Boise State students and faculty experienced a shift from their normal routines when the coronavirus pandemic forced the university to shut down in March. The counseling services located in the Norco building were no exception to the closure. Since the arrival of COVID-19, counseling services has seen a steady increase in appointment requests since the closure.
According to Ayako Campion, a licensed professional clinical counselor and the outreach coordinator for Boise State counseling services, said that there is usually a decrease in counseling requests during the summer.
While the summer of 2020 saw no real change in the amount of requests for counseling services, University Health Services is getting about 35 to 45 new clients calling about starting counseling every week.
There are 19 staff members in the counseling office, including full-time employees, part-time employees and interns, and the influx has been difficult for the counseling services. Even though the increase has been tough, Campion says that the office is managing it well so far.
“When we hit the point where everybody is totally full then we will start a waitlist,” Campion said. “We are also working on the community referral list.”
Counseling services has implemented several methods to help as many clients as possible during their influx. One of the methods they have started using is Telehealth, an online counseling service via Zoom, intended for students to get psychiatric help while also maintaining their safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are using a more secure version of Zoom,” Campion said. “You can’t record the call, I can’t record the call, we don’t have the chat option, and I can lock the meetings so nobody can try to join the Zoom meeting.”
There are other options for students to attend their counseling sessions. For example, if a student is having trouble with their internet connection or wants to attend their session in a private space, the counseling office provides “Zoom rooms” to students where they can privately connect with their counselor over Zoom.
Students who prefer to have counseling sessions in person are still able to do so. The former group counseling room has been modified to allow one-on-one socially-distanced counseling sessions.
For students who did not come back to campus this fall, Campion mentioned how the university counseling services has been able to expand their help to students back home in other states. Usually counseling licenses are only valid in the state they are issued, but some states, like Oregon, Washington and California, have made exceptions.
These exceptions have allowed counselors to hold meetings with clients over Zoom, and students who couldn’t come back to campus still receive the mental health care they need.
“I felt really isolated over the summer,” said Jennifer Rosales, a sophomore psychology major. “Back in California, everything was closed so there was no one I could really talk to other than my family.”
Rosales said that she was not aware that she could receive counseling while in California. However, she is glad to see Boise State doing everything they can for their students even when they aren’t in the state.
Campion said that a common pattern she has seen with clients is that they are mourning the loss of normalcy.
“Not being able to see your classmates, not being able to work with your classmates, that is loss,” Campion said. “No one is turned away.”
Over Zoom students can attend a free group counseling session for students who are not insured, and students can have a meeting with an intern for $30 a session. Crisis counseling is also available to students, and they can walk into the counseling office whenever needed to see a crisis counselor.
Campion also noted that the counseling office is not just a one stop shop. They provide both medical and psychiatric services.
“Feel free to call us,” Campion said. “If you are not doing well, you can walk into the clinic or attend free weekly group counseling sessions.”