In the past three and a half years the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center has been able to almost double its counseling staff thanks to a grant from the University Provost Office. Although this grant allowed the center to add another three full-time physicians to its team, they will no longer be able to take on new clients for the time being. In fact, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, the Women’s Center will no longer accept students to its waitlist for professional counseling. This ongoing demonstrated need for women’s center counseling makes it undoubtedly clear that it is time for an increase in funding to the Women’s Center.
As is evident from their current workload, counselors at the Women’s Center do not have the resources to meet the high demand of students in need of their services. According to Wes Hester, director of Media Relations and deputy spokesperson for the University, there is no limit to the number of times that a counselor may see a client, making it difficult to satisfy the needs of every client that requests services from the center. Furthermore, each counselor may see “18 to 24 clients at a time. Additionally, for every hour of face-to-face counseling a counselor provides, there are 15 to 60 minutes of follow-up work that they are responsible for.” Unquestionably, a larger staff of counselors could help relieve the duties of existing counselors and allow the center to take on more clients. If the center were to receive more funding, it would be able to hire an even larger staff, expanding the availability of its much desired services.
The Women’s Center’s approach to counseling is “empowerment-based” and “person-centered,” meaning that an individuals' counseling is focused on finding the best, most sustainable path for that client in particular. Additionally, clients may see Women’s Center counselors for any length of time — unlike Counseling & Psychological Services which only offers “brief individual therapy” and group therapy. Thus, the Women’s Center is filling a need for consistent, personal counseling services for students and couples of all gender identities at the University.
While all people are allowed to use the services provided by the center, the reality of mental health for college-aged women and LGBTQ+ individuals illustrates the need for a such a space as the Women’s Center. According to a 2013 study, 57 percent of female college students reported “overwhelming anxiety” in the preceding year. Furthermore, the same study found that 33 percent of female college students reported episodes in the preceding year of “feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function.” While the socioemotional needs of people of all gender identities are certainly important, there are unique circumstances regarding women’s mental health that require a more specialized counseling service. The effect sexual assault and violence has on mental health can severly increase levels of anxiety and depression. Some of the center’s “common client concerns” directly address these types of issues — for example the center offers support for issues related to “sexual assault and other trauma” as well as anxiety and depression.
Moreover, many LGBTQ+ individuals face unique mental health issues that come with stigma, discrimination and identity-based struggles. Furthermore, gender-nonconforming and transgender students are four times more likely to report experiences struggles with mental health. Seeing that the Women’s Center often encounters clients with relationship and identity concerns, the counselors may have particular training and experience about these types of issues. Therefore, the Women’s Center offers a variety of specialties that can aid people who may not feel reflected in larger conversations surrounding mental health.
The Women’s Center offers students an indispensable service. According to its mission statement, the Women’s Center is dedicated to “Fostering the respect, safety, and dignity of women and girls.” At a University entering only its fifth decade of admitting women, a center dedicated to their socioemotional needs is integral. This indispensable service should by no means be so limited as to disallow new clients from even entering the waitlist. Now, it is up to the University Provost Office and the University at large to increase funding to this important office — the health and well-being of the women at this University rely on these services.
Victoria McKelvey is the Executive Editor of The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.