In my effort to champion mental health awareness on Case Western Reserve University’s campus, I have repeatedly encouraged anyone struggling with their mental health to reach out and utilize mental health services on our campus, specifically through University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS) where licensed professionals are waiting to help students.
However, I am not ignorant to the hesitance students have about using UHCS, which goes beyond the common stigmas surrounding mental health treatment.
Whether you yourself have had a negative experience using UHCS, or you know someone who has, you’re now likely more reluctant to reach out to UHCS for help. I hear your concerns and they are valid. More importantly, I assure you that UHCS hears your concerns and is working diligently to address them.
For the past month, myself and other members of The Observer staff have been working with the director of UHCS to discuss campus concerns about their services, ranging from inconvenient wait times between therapy sessions, to the diversity of UHCS staff and the lack of communication between UHCS and students themselves.
The latter of these issues is a common contributor to students’ weariness about using UHCS. Until now, when something went wrong—for example, bad advice from a therapist—there was no advertised way for students to voice their concerns, nor was there a way for students to talk about positive experiences. This situation leaves students feeling unsupported by UHCS, especially when things do go wrong. As a result, they understandably become unwilling to return for appointments even if they really need help.
Fortunately, UHCS understands that these situations need to be addressed. They stated, “We approach our work with an emphasis on continuous improvement, which means that we are committed to identifying and addressing issues that come to our attention. We not only are open to feedback from students, but also want to encourage it. Learning more about students’ experiences and perceptions of our services helps inform how we approach future efforts. (To be clear, we also welcome feedback from faculty and staff who occasionally reach out to us regarding concerns about students).”
Moreover, UHCS is doing more than just talking about these concerns, they have decided to address them. UHCS has been developing a formal process for students to provide feedback about their visits in the form of experience surveys. UHCS will pilot these experience surveys in early April to identify any gaps or lack of clarity in the questions; once these concerns are resolved, the surveys will be an ongoing, standard part of their services. The surveys will be distributed automatically via an online secure message after visits and will include a link to an anonymous Qualtrics survey.
UHCS is working on a process for routinely reviewing all feedback. In addition, the message with the embedded survey link will include a statement indicating that students with concerns they believe are urgent and need to be addressed immediately should directly email the Director of Counseling Services, Dr. Richard Pazol (email@example.com) or UHCS Executive Director Sara Lee, MD (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Though I know students may have other concerns not fully addressed by this new feedback system, I hope that we can recognize UHCS’ efforts and therefore feel more comfortable trying UHCS again or reaching out about the issues they may have encountered in the past so that it can be addressed. After all, if one student is experiencing an issue, there’s a good chance it has happened to someone else too. Therefore, you’re not only speaking up to help yourself, but also your peers.
Furthermore, I am committed to furthering healthy discussions between UHCS and the student body. As such, until this new feedback system is fully implemented, consider using the Ask a Psych Major Submission Portal to discuss general concerns or experiences with UHCS or anything else that may be keeping you from reaching out to UHCS so that I can bring these issues to Pazol’s attention.
Both UHCS staff and myself want to hear from you so that we can work together to make counseling services better for you.
Along those lines though, understand that if you have had a negative experience with UHCS that is more case specific, it may be more helpful to reach out to Pazol himself to discuss exactly what happened and how your specific issue can be resolved.
Finally, know that therapy is rarely an immediate fix. Every person is different, and every person needs different forms of support. A therapist’s job initially is to establish a relationship with their patients so that they can best structure sessions to address their patients’ needs. This means that oftentimes the first meeting with a therapist can be awkward, or even feel unhelpful. Be patient with your therapist, and if you ever feel like something is off, don’t be afraid to bring it up!
Students can schedule an appointment with UHCS through myhealthconnect.case.edu.