The John Brown University Counseling Center no longer offers free, unlimited counseling to its undergraduate students.
The center is now limiting free sessions for students to eight sessions per academic year.
In the past year, the center recorded a dramatic increase in students requesting the free counseling provided as a cost of their tuition. For the limited resources of the counseling center, the demand is proving overwhelming, Tim Dinger, director of the center, explained.
“We’re trying to be good stewards of our resources,” Dinger said.
“On average, people see a therapist for six to eight sessions,” Dinger said. “Providing eight sessions will serve students most effectively.”
After eight sessions, students will have the option to continue individually with their counselor for $10 per session, or join group therapy.
The fee applies to both formal counselors and the four graduate interns who work at the center.
Group therapy will begin in late February.
“Group therapy has been shown to be as effective and in some cases more effective than individual therapy,” Dinger said.
Counselor Jennifer Niles said that group therapy would enable students to move forward. The students would risk feeling vulnerable, often resulting in connections made between them said Niles.
“Anonymity and confidentiality is something students have to risk,” Dinger said. “It’s the first order of business in group therapy, and it’s addressed every session.”
As for the effects on individual therapy, Niles is confident that the changes will be positive for students.
“It creates a lot of anxiety for us when we have someone on the waiting list, and we can’t get them in,” Niles said.
Dinger said the changes will add focus to individual sessions.
Students who have experienced counseling in the past seem to have no doubts about the changes. Junior Laura Roller said the changes were reasonable.
“It makes a lot of sense,” Roller said. “I want to see my friends who need help be able to get help.”
Senior Rachel Palm sought counseling while suffering from depression and panic attacks.
“I would not be who I am right now if I hadn’t gone through counseling,” Palm said.
Palm emphasized that she was glad more people were seeking help from the center.
Both Roller and Palm expressed concern about stigmatizing counseling. They, along with the center, long hoped that therapy would not be seen as somewhere to go when one has reached rock bottom.
“I hope students know that they can ask for help,” Dinger said.
“It can be the first step on the road to recovery, rather than a last resort,” Roller said.
Palm has been fighting the stigma by recommending several of her friends to the center. She hopes that students whose friends are going through counseling will continue to “do normal things,” by encouraging their friends and still treating them the same.
Palm said that people like that “helped me believe I was going to get better.”
Roller encouraged students to affirm their friends in seeking help.
“They should think more of their friends rather than less because they choose to go to counseling, because we all have struggles and things we go through,” Roller said.