University Counseling Services hires new counselors


Maddy Maes

Students walking in and out of DePaul’s student center, which houses the Lincoln Park Counseling Center.

University Counseling Services (UCS) have filled eight out of 10 positions they aimed to hire by the end of the academic school year, according to UCS Director Tow Yau.

The university contract with My Student Support Program (SSP) will end June 30 and will be replaced by a UCS hotline.

“UCS will also offer a 24/7 Mental Health Helpline beginning July 1, 2022 to provide telephonic support to students who need to speak to a counselor,” Yau said in a statement to The DePaulia on June 4.

DePaul students met with their My SSP counselors in person and remotely during spring quarter.

“Over 100 DePaul students accessed in-person therapy services through My SSP referrals in just March and April alone,” Yau said. “In addition, about 60 sought video counseling, about 80 received tele-health services, and nearly 50 were able to chat with a therapist during these same two months.”

A student who wished to remain anonymous spoke about their experience with attempting to meet with a My SSP counselor.

“It’s a hassle to have a meeting with an SSP counselor,” the student said. “I wasn’t sure how to make an appointment with the same counselor. I did not have any information I had before, so I had a new [counselor] and I had to express all over again my goals I had established.”

The student could meet with their counselor for up to 10 sessions. However, they were unsatisfied with the service.

“The counselor I had sounded like a robot as if they had rehearsed different responses,” they said. “I had about four to five meetings with the counselor, but I don’t want to go anymore.”

Group and individual counseling in person or remotely will be offered for students at no cost in the upcoming school year, according to Yau. The hotline will be free as well.

“I am curious to see how this hotline with DePaul will work,” the anonymous student said. “The sudden change could really impact [students]. “

Students have been eager to connect with UCS and the department has experienced an increase of student interest since March.

“As we have been able to hire additional mental health clinicians and get them onboarded and trained, we have seen an increase in students contacting our call center since March,” Yau said.

Jay Baglia, chair of the Faculty Council health committee, still advocates for DePaul to have 14 full-time counselors. In November, Baglia presented at Faculty Council the idea that for every 1,500 students, there should be one full-time counselor. This would reflect the total number of counselors needed for a university with about 20,000 students.

Yau presented to the College of Communication faculty on May 20 about counseling services. He spoke about initiatives such as providing options for external therapists. Baglia thought this would complement efforts to reestablish university student health insurance.

“That particular aspect goes very well with the moves that are being made now to offer students health insurance because it’s really just not a very good combination to promote external therapists for students who don’t have insurance,” Baglia said.

For students like the student, this would help connect with a therapist for long-term care.

“If possible, a list of outside resources students can reach out to therapists in the area and listing the price or useful knowledge that would help with accommodating students,” they said.

There will be a UCS open house in the summer to expand student outreach, according to Yau. UCS has connected with several departments such as Residential Education, Office of Multicultural Student Success and staff in the college of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Reflecting back on his first year at DePaul, Yau said My SSP was able to supplement students’ needs as they searched for counselors.

“While it wasn’t our preferred solution, it did meet a need during a tough year for our department as we worked to hire more staff members,” Yau said.

Looking forward, faculty want more transparency and communication about UCS.

“There needs to be clear, open and continuous communication between the counselors, their supervisor, which is [Yau], and the vice president of student affairs that needs to be an open conversation,” Baglia said.

Anonymous said that professors have become more aware about prioritizing mental health.

“Some professors have been really kind and understanding, acknowledging that it’s important to take care of one’s self and our mental health,” they said.

Baglia appreciated Yau’s perception of involving faculty in student affairs that informs how the DePaul community can care for each other after this year.

“By hiring a new director who understands that faculty have a very, very important and necessary interest in counseling services, that faculty are motivated to help counseling services,” Baglia said. “We need to be open and aware of each other and what each other needs to know.”