to do their therapy homework easily, and their counselors can
monitor what students do during the week.
“Let’s face it, we would all floss our teeth more often if our
dentist could check up on us every few days and see if we were
flossing,” says Benton. She is now working with the school’s
office of technology and licensing to develop TAO into a
commercial product and is investigating a similar prototype to
treat substance abuse and depression among college students.
Education and awareness
Counseling centers are also reaching out beyond the therapist’s
walls in another way: working with faculty to include wellness
awareness in their interactions with students.
“Certainly the bread and butter of what counseling
centers do is seeing and treating individuals, but there’s a
significant amount of campus policy, faculty and staff training,
consultation, outreach/prevention, and crisis work they provide
as well,” Douce says.
Data from the AUCCCD survey confirm that counseling
centers are getting involved in more and more aspects of
the university, says David Reetz, PhD, director of counseling
services at Aurora University in the suburbs of Chicago, and one
of the survey’s lead authors.
The association’s data show that a typical counseling center
staffer spends about 65 percent of his or her time in direct clinical
service, and another 20 percent to 25 percent of time on outreach
initiatives, such as training students, faculty and other staff in
mental health issues, as well as offering suicide, sexual violence,
and drug and alcohol prevention programs, Reetz says.
At Aurora University, for example, in addition to delivering
presentations to faculty on ways to detect early signs of student
distress, strategies to intervene and techniques for referring
them to the appropriate mental health services, Reetz instructs
faculty on the best ways to increase student motivation, pulling
in concepts from the psychological literature on resilience,
growth mindsets and grit. “We’re taking psychological concepts
that we … have been using in one form or another in the
clinical setting and helping faculty think about how they can
… infuse these concepts into their curriculum or into creating
their classroom climate,” Reetz says.
Some counseling centers are beefing up their efforts to
help all students understand the importance of mental health.
That’s essential, since 78 percent of students with mental health
problems first receive counseling or support from friends,
family or other nonprofessionals, suggests a 2011 study led by
Eisenberg (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease).
One popular alliance among counseling centers and
students is Active Minds. The organization’s more than 400
student-run chapters throughout the United States support
efforts to remove the stigma around mental health issues.
For example, the Active Minds’ “Send Silence Packing” is
a traveling exhibition of 1, 100 donated backpacks that
represent the number of college students who die by suicide
each year. “The backpacks are spread out in a high-traffic
area on campus, like the quad, and it’s impossible to walk by
without taking notice,” says Sara Abelson, senior director of
programs at Active Minds. “It helps students recognize the
need to pay attention, because we all have a role to play in
Abelson says the organization is also dedicated to
championing the idea that student mental health and well-
being are central to the mission, purpose and outcomes of every
school — and that they need to be a priority.
“I think we’re beginning to see more and more universities
recognizing that creating a healthy climate and an open
dialogue about mental health needs to be a priority,” she says.
“They’re also realizing that it can’t just be the responsibility
of the counseling center, but that this is relevant across
the university, and that everyone from the students to the
administration needs to be playing a role.” n
Amy Novotney is a journalist in Chicago.
Some counseling centers are beefing up their efforts
to help all students understand the importance of
mental health. That’s essential, since 78 percent of
students with mental health problems first receive
counseling or support from friends, family or other