UCS hires first full-time counselor, more hires to come in spring


Micky Braeger

Dr. Yau speaks at an SGA meeting.

DePaul’s University Counseling Services made their first full-time hire of the school year. 

Two more full-time counselors will begin working in May 2022, according to UCS Director Tow Yau. 

UCS expects to have a total of nine full-time counseling positions by this June and will begin to see students in fall quarter 2022, according to Yau.

These are the first official full-time hires UCS has made since outsourcing all counseling to My Student Support Program (SSP) in July 2021. Four temporary part-time counselors were hired in January and have been providing 15 hours of clinical services in Lincoln Park and five to the Loop, according to Yau. 

“We have other applicants and hope to fill all remaining positions by June, though hiring in this area continues to be a challenge nationwide,” Yau said in a statement to The DePaulia.

Yau also confirmed he is continuing to work with the Student Government Association (SGA) to create a mental health task force. 

Riley Reed, SGA senator for LGBTQ+ students, said she has heard student concerns over My SSP and available services from the university. The task force is still in its planning phase. 

“We, as a student body, want to make sure that people have access to proper mental health care on college campuses because, frankly, as we’ve seen since the pandemic, it has been subpar,” Reed said. 

Students may run into insurance issues if they choose to outsource counseling. During fall quarter, UCS would make personalized referrals based on insurance plans, according to Yau. 

“Students are so frustrated because if you don’t like having certain insurance, it’s really hard to get covered,” Reed said. 

DePaul students will have access to My SSP through the end of the academic year, according to Yau, and it is undetermined whether that will be renewed. Yau said that student use of My SSP has wavered throughout the quarter.

“The number of students accessing My SSP has dipped slightly but remains steady,” he said. “In our experience, the number of students accessing the app ebbs and flows throughout the quarter.”

Sophomore Evelyn Hernandez said she was referred to My SSP but was confused about how it worked. 

“It was unclear as to how to set an appointment; there wasn’t much explanation about it and navigating the website to figure out how to even get an appointment in the first place was hard,” Hernandez said.

She has attended three sessions with two different counselors.

“I’ve had two sessions with my current counselor, and it’s been going all right but also weirdly feels like I’m talking to a robot, but it is helpful,” Hernandez said.

My SSP says it is a telehealth service via telephone, app and web, according to its homepage. This quarter, DePaul students had the opportunity to meet with their counselors in person. 

“My SSP counselors in Chicago have also conducted 30 in-person sessions with DePaul students,” Yau said. 

The Division of Student Affairs held a mental health fair this past quarter, where Courtney James, director of student involvement, talked about how different departments are trying to help students while UCS restructures. 

“We all know what’s going on with UCS,” James said in a previous DePaulia article. “This isn’t the only solution. This is a part of what students are asking about, and a part of what we need to do.”

Senior administration has not released a statement regarding UCS. In fall quarter, Vice President of Student Affairs Gene Zdziarski sent a universitywide email about My SSP, but did not explain why they added the resource. President A. Gabriel Esteban did not address the lack of counselors in his 2021 State of the University presentation. 

Provost Salma Ghanem said during the joint university town hall between staff, the Faculty Council and SGA in January that they will “assess the situation as it unfolds,” according to previous The DePaulia reporting. She also said they did not plan to invest more funding into UCS. 

“Once positions in UCS have been filled, the university will assess if mental health service needs have been met,” Ghanem said during the meeting. 

There have been no updates since then from the administration about UCS. 

“The higher admin needs to be held accountable for the lack of support they’ve done for their students,” Reed said. “They haven’t addressed it because they think that [My SSP is]  working. They need to be held accountable by students as a whole because it’s not working.”

UCS was also present at the mental health fair. Yau said it was a way he could be more in tune with students’ mental health demands.

“These events reinforced how important it is for us to be attuned to the various mental health needs of our students,” Yau said. “It will be helpful to listen to the students and learn about any gaps in support as well as the types of services that would support student success.”

Reed said that she trusts Yau to lead UCS and implement new programs for students. This includes hiring diverse counselors. 

“[Yau] was saying he really wants a more equitable approach to [counseling] and getting therapists that actually represent the student body, whether they be queer therapists or therapists of color, ones that can connect with students a little bit better,” Reed said. 

UCS will plan to implement group treatment programs for alcohol and drug use, trauma informed care and survivors of sexual violence in fall 2022.