while wearing a mask,” Firsdon said. “We may miss something that is really important. Studies have also shown that wearing a mask negatively affects the counseling relationship. People that come to counseling are often experiencing some intense emotions and often cry, yell, or heavily breathe. If someone were to come to our office and contract the Covid-19, then contact tracing would violate their confidentiality.”
Right now counselors are seeing about the same number of people per week but they number of counselors available is different from last year.
“It is really hard to compare last year to this year. Last year we had three counselors and a graduate intern (three days a week) that were counseling students. Currently we have two counselors and just started with a graduate intern (two days per week). Last year we saw on average about 80 students per week. Currently we are seeing about 50 students per week, but we have less staff available. We are in the process of hiring a new counselor to help see more students.”
Between the demands of COVID-19 and the ongoing process to hire a new counselor resources have been stretched thin.
“Counseling Services currently has a longer wait time than usual due to having less staff available to counsel students,” Firsdon said. “Students have been working on adjusting to all the issues that are present with COVID-19. However, all of life’s issues that students are usually dealing with continue as well.”
The other issues Firsdon is referring to are most commonly depression or anxiety, but Counseling Services also helps students adjust to campus life, deal with homesickness, relationships, family issues, eating disorders, anger, substance use, trauma, and self-esteem.
Despite these challenges, Firsdon and Counseling Services are optimistic and say they have been working even harder this year to help the University of Findlay students.
“We are trying the best we can to serve students,” Firsdon said. “We make it a priority to utilize self-care to ensure that we are able to serve our students to the best of our ability. There will hopefully be a new counselor in place for the Spring semester. We will also have another graduate intern for the Spring semester. That would bring us up to three full time counselors and two part-time graduate student interns.”
She hopes with these two new additions to the staff, the wait time will decrease, and counseling services can help students as efficiently as possible.
Counseling services stresses to students that mental health is nothing to be ashamed about. The numbers show that a lot of Oilers take advantage of the opportunity to see counselors. They attest that mental health should be held to the same standards as physical health because the two directly impact one another.
“I have seen countless students that were unsure about counseling, end up loving the experience,” Firsdon said. “Counseling Services is a very well used office on campus and an overwhelming majority of students enjoy their counseling experience. It can be very helpful to have a non-judgmental trained professional that is ethically bound to maintain confidentiality assist you with your issues.”
One other reason to consider counseling is that all Counseling services are FREE to University of Findlay students. A typical counseling session can cost anywhere from $150-$250 per hour.
Firsdon says students can sign up for an appointment through the website https://www.findlay.edu/offices/student-affairs/counseling/. If a student is concerned about having a private space for counseling, they can set them up with one of two private reserved spaces on campus.
In addition to scheduling an appointment, students can attend drop in-hours.
“Drop-in hours are like our former walk-in hours, except they are held on a HIPPA compliant online platform,” Firsdon said. “These are short consultation times that students can utilize to talk briefly about an issue, see if they want to set up services, or discuss a concern for a friend.”
She says no appointments are necessary and it is first come first served. Students will wait in a private online waiting room until a counselor is able to meet with them. Drop-in hours can be found on Counseling Services social media (Facebook @UFCounselingServices or Instagram @ufcounselingservices). Drop-in hours are Tuesday from 3 – 4 p.m. and Friday from 9 – 11:30 a.m.