Counseling Center adds counselors and services to meet increased student demand

Two new full-time counselors and increased visiting hours are now available to students. Photo courtesy of Lafayette Communications

In an effort to adequately accommodate the increased student demand for counseling at Lafayette, the Counseling Center welcomed full-time counselors Dr. Devin Hussong and Dr. Asmita Pendse this August. 

Being short two full-time staff members, and with the Health Center visiting psychiatrist retiring at the end of last semester, the Counseling Center needed more full-time counselors to support students efficiently and effectively. According to Dr. Melissa Garrison, director of the Counseling Center, both Hussong and Pendse bring “a breadth and depth of counseling experience.” 

Vice President of Campus Life Annette Diorio commented on how significant it is for the Counseling Center to be opening the year fully staffed, as she said the Counseling Center hasn’t been able to start the year off that way for the past couple of years.

Dean of Students Chris Hunt, who oversees the Counseling Center, acknowledged a “trend in higher education in general from here to across the state [that] there is a greater demand on counseling center services.” He acknowledged some student perceptions that making an appointment with the Counseling Center could take up to “a month, whereas the reality is it might be a few days,” with urgent situations being able to get help much sooner.

“Last year was an interesting transition year for the Counseling Center, because the person who had served as the director for over two decades and who had been at the college for almost 30 years, Dr. [Karen] Forbes, she retired,” he said. “The associate director, who had been here for 17 years, he left in the beginning of the year…so we were…down [45 years of] experience.”

Luckily, their full staff has helped them make up for this experience, he said. “A director, four other full-time counselors and a doctoral intern who will be there on Thursdays and Fridays” plus the new psychiatrist make up the staff of the Center.

The Center tries to maintain its staff such that students can get the help they need in a timely manner. Garrison said that to meet as many student needs as possible, the Counseling Center offers a range of services including educational programs and workshops, drop-in consultation, group counseling, individual counseling, after hours crisis support, and referrals to community practitioners.

The other staffing change this semester involved the replacement of the visiting psychiatrist. Dr. Malhotra, who joined the Health Center this Thursday, will now offer psychiatric services to members of the campus community for four hours a week, double the amount of time her predecessor was able to spend with Lafayette students, said Dr. Jeffery Goldstein, Director of Health Services and College Physician.

Malhotra was unavailable for comment, but Goldstein said that she will be able to offer extensive “experience providing services to other colleges in the area.”

Additionally, Goldstein said he hopes that with Malhotra’s greater availability, the process for referring students to psychiatric services can be streamlined and better integrated into the system of student healthcare.

Some counseling options are very outcome- or solution-based, such as the Consultation Clinic, which is run drop-in style. Students can sit down and talk through immediate problems that need solutions.

A new program this semester called Coffee with the Counselors is set to run every other Friday, providing students with a less formal way to connect with the counselors and “gather together and discuss life experiences,” Garrison said. The 2018 Senior Class Gift went in part to sponsoring this program series.

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