Student Usage of CPS Increases

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Student Usage of CPS Increases

For Jeffrey Ng, director of CPS, last semester marked the first time he had to deal with a wait list at LC. (ELIZABETH LANDRY /THE OBSERVER)

For Jeffrey Ng, director of CPS, last semester marked the first time he had to deal with a wait list at LC. (ELIZABETH LANDRY /THE OBSERVER)

For Jeffrey Ng, director of CPS, last semester marked the first time he had to deal with a wait list at LC. (ELIZABETH LANDRY /THE OBSERVER)

For Jeffrey Ng, director of CPS, last semester marked the first time he had to deal with a wait list at LC. (ELIZABETH LANDRY /THE OBSERVER)

By SOPHIE KOZUB, Asst. News Co-Editor

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For the first time in recent memory, Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) had a wait list for appointments last semester. 

The wait list, although not for those seeking initial psychological evaluations, affected all of the students seeking treatment and therapy sessions following their initial evaluations.

According to data provided by CPS, there has been a 20 percent increase in the utilization of CPS compared to this time last year. This rise keeps with a national trend of more college students seeking counseling and psychological services at their colleges. 

While the waitlist in some cases had students waiting for up to two weeks, it was addressed, and a wait list does not exist for the time being. 

Regarding the wait list happening again, Jeffrey Ng, Director of CPS,  said that it’s hard to predict.

“There’s so many moving parts and variables,” Ng said.  “Part of it is dependent on what our resources are from year to year, which varies based on the number of doctoral trainees we have.  Obviously, it also depends on students’ need and request for services.” 

“That said, based on local and national trends, there probably will be more students seeking counseling services than less, and as a department, we need to continuously figure out effective ways to respond to that,” Ng continued. “With the growing residential population, in all likelihood, there will be commensurate increase in student need for mental health services.”

This increase in the student population also poses a potential problem to both CPS and the health of the student body because unless the services are expanded to accommodate more people, a wait list for treatment and therapy sessions could likely happen again.

For the students on the wait list, Ng said, “I think the more important variable is how long students are waiting, and are they waiting so long that their motivation to seek care diminishes.”

“One of the things we do with students who are on our wait list is check in with them regularly,” Ng said.  “We follow up to see if things have worsened, how they’ve been doing, if they’re still interested in counseling, etc.  When we got to the point last semester where we had a wait list, we also asked students if they were interested and able to take a referral for an off-campus provider, and if so, we’d coordinate and facilitate the referral process for them.”  Ng also highlighted the group counseling services that CPS offers, which do not have a participant cap, as a resource for those on the waitlist. 

While a specific reason for the increase  in CPS utilization is not known, Ng believes it is a result of a larger student population, as aforementioned, as well as shifting attitudes toward mental health on campus.

“I think that one of the reasons is due to the fact that we’ve been doing a lot as an institution to de-stigmatize help seeking. I think there have also been larger cultural and generational shifts in terms of how mental health, seeking help and therapy is perceived,” Ng said. “There’s more students who are willing to seek out treatment.”

Additionally, Ng also commented on the theory that the rise in CPS utilization at Fordham, as well as at several universities, is due to today’s college students having less resilience, or having a harder time handling the demands of college, than the college students of the past.

“There’s certainly a lot of speculation and dialogue in the media about whether or not students might be more vulnerable, are less resilient and have less skills for coping with the stressors and challenges that come with college life,” Ng said.

Ng, however, also stated he’s “not sure if these findings or theories are conclusive or absolute,” and has observed that many students are actually “more resilient.” 

“There certainly are students who, based on what we’ve seen, seem more resilient,” Ng said.  “We’ve worked with many students who are incredibly resilient and can persevere through tremendous adversity.  But I think the media tend to highlight the segment of the population that perhaps are not as resilient or don’t have the skills for coping with some of the demands that come with college life.”

For Dean of Freshmen Joseph Desciak, the rise in CPS utilization  is “good news” for the university, because it means that more students are taking his advice to seek help from CPS if they feel they require their services.

Regarding handling stress and the idea of decreased resiliency among college students, Desciak drew attention to the review system for students at the end of each semester.

“At the end of the semester we [the assistant deans] review cases of students who may not have academically performed as well as we would like, and then we make recommendations to to the dean, Father Grimes, on how we think we should proceed in these cases,” Desciak said. “And I would say at least 50 percent of the time, students that we know of are really suffering from some undue stress.” He explained that this usually means a student having a GPA lower than a 2.0.   

Desciak also noted that there has not been a noticeable increase in the amount of students being reviewed, possibly disproving the alleged decline in student resilience.

For students seeking to utilize CPS, Ng outlined many options, including psychological evaluations accompanied by individual as well as group counseling and therapy.  Additionally, CPS offers crisis walk-ins, as well as consultations for students concerned about fellow students and friends. For situations where CPS believes that a student requires “more intensive or longer term care than we can provide,” CPS can provide customized referrals to providers in the community, according to Ng.