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Changes made to Wellness Centre’s counselling services

By Krishna Shetye, September 8 2020 —

Student Wellness Services has announced new changes to its counselling services. According to the University of Calgary news website, their primary delivery mode has changed to single-session counselling, where students will be directly connected to a counsellor, rather than meeting an intake professional first. Three new counsellors will be hired towards the end of the month to adapt this structure.

According to the website, a single-session with a counsellor will last for 60–90 minutes where the student can “identify skills and strategies you can practice immediately.” To adjust to the online format, multiple workshops will be offered every week which will be fully accessible to students at any time. 

Before this new format, students would come in for a 30-minute “initial appointment,” with a student support advisor (intake official) to discuss their mental health issues. The advisor would then direct the student to an appropriate “next step,” which could range from direct counselling to attending workshops.

This new structure of counselling will shorten wait times according to Jennifer Thannhauser, associate director of counselling at the Students’ Union Wellness Centre. 

“Research around single session counselling is very well documented in terms of decreasing the need for ongoing counselling because clients are able to access support right when they need it,” Thannhauser said in an interview with the Gauntlet.

The three new counsellor additions, increasing the counsellor team to 10 members, would also allow the SU Wellness Centre to “be more responsive to students’ concerns, more immediately.” 

To evaluate the newly modified services, surveys will be embedded before and after the appointments for students to provide feedback. A research evaluation team, currently consisting of graduate students, facilitated by professor David Nordstokke based in the Werklund School of Education will then analyze this feedback. 

“Overall the process of addressing and integrating feedback is dynamic and ongoing,” Thannhauser said when asked how the counselling services reflected the feedback from the Werklund team. “Where the data calls for immediate changes, we would do our best to respond to that. Some evaluation feedback takes a bit more planning to implement.”

Kevin Wiens, manager of student wellness support, stressed the value of student voices in the counselling process, citing it as a key to a “helping relationship” between the service and its clients. 

“[The surveys] are the best way for individual students to provide immediate feedback on the service they’ve received,” he said in an interview with the Gauntlet.

“At the end of the day, we are a student service,” says Wiens. “We care about our campus community, and we care about the feedback students have for us. Our main goal is to support students in the best way possible to the best of our ability.”  

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