Students grapple with finding outside counselors, no staff updates

DePauls+Lincoln+Park+campus.

Eric Henry

DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus.

University Counseling Services (UCS) are still in a transitional phase, and out-of-state students are struggling to connect to therapists and counselors in the meantime.

DePaul students have gone almost an entire academic quarter without direct counseling services after a year and half of virtual classes

UCS is currently making individualized referrals based on students’ needs, according to UCS director Tow Yau.

“UCS refers a student to an outside clinician when counseling needs are best met by clinicians that offer long-term care or higher levels of care, such as inpatient or partial inpatient treatment, or specialized services,” Yau said in a statement to The DePaulia.

While outside referrals are mainly for long-term care, UCS recommends students to My Student Support Program, a 24/7 mental health app, for short-term needs, according to Yau.

Students can look for specific traits in a clinic or therapist including language preferences, proximity to home and affordability.

However, out-of-state students face additional obstacles. Many still under their parent’s insurance aren’t covered outside of their home state.

“I [feel] like if the insurance didn’t cover our first options … then we’d have to diminish the quality of care, or perhaps a specialization and I’d be in an incongruous space for my needs,” said DePaul sophomore Savio Will, a Michigan native trying to find an outpatient program in Illinois.

UCS does not work with any specific clinics around the Chicago area. Instead, they refer students based on their insurance plans.

“For students who have issues with insurance coverage, we try to find therapists with a sliding scale fee,” Yau said in a statement. “Since it is a referral, we give students the contact information and coach them about how to make the call to the outside provider to set up an appointment.”

Although UCS will “coach” students to create an appointment, some students feel uncomfortable with this process.

“I definitely think I’ve benefited from having someone else [make an appointment for me],” said DePaul junior Isabel Cartwright, who worked with her sister to arrange appointments. “It’s important that you have the vocabulary, I can see how that would be helpful.”

For Will, this coaching method may not work, as students may struggle with scheduling consistent appointments.

“I understand the desire to help students feel more independent and responsible for their actions,” she said. “But not all crises are the same. Not all mental health issues are the same. Not all lived experiences are the same, so I don’t think coaching is necessarily the most effective solution for making sure that mental health is properly accounted for for the students.”

UCS recommends using My SSP or calling 911 in the case of a mental health emergency.

“In a high-risk scenario where a student has ideation to harm themselves or others, students can call My SSP 24/7 to immediately be connected to a counselor,” Yau said in a statement. “The intake specialists will assess the level of risk, and contact campus/community emergency contacts where applicable.”

As they continue to hire, Will thinks UCS should have specialized counselors for crises as well.

“I understand that DePaul is, first a school, not a counseling clinic,” Will said. “We need absolutely more expertise than just something added on to something that’s more than just mental health.”

Yau confirmed to The DePaulia that there were no updates in staffing for UCS.

“That, in itself, should be more imperative to getting hires in creating a more robust UCS environment, to have no interest in expanding or altering the system in order to better the mental livelihood of students is really frustrating,” Will said.

“It’s like I’m trying to call [UCS] them in the middle of the day, but they’re still asleep,” she said.