Friday, January 27, 2023

Comments by arc06

Showing 1 of 1 comments.

  • I really appreciate this article and the attention given to the clinicians working at college counseling centers. As someone who spent over a decade in college mental health, I have read countless articles about the college mental health crisis, but rarely did those articles address the toll on the clinicians within these centers as much as this one did. I don’t typically – or actually, to be more honest – I have never left a comment on an article before. But, I care deeply about the issues that this article speaks to and I find myself wanting to contribute to the discussion. For context, up until recently, I was a Clinical Director at a college counseling center. I recently left this role and setting due to my own experience of burnout. As a Clinical Director, my primary role was to oversee the clinical system. Clinical Directors are often the ones who put the nuts and bolts of the clinical system together and try to create a clinical system that works for both students and clinicians. Although I continued to see clients as a Clinical Director (like most Clinical Directors do), I saw a big part of my role as working with and supporting the clinicians within the center. It is from this perspective that I want to comment on a couple of points from the article.

    (1) It is mentioned a few times in the article that counseling centers would benefit from increased resources and staffing. There is no denying this point. I agree with it 100%; however, the benefits of adding staff are short-lived if we don’t talk about retention. I have been in counseling centers that had the support of the university to hire; however, staffing was chronically insufficient because turnover was so high. Many clinicians seek out counseling center settings because they are passionate about the population and the work. Clinicians do not apply to counseling center settings for the money. Most clinicians can earn more in other settings, including private practice where they have more control over their schedules. As clinicians are asked to do more and more and burnout sets in, the cons of working in a counseling center setting begin to outweigh the pros. It’s sad to see good clinicians who were passionate about their work and considered themselves counseling center “lifers” (similar to how I thought of myself) fizzle and burnout with the demands of the job. It’s also frustrating to see the amount of time and resources that get spent on hiring because clinicians can’t be retained. In addition, the challenges of the work are making it harder and harder to hire. As the article mentioned, there are a plethora of counseling center positions available right now, including my position which remains unfilled even months after I left my center.

    (2) It is mentioned in the article that clinicians forget to take time for self-care. While there is an element of this that I am sure is true, I also think that clinicians are not supported in taking time for self-care. In the push to meet demand, centers often start to reduce administrative and consultation time to squeeze in more clients. As clinicians start to lose time for consultation and paperwork, they are forced to squeeze these crucial tasks elsewhere. Clinicians find themselves having to decide whether they should spend the 10 minutes between sessions completing documentation, engaging in consultation and clinical coordination for a high-risk client, reviewing paperwork for the client they are about to see, responding to the numerous emails they received during their last session, or go to the bathroom. Whatever can’t be done between sessions seeps into lunch and after-hours. It is also not uncommon for the time allotted for lunch or administrative tasks to be taken over by a crisis. While clinicians can be encouraged to take time for self-care, this becomes nearly impossible without the support of the system. I have seen several clinicians struggle with feeling like burnout is their fault because they could never figure out how to find “work/life balance”. Yes, self-care is important, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that a clinician struggling to take time for self-care is often struggling because this very act is incongruent with the demands and expectations of their environment.

    I want to be clear, my comments are not necessarily a critique on this article or anyone quoted within the article. I thought this was a great article that covered a lot of nuances pertaining to this “crisis on campus”. I very much appreciate Amy Biancolli’s thorough reporting of a very challenging situation. I also appreciated all of the individuals who were willing to be quoted in the article and share their insights around this tricky dilemma. My comments are just a few thoughts to add to this very important discussion. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this dialogue.