Wait times are down at Ryerson’s Centre for Student Development and Counselling (CSDC), but the number of cases requiring therapy are reaching a record high.
Last year, the CSDC saw the highest-ever wait times for individual counselling sessions at Ryerson — with queues lasting six months to a year. The CSDC now reports that wait times are down to two months at the most.
More than 2,500 students sought help at the CSDC during the 2013-2014 academic year – a five per cent increase from the previous year’s numbers, which had risen by only one per cent.
The CSDC offers Ryerson students various individual and group counselling services provided by psychologists, counsellors, and master’s and doctoral interns.
“Mental health is being talked about more in the media, so I think that is causing a lot of the increase,” says clinical co-ordinator Sarah Thompson.
“Also, in general, the stresses of life become higher in university. A lot of students become overwhelmed with the sudden responsibility that’s thrust upon them at a young age.”
Dr. Su-Ting Teo, the director of student health and wellness, thinks this pattern of growth will be repeated in this year’s report, due to a few changes at the CSDC.
“From what I understand, (wait times have) been much better, even with the increasing cases, with the incoming interns and new counsellors,” says Teo.
In October, The Ryersonian reported that the CSDC hired nine part-time interns due to the growing demand for counselling services on campus.
Intern counsellors have also been placed into the Faculty of Communication and Design, the athletics department, the graduate studies department and campus housing to cater to the needs of each department’s specific student populations.
Interns aren’t new to the CSDC, but Thompson says that the additional nine this year had a huge impact on service speed.
“Interns are part time, so they’re here two, maybe three days a week. And the beautiful part is that they can take cases directly from the waiting list because they have no workload when they just arrive.”
Interns are partially supervised by staff, work as group care facilitators, and conduct triage to determine what type of therapy is best suited for a certain case.
“They’re well trained on how to deal with the pressure and anxiety of students, and they have a certain level of understanding, seeing as how they are students themselves,” says Thompson.
Shorter waiting periods have been the product of the increase in available staff and resource options, such as additional open and closed-group therapy sessions.
Students who are deemed in need of immediate attention are matched with a therapist within one to two weeks.
“Our next step is to work on our technical platforms for referrals and internal communication,” says Thompson.
“If we can acquire that, that’s going to help us get more people into group therapy faster, and we’ll be able to take on more interns.”
Thompson says that the CSDC is also starting to conduct program evaluation on the groups to determine how to improve them further and how to cater to the changing needs of students.